Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan should receive a head coaching opportunity soon. He has the pedigree and scheme-expertise to turn around a team in need of revitalising their offense.
Son of two-time Super Bowl winning head coach Mike, Kyle learned a system that is the envy of the NFL. It is an offense designed around the zone-running game and the play-action pass.
He learned it first from his father and then from Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. In his third season in Washington, Shanahan has adapted that scheme to help put the Redskins in playoff contention.
His reputation has been enhanced by his work with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. Shanahan has combined the best elements of his system with Griffin's dynamic, dual-threat athleticism.
He has increased the number of bootlegs and rollout passes in his playbook. The youthful coordinator, who turns 33 today, has also incorporated the short shotgun, or "pistol" formation.
These wrinkles take better advantage of Griffin's play-action expertise and skills as a runner. That's helped the first-year passer throw for 18 touchdowns, compared to only four interceptions.
The younger Shanahan has successfully woven principles of the West Coast offense, with option-style college football principles. That potent mix has the Redskins' offense ranked fifth overall. They are seventh in points and first in rushing.
Kyle's offense is winning the Redskins games. That's a far cry from his first two years in D.C. when the Redskins ranked 25th, then 26th in points.
That led to heavy criticism of the junior Shanahan's play calling, particularly his run-pass ratio. Sections of the Redskins fans chided Kyle for being too pass happy, despite quarterbacks not capable of executing an expansive air attack.
To his credit, Shanahan has certainly adapted this season. He has skewed his play calling towards the run, to maximize the threat posed by Griffin.
In doing so he has helped sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris top 1,000 yards rushing. That's given the Redskins perhaps the most dangerous play-action passing game in the NFL.
Shanahan has kept things simple for Griffin. He has designed one and two receiver patterns, emphasising Hi-Lo concepts that are essential to a West Coast-style passing game.
Play design has always been the younger Shanahan's strength. He has been particularly adept at creating plays to free tight ends deep.
Yet that and his past achievements, have often been unfairly overlooked, amid accusations of nepotism. However, Kyle has proved his expertise even before he worked under his father's wing.
As offensive coordinator of the Texans, he directed a unit that ranked third in 2008 and fourth in 2009. The same zone-running and play-action passing helped turn players like Owen Daniels, Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub into stars.
Now he is helping make Griffin and Morris the talk of the league. Successful work with a quarterback always elevates assistants into head coach contention, particularly young assistants.
Being flexible enough to adapt his system to a skill set as specific as Griffin's further boosts Kyle's chances. At the start of the season, many were sceptical that the Shanahan brain trust would adapt their offense to Griffin.
Kyle Shanahan has answered those doubters and that should earn him a head coaching job sooner rather than later.936836