“Just scribbles,” he says of the stream-of-consciousness elements that form the Redskins’ weekly game plan.
These days, anything is possible, and any idea is worth scrawling on these pages. Shanahan was given a gift this past offseason, a supremely talented rookie quarterback named Robert Griffin III, and with it a chance to reclaim his career. The previous two seasons had been disappointing, and a young star in coaching had lost his shine. He clashed two years ago with quarterback Donovan McNabb. Last year, Shanahan’s offense struggled with two unremarkable quarterbacks.
The difficulties amplified a notion that has chased and bothered Shanahan throughout much of his life: that he’s only been successful, at making varsity teams years ago or in this corner office in Ashburn, because he’s been trading off the name of his father, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan.
“I want to prove to people,” Kyle says, “that that’s not the case.”
For years, he distanced himself from his dad, running from perception and trying to validate his own ability – to himself as much as anyone.
His father has guided him, but Kyle says his successes are his own – as a player at the University of Texas, then later as a young assistant coach, and, with Houston in 2008, at the time the National Football League’s youngest coordinator.
“He’s so much further along than I was,” says Mike Shanahan, who took his first head coaching job at age 35. “It’s not even close.”
As the Redskins return to playoff relevance, riding an unpredictable and thrilling offense to a three-game winning streak, Shanahan’s creativity has attracted some of the spotlight. There are believers in his influence, and there are doubters. Some suggest he represents the next generation of coaching genius.
“One of the real bright young minds in this business,” University of Texas Coach Mack Brown says.
Others could say that a man who rode his dad’s coattails this far is now just riding someone else’s momentum – this time a 22-year-old phenomenon – to national prominence. But even some of Shanahan’s critics are beginning to believe.
“From year one till now, he’s better than what he was,” says Brian Mitchell, a local media personality and former Redskins player. “Has he arrived? I’m not going to say completely.”
This much, though, is clear: With most any possibility alive, Kyle Shanahan has the chance to do something remarkable. It starts by putting pen to paper, then watching all those scribbles come to life.
‘Go out there and earn it’
Years ago, Kyle kept his father in the shadows. Mike Shanahan won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos, and he attended some of his son’s games at Texas. But he didn’t join other players’ parents afterward, and he rarely went to dinners with Kyle and his friends.