Kyle Shanahan is a young offensive coordinator
When Artis Hicks came to visit the Redskins during the offseason, his dinner party included Kyle Shanahan. The team's new offensive coordinator asked Hicks about Cedric Griffin, his former teammate with the Vikings who tore his ACL in the playoffs a year ago.
"He should recover, he should be fine," Hicks said.
"Yeah, I played with Ced at Texas," Shanahan replied.
Hicks is a grizzled NFL veteran. Griffin is 27 years old, and has played four seasons in the NFL.
"I was like, What?" Hicks recalled. "I said. How old are you? He told me he was 30. I felt so old. I've never been older than my offensive coordinator. That made me feel like I was 63."
Truth be told, Hicks should have figured out the age difference by looks. The younger Shanahan hasn't exactly mastered the grizzled look.
"The guy the Washington Redskins are counting on to revive their offense looks like an expert on malt shops, not NFL schemes," Sally Jenkins wrote earlier in the week.
"That's a blessing, to be 30 and look like you're 21," Hicks said. "I mean, I wish I had that problem."
Sally covered much of this ground better than I could, talking to Kyle about growing up around football and immersing himself in the profession. But, as someone nearly a decade older than one of my editors -- hey Lindsay! -- I was curious how the team's veterans have dealt with the age gap. Shanahan is younger than six of the 11 offensive starters, in some cases significantly.
"No, not significantly," 35-year old Mike Sellers said. "I'm a little older than him."
"He looks like me, you know, so yeah, he looks young," 32-year old Casey Rabach joked. "Good Lord, he's been around football his whole life. He's probably got more football experience than half the coaches twice his age."
While you're working that one out, consider this: starting wideout Joey Galloway is more than eight years older than Shanahan. This would be like a 14-year old coaching rookie tackle Trent Williams. And Kyle wasn't yet in high school the last time the Redskins won a Super Bowl.
But the offensive veterans said Kyle Shanahan didn't have to do anything to establish his authority other than open his mouth.
"It took five minutes of him talking about his offense for everyone to say that he's great, we'll listen to what he says," Chris Cooley said. "Kyle knows his stuff, better than almost anyone I've ever had. He is sure of his offense."
"When you've been around football as long as he has, you can just sense it," Hicks agreed. "He knows his game. I mean, he knows football. When you first meet him you can sense that, you can just feel it coming out of certain people."
"He knows what the heck he's talking about," Sellers told me. "Once you establish that, it's automatic that you get the respect."
And so Shanahan never mentioned his age in meetings. He didn't worry about establishing control, and has yet to pull any yelling-and-screaming, you-will-respect-me stunts.
"He's not a jerk or anything; he's cool, he can relate," said Derrick Dockery, Kyle's college teammate. "If somebody's slacking they'll get you out of here; that's what Coach Shanahan's here for."
Yeah, Dockery still refers to the head man as "Coach Shanahan." Kyle, though, is just "Kyle." Titles seem to come with age -- when Cooley first joined the Redskins, the offense was run by Joe Gibbs, whom he referred to as "Coach Gibbs" until late in his first season. ("But that's Joe Gibbs, Joe Gibbs is grandpa-aged," he noted.) But Cooley said he would never think to call Kyle Shanahan "Coach."
"I mean, when I stop and grab coffee, I [BS] with him like we went to high school together," Cooley told me. "But when he's running a meeting, he's good. He's very good."
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