There comes a time at the end of every season that many coaches on the hot seat dread. The axing period of NFL head coaches officially began with the firing of the Rams Jeff Fisher and continued when the Jaguars decided to part ways with the Gus Bradley after four years with the team. These guys will be the first of many, as many more head coaches will be let go at the conclusion of the season. With all these head coaching openings, there is no doubt the same old names will be tossed around. Are Jon Gruden, Nick Saban, or Jim Harbaugh returning to the NFL? Probably not, and that is going to leave a lot of teams searching for some lesser known candidates to fill the job.
Enter Kyle Shanahan, who in just a year has become one of the hottest head coaching candidates in all of football. It was about this time last year that most Falcons fans, including myself, were calling for Kyle Shanahan’s head. The offense just was not clicking, and it seemed like Shanahan and Ryan had a real disconnect. However, something changed this offseason. Ryan let go of what worked in the past under Mike Smith and bought into Shanahan’s system. With Ryan buying in, the rest of the offense followed and have yet to look back.
The Falcons offense has perhaps been the most dominant single side in all of football this season. They have dominated in every aspect from offensive line, to quarterback, to the receivers. The Falcons offense has already shattered the record for most points in a single season with one game still remaining. Matt Ryan and company have averaged a ridiculous 33.5 points per contest and have yet go against a defense that can really slow them down. Even Denver, with all their defensive talent, had no answer for the multi-faceted, systematic machine that is the Falcons offense.
Atlanta’s offensive dominance has been a spectacle to watch for 15 weeks, and Kyle Shanahan undoubtedly deserves huge kudos for the job he has done. Shanahan’s first duty after being named offensive coordinator was to patch up an offensive line that had been dismal in years past. He brought in familiar, cheap names like Chris Chester to help do so and implemented the zone blocking scheme to awaken what had been a dormant running attack. While the success did not happen overnight, this offensive line has turned into one of the most reliable units in the league. Shanahan also brought wide receiver Taylor Gabriel this offseason after he was waived by the Browns. Shanahan and Gabriel go back to their days in Cleveland, and Gabriel has one of the real surprises on the team and has elevated the Falcons offense.
Shanahan has seemingly made all the right acquisitions to make this offense click. Atlanta can kill opponents through the air or on the ground, and Shanahan seems to have developed a knack of knowing which one to lean on at the right times. Atlanta ranks in the top 10 in both passing and rushing offense. This kind of success has allowed for the Falcons to really open up the playbook, and Shanahan been very successful at keeping opposing defenses on their toes.
The Atlanta offense has been somewhat of a work of art this year, and there is no question that Shanahan deserves this type of head coaching recognition. At 37, there is no doubt Shanahan will be a head coach in this league in the near future. With that being said, it is definitely not a guarantee that Shanahan gets a head coaching job this year. Shanahan has not had tremendous success in his previous coaching jobs, and while this year has been spectacular for the Falcons, many will point to Atlanta’s offensive personal as the primary reason for their success. Not many coordinators have weapons like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman to play with. There are also several other hot coordinators, like Josh McDaniels and Jim Schwartz, who have previous head coaching experience, that could also fill those head coaching vacancies.
Shanahan has done a spectacular job as the Falcons offensive coordinator. I have not always been believer, but there is no denying the job he has done in Atlanta. With his success and his pedigree, he will be a head coach sooner rather than later, but Falcons fans can only hope that day comes in the next few years rather than this offseason.