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Kyle Shanahan Describes Being 'in the Zone' as a Play-caller

Posted Feb 14, 2017

San Francisco's head coach explains what it's like to find a rhythm during and NFL game and how to take full advantage.


The Atlanta Falcons led the NFL in 2016 with 33.8 points per game and just 11 turnovers. The group recorded a league-best 17 pass plays of more than 40 yards, and 13 different players caught a touchdown.

Atlanta put up 422 total yards and 36 points against the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. The Falcons one-upped themselves in the NFC Championship Game, racking up 493 yards and 44 points against the Green Bay Packers.

The staggering numbers are notable additions to Kyle Shanahan’s extraordinary resume as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. His renowned offensive mind is well-documented, and is a major reason why the San Francisco 49ers tabbed him to be the franchise’s new head coach.

And even though Shanahan has seen so much success during his nine seasons as an OC, there are invariably moments (a series, quarter, half or even full games) that stand out above the rest. It’s those instances, where everything just clicks as a play-caller, that a Shanahan-led group can be particularly devastating.

Shanahan explained those moments in a recent sit-down interview with 49ers Studios.

“You do get in that zone,” Shanahan began to explain the mindset, comparable to a shooter in basketball on a hot streak. “You start to get confident, where you feel like you can’t call something wrong. It’s when you start tying the plays together, and you can start thinking a few plays ahead. You know this play is going to set up that play, and you avoid third down because first and second down are going so well.

“The tempo picks up. Your players pick up. You kind of start to dominate somebody. You start calling the same play back-to-back. Whether it’s a running play – let’s run it again, run it again. It’s the players that give you that confidence because you get a defense on its heels, and you start to know, ‘Hey they can’t stop us.’ That’s when you get the most aggressive.

“That’s a fun feeling.”

The 49ers saw Shanahan’s Falcons operate at such a pace in Week 15 of the 2016 season. Atlanta posted 28 first-half points, with 18 first downs and 319 total yards while only facing three third-downs.

In 2017, Shanahan will call plays from San Francisco’s sideline after spending last year in the coach’s box. The 49ers head coach explained that the adjustment will be very minor since he spent his first eight seasons as an OC also calling plays from field level.

“That’s all I knew,” Shanahan said. “I’ve learned how to do that. I’ve learned how to see the field from the sideline.”

Rather than stand near the line of scrimmage, Shanahan prefers to stand much further down the sideline to get the best view of the opposing defense. There’s only one downside to leaving the coach’s booth as far as Shanahan is concerned.

“The nice thing about the box is you get a chair,” he joked.


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