The Atlanta Falcons are one of the best storylines of the young NFL season. They have broken out to a 4-0 start under new head coach Dan Quinn, and look like the clear-cut favorites to win the NFC South despite the Panthers also sitting at 4-0. Quinn has changed the mindset of this defense overnight, and the results have spoken for themselves. However, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has played nearly as big of a role as Quinn has in transforming this team.
Shanahan brought over his West Coast Offense with him when he was hired, and in my opinion, it’s the best style of offense that NFL teams run today. His father, Mike Shanahan, ran it for years, and the results speak for themselves: three Super Bowl rings (two as a head coach, one as an offensive coordinator). Some of the best offensive masterminds in the game today run the offense, including Mike McCarthy and Gary Kubiak.
The biggest difference-maker has been the implementation of the Zone Blocking Scheme. Shanahan installed it into his offense, and the team made various transactions to shuffle around and find athletic lineman to man the Center and Guard positions. Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder have adjusted well, also. The difference is night and day. The Falcons’ offensive line play was absolutely abysmal last season. Per Pro Football Focus, the Falcons’ offensive line now ranks 7th in the NFL in pass blocking, and they are best in the league in run blocking. The ZBS has been known to do wonders for running games in recent years, and it’s paying it’s dividends for Atlanta.
Shanahan has also found more creative ways to get the football in the hands of Julio Jones, and he is well on his way to a career year. He already has 478 receiving yards on the season despite a rare quiet outing from his last Sunday. He may have a legitimate shot at surpassing 2000 receiving yards this season.
Having that Julio Jones-Matt Ryan connection can make almost any offensive coordinator look good, but it’s clear how big of an impact Shanahan has had on the team. The reality is that he is making Jones look even better.
This is why I think this time next year, Kyle Shanahan will be running his own team. Given his success this season and the fact that he is still so young at age 35, I think he will he a prime head coach candidate come this time next season. It’s the same thing with Quinn and Seattle: when you win, you lose your coordinators. That’s the reality in the NFL these days.
I do think Shanahan may be best suited as a coordinator, but it’s only a matter of time at this point until a team gives him a shot as head coach. The good news for Atlanta is that the West Coast offense is becoming more and more prevalent, and while he has added his own flair to their offense, if the teams seeks some time of continuity they shouldn’t have much of a problem doing so.
This is not me trying to scare you, Falcons fans. this is just me being realistic. Kyle Shanahan has done an unbelievable job this season, and his work will not go unnoticed. For now, just enjoy the ride.