Kyle Shanahan’s head coaching career in San Francisco has been a stark contrast to his time as an assistant with the Washington Redskins. While the 49ers have had their recent bouts with drama, nothing compares to the Redskins organization and their meddling owner Dan Snyder. Recently, Shanahan spoke about the contrast between working for Redskins owner Dan Gilbert and the current ownership without mincing any words.
Washington’s toxic culture has a reputation
Dan Snyder has always had a knack for setting people up for failure. Kyle Shanahan isn’t the only person to speak out against the way he runs things, several former players have spoken about a toxic culture in Washington that treats the players and coaches more like property than people. The players are expected to treat him as superior, and the coaches and front office are expected to overcome the hurdles laid by Gilbert to make a winning team.
Shanahan, whose father was the head coach during much of his tenure in Washington, saw the toxicity of the franchise first hand. His father had been a Super Bowl winner with the Broncos, who spent over a decade on their sidelines. In Washington, however, the Redskins finished last in their division in all but one season, the exception being Robert Griffin III’s breakout season. Snyder didn’t help things with his constant meddling and reshuffling, either.
The team had to reckon with the hype surrounding Griffin and the reality that his peak would be short-lived thanks to injury and seeming lack of progression. Shanahan would outlast his father by one year, but under Jay Gruden, the team suffered the same fate. Shanahan would leave the team for a pair of stints in Cleveland and Atlanta as an offensive coordinator before landing his first head coaching gig in San Francisco.
Shanahan’s rebirth in San Francisco
When Kyle Shanahan got to take over his team and start over, he did so with a team that was still shuffling coaches, but who had also shown an ability to achieve success. When Jim Harbaugh left, the team went through a series of unfit coaches, but Shanahan was young and had a vision. The team stuck with him despite going just 10-22 in his first two seasons, and they saw that there was some promise in what he was building.
Fast-forward to this year, and the 49ers are, on paper, one of the best teams in the NFL. Through 13 games, the team is 11-2, and while their playoff success remains to be seen, their defense and offense are clicking, showing that Shanahan is not just a specialist despite his offensive roots. Jimmy Garoppolo is finding his targets, and on defense, Richard Sherman and Nick Bosa are punishing other teams.
With such a different atmosphere, Shanahan has reflected on how refreshing it is to be part of a winning environment.
Kyle Shanahan fires away on Dan Snyder
Kyle Shanahan didn’t mention Snyder nor the Redskins when he spoke about how much he loves it in San Francisco, but the motivations behind his comments were not hard to see.
“Last year, never once throughout the year did you ever feel like the defense was against the offense or vice versa,” Shanahan said (per Pro Football Talk). “Never once did I have an owner crushing me with, ‘Hey, we gotta change this guy.’ I mean, everyone here really just believed in each other. That was really tested with some of the times we went through, but I think that was the neatest thing about it.”
The Redskins have had a disastrous season while the 49ers have had their best season in years. Shanahan might have seen the struggles of a bad franchise firsthand in Washington, but perhaps this was what motivated him to become the coach he is today. Whatever the cause, Shanahan appears poised to have a long and successful career as a coach while the Redskins seem destined for more mediocrity and strife.