Before the 2015 season started, many analysts and people around the league were ready to give up on quarterback Matt Ryan. After Ryan led his team to the NFC Championship Game in 2012, only to lose to the San Francisco 49ers, the Atlanta Falcons were riding high.
The future looked bright — before it all came crashing down around Ryan's ears. After two seasons that netted Atlanta just 10 total wins, Head Coach Mike Smith was jettisoned and Ryan's future hanged in the balance.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1742909-denver-broncos-head-coach... Former Seattle Seahawks DC Dan Quinn was hired to succeed Smith as Atlanta's head man, and he made the hiring of Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator his first order of business — and the reclamation project of Matt Ryan began.
Initially, it didn't appear that Ryan was meant for Shanahan's offensive predilections. Ryan struggled to assimilate the playbook and play under center, and rumors began to swirl that he didn't like Atlanta's new system.
It took some time and some innovative work, but Shanahan and Ryan finally sparked — once the former Boston College standout bought into the system. The proof is in the proverbial pudding.
Atlanta finished 2016 as the No. 2 offense in total yards. behind only New Orleans. Ryan and Shanahan finished as the No. 3 passing offense, averaging 295.3 yards per game through the air. But they also finished No. 5 in rushing, averaging 120.5 yards per game on the ground.
Shanahan and Ryan produced easily the most balanced and effective offense in the NFL this year. The result? Matt Ryan is a bona fide MVP candidate, and the Atlanta Falcons went 11-5, securing the NFC's No. 2 seed, while Shanahan has become arguably the most sought after name to fill the current head coaching vacancies around the league.
Again, Shanahan's success in Atlanta didn't happen overnight. It took time and the openness and willingness of a three-time Pro Bowl QB to change his approach.
Now, imagine Kyle Shanahan taking that same blueprint to Denver. The implications for Paxton Lynch would be staggering.
Shanahan is an acolyte of the West Coast offense and the zone blocking scheme. But unlike his former boss and mentor, Gary Kubiak, Shanahan doesn't bind himself to the strictures of the WCO.
He's willing to adapt, based on the personnel at his disposal and the matchups on gameday. Kyle took his father's WCO variant in Washington, and sprinkled all kinds off football fairy dust on it. In 2012-13, Robert Griffin III broke out, running some of Shanahan's traditional offense, with some read-option sprinkled in.
The result? Griffin passed for 6,403 yards and 36 touchdowns over those two years, while rushing for 1,304 and seven scores. In 2012, Washington finished as the No. 5 total offense and No. 9 in 2013.
Paxton Lynch has stated that he doesn't want to learn a new system in his second year. After all the time spent learning Kubiak's playbook and honing his technique, he's hopeful the base offense sticks around.
Shanahan would provide that continuity — the same base offense and nomenclature — while also bending his thought on adapting a scheme to maximize Lynch's skill-set. It would be a win-win.
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The reality is the Broncos invested a first round pick in Lynch and he's one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks in the league. The team needs a return on that investment and you can believe that whomever the Broncos hire, it will be with the expressed objective of cultivating an offense and culture that will get the most out of Lynch.
With a bright, innovative coach to mold him, Lynch's ceiling is unlimited. Elway is sick of the same old square-peg, round-hole thinking that permeated the Broncos offense for two years.
Shanahan would be the best fit for the Broncos. Elway's already stated that he believes the defense is good enough to keep the Broncos "in the hunt" for a World Championship each year. He has no plans to make any wholesale changes there and will strive for as much continuity as the current situation will allow.
Elway wants to build a dynasty and as much as you need an elite defense to accomplish that, you won't get there without a legitimate franchise quarterback. The Broncos believe they have one in the making in Paxton Lynch, and the best man who checks all those boxes, understands the expectations in the Mile High City, and understands what his role would be under Elway, is Kyle Shanahan.
The Broncos will fly out to interview Shanahan on Saturday, while the 37-year-old OC gets two days off before his week-long preparation for the NFC Divisional Round.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.