- Mike Shanahan stays abreast of every unit and position meeting by taping each session. (Photo: Jay Westcott)
Say what you will about Mike Shanahan, but one thing is clear, not a thing goes on with the Washington Redskins that he isn't aware of.
Obviously, it’s his job, and good coaches should have such knowledge. But it hasn’t always been the case in Washington.
Steve Spurrier routinely called wide receiver Darnerien McCants, “Darkarian,” and often left planning up to defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis while the ‘Ball Coach’ played golf. Jim Zorn always paid attention to the offense and trusted Greg Blache with the defense.
But in the Shanahan era, the head coach is always watching -- literally.
Because it is impossible for him to be in every meeting at the same time, he has cameras set up in every meeting room and they record what the unit and position coaches and players go over. Shanahan then watches every single meeting.
“I have everything really taped," Shanahan explains. "We just tape the screen, so I can keep abreast of what’s going on if I’m watching the secondary meeting or watching the coaches explain. It’s been really great for me over the years.”
Taping every meeting is a page Shanahan took out of Bill Walsh’s playbook in San Francisco, where Shanahan served as offensive coordinator for three seasons (1992, 1993 and 1994).
“When I went there as a offensive coordinator, I went back 10 years and went through every coordinator and really learned their terminology,” Shanahan recalls. “And so when I was hired there, I got a chance to really know before the players got there, what had been there for 10 years. I implemented that and it helped me.”
Shanahan during practices, normally roams the middle of the field while watching various units drill. In meetings, he does have more input in the offense, he says, however.
“Usually with the offense, you’re involved in all phases,” the coach says before explaining the installation process. “Each day you implement some phase of the game plan. You go through all phases. First down, second down, third down, short yardage, red zone, goal line. Each day you have a different game plan for what you install.
“Everybody’s involved since I’ve been a coordinator or a head coach. Even as a coordinator you’re hoping you have the best people in those positions so when you’re installing the running game, obviously [offensive line coach] Chris [Foerster] has a lot of input, also [running backs coach] Bobby Turner with his experience. Passing game, you go with the wide receivers and quarterbacks [coaches]. We get a lot of input from everybody, and you get with the defenses in coming up with a plan. It’s a process.”
Shanahan isn’t more involved in the offense than defense because he doesn’t trust his son and offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan. The younger Shanahan said that his father sits back and gives him control, just as any other head coach would.
“It’s worked out exactly how I expected,” Kyle Shanahan said. “I came here expecting to be the offensive coordinator.
“I don’t think I would’ve come here otherwise,” he added with a smile.
Mike Shanahan said that working with his son has also been what he expected, and he admits “without question,” he feels a sense of relief that things have gone well and that Kyle is as knowledgeable and displays the strong leadership skills that he believed he had.
“It’s really been great. You think you have an idea but until you work with your son, you don’t really know for sure,” Shanahan said. “But you kind of get a feel in a meeting when somebody’s implementing the running or passing game if they really know what’s going on. If you feel someone take charge of the meeting, it doesn’t take long to figure out if someone’s doing it.”
Shanahan also said he has learned a thing or two from his son.
“There’s no question about it,” the coach said. “These young guys, it’s like any profession. They get on these computers, they have ideas, they enjoy the game, study the game, and it’s an ongoing process. Once you quit learning, you’re out of the profession pretty quick.”