On the Pass It Down podcast with Michael Silver, former Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff recalled the drama between Matt Ryan and then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan after a rough 2015 season together and the work the two had to do on their relationship, including a ‘clear-the-air’ session.
In Shanahan’s first season with the Falcons, Atlanta started 5-0 but would go on to lose six-straight, and there were rumblings of a rift between Ryan and Shanahan later that offseason. Dimitroff begins by stating how different the relationship between the now-49ers’ head coach and Ryan was, that Shanahan was in a much different place in his career and age than Dirk Koetter or Mike Mularkey. Shanahan and Ryan were closer in age, and Dimitroff said that the latter felt it was his time and place to say something if he felt it needed to be said.
The two met over the offseason and made a point to nurture their relationship in Southern California, where the clear-the-air session occurred over a couple of beers. “We just worked it out over a couple of beers,” Ryan told Silver after the playoff victory over Seattle in 2016. “Last year was overblown, but we basically sat there and figured out some things. He learned what works for me, and I learned what works for him, and it was that simple. And we’re in a really, really good place now.”
The two had to figure themselves out before they could figure out the other, and when they did, there were sparks. Dimitroff said they had realized how important communication was to their relationship and the outcome of games. It started with an open-mindedness between the two — both were willing to hear the other out.
Dimitroff said his respect grew for both men as the two had experienced exponential growth as professionals, illustrating the importance of the relationship between a play-designer/caller and the quarterback. I want to project this story in a similar light as to what Falcons fans could expect between Ryan and Arthur Smith in the first year of their relationship.
Before Matt Ryan’s MVP season and Kyle Shanahan coordinated one of the best offenses in history, there were bumps in the road. Though similar in rudimentary philosophies to Shanahan’s, Smith’s offense isn’t going to be smooth sailing for Ryan in the first part of the season. That isn’t to say things can’t be corrected over the course of 18 weeks, but don’t expect everything to be perfect come Week 1.