Redskins' Kyle Shanahan has grown out of his father's shadow

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 28, 2010

Since he stood just a few footballs high, the name that stretched across the back of Kyle Shanahan's jersey has carried considerable weight. His father, Mike Shanahan, was the popular coach of the Denver Broncos, which focused as much attention on Kyle as anything he accomplished with his athletic ability.

"I've had it my whole life," he says. "If I was the starting quarterback on my Pop Warner team, I was told it was because of my dad."

It's difficult to outgrow expectations sometimes. Years removed from the youth fields around Denver, Kyle learned even more about pressure to perform when he followed his father into the NFL's coaching ranks.

"I think any time a coach's kid gets in the profession, he's always going to be scrutinized a little tougher. It goes with the job," Mike Shanahan said. "Is he a worker? Does he know what he's talking about? Did he get the job just because he has a so-called name with the head coach?"

Kyle, 30, answered many of those questions last season, when he directed the NFL's top-ranked passing attack last season in Houston. But he knows that this fall in Washington, in his first season coaching under his father, he'll have a whole new set of skeptics to convert.

"I've always had a chip on my shoulder with that," Kyle says of his famous last name. "I would never act like it's been a hindrance. It's gotten me in a lot of doors."

With Mike Shanahan working long hours -- first as an assistant coach in Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco and then as a head coach with the Broncos -- quality father-son time often came at the office.

When a teenage Kyle was a fledging player, he lifted weights at the Broncos' facility after school, he drew up plays, he ran routes with Broncos receivers.

"In the offseason, he'd come sit in our meetings," said Gary Kubiak, the Broncos' longtime coordinator, now head coach of the Houston Texans. "We'd be in cut-up meetings with Mike, and Kyle would sit in. Then when us coaches were through, Kyle'd go back in and talk more football with his dad."

Kyle's dream was to be a player, though, not a coach. He had only one scholarship offer -- from Duke -- and he took it. He played one season there before transferring to Texas and walking on.

"You could see right away that he was a student of the game," said Chris Simms, a former Longhorns quarterback and one of Kyle's best friends. "He was always asking coaches questions, always picking his father's brain. He understood the game better than other guys, the big picture of the game."

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