Kyle Shanahan hopes his body of work speaks louder than last name

December 13, 2013

Kyle Shanahan says losing and criticisms have hardened him, but haven’t killed his love for coaching. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

With the Mike Shanahan era seemingly drawing to an end, Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan on Thursday seized the opportunity to defend his body of work, and also distance himself from his father and head coach, to a degree.

Shanahan says he knew full well what he was getting himself into when he decided to leave the Houston Texans and join Mike Shanahan in Washington four years ago. Kyle Shanahan accepts the fact that the father-son relationship causes critics to lump his successes and failures in with those of the elder Shanahan. He admitted he isn’t particularly fond of how whenever people talk about the Redskins, they always put an ‘S’ on the last name – “The Shanahans.” But Shanahan insists he has no regrets about joining his father’s staff.

In one of his most open news conferences since joining the Redskins – a 22-minute session in which Shanahan talked about everything from Robert Griffin III, his success and failure as a coach, criticisms of himself, his father – Shanahan said that he does, however, wish at times that his body of work stood out more than his last name.

“Everybody would like to get compliments and see what you’ve done. It’s not like I can just sit up here and pump myself up and tell you what my stats are,” Shanahan said. “You guys can do that for yourselves if you want. But yeah, it would make it easier if everybody loved me. But that’s not the real world, and I get that, especially working for my dad. I understand what’s going to happen.

“But the thing that I do feel good about is, people who know football,” Shanahan continued. “People who know football are the people I work with, they’re the people I coach, they’re the people that hire me. I don’t think people who will dictate my future and will give me job offers and stuff are going off of what talk shows say and what articles say. I think they’ll go off of what I’ve done in my career and how I deal with players and how I coach and I feel pretty confident in that. I’ve been a coordinator for six years, I think I’ve played with about seven different quarterbacks and I think I’ve done some good things statistically. I know statistics aren’t everything, but they do say a lot, and I do think you can put my statistics with anybody’s and, I feel pretty good about that. Yeah, I’d love it if all you guys focused on that instead of my last name. I understand that’s not your guys’ job either. The main thing is coaches and GMs, who hire people they want to win football games. They’re not trying to win a PR battle, and I think I’ve put out there that I’m a pretty good offensive coordinator.”

In his six seasons as offensive coordinator, Shanahan has directed units that have ranked among the top 10 in the league four separate seasons. Despite this season’s struggles, Washington ranks ninth in total offense.

But Shanahan said he understands that in addition to his last name, a lack of wins outside of last season are partly to blame for the criticism he receives. Shanahan also has found himself at the center of two controversies involving his starting quarterbacks: first with Donovan McNabb, and then again this season with Robert Griffin III.

Shanahan has always denied the allegations of poor relationships and mismanagement of the quarterbacks. Instead, he has insisted that he has always managed to maintain good working relationships with them. On Thursday, he praised Griffin for the way he handled adversity this season, and he took partial blame for the second-year passer’s diminished effectiveness this season.

The additional scrutiny and losses haven’t killed Shanahan’s love for coaching, he says. But those elements have changed him.

“I think it’s hardened me,” he said. “When you grow up the son of a coach who – I think my dad had a pretty good track record growing up. I mean, I think some of the worst days that I ever had going to school having to face friends and stuff, being embarrassed, was usually because my dad was in a game where they lost in the AFC Championship Game and didn’t go to the Super Bowl. I can remember those days and how devastating it was. I don’t remember growing up him being a part of a 3-13 season, so I had a little bit of a make-believe childhood growing up with a coach. ‘Oh this is awesome. If you get into coaching you win every year. You go to Super Bowls. You have about maybe one losing season, which is 7-9, in 15 years, and if that’s as hard as it gets, this stuff is going to be easy.’

“I definitely – I don’t know if I’m wiser now or understand the reality that coaching is tough. I can handle it,” he continued. “I enjoy what I do. Obviously I make a good living. It’s nice to support my family like this, and I do think it’s something I’m naturally good at. In order for me to work hard at something, I need to be into it, and I think my teachers will tell you growing up that football was really one of the only things I’ve ever been into. I want to be successful, and in order for me to be successful at something I better do something I’m passionate about, and no matter how hard it has been here, I don’t think that will ever change.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mike Jones · December 12, 2013