The head coach has been lauded for his outside zone attack and how it’s been able to carve up run defenses. He’s also been called a quarterback whisperer for his past work with names like Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins. But he’s felt the brunt of criticism for calling plays that earn the label of “predictable” by numerous of fans online.
Yet, though his backlash seen online, Shanahan has been named one of the top NFL play callers for the forthcoming 2022 season — even ranking ahead of one Super Bowl winning head coach he’s had his share of battles with.
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PFF Plants Shanahan Into Top 5
Pro Football Focus remains high on Shanahan and his ability with a headset and play sheet. PFF writer Eric Eager named the sixth-year 49ers head coach the league’s fourth-best play caller on Thursday, June 16.
But it’s who Shanahan is ahead of that’s most telling: He got placed in front of Super Bowl 56 winner Sean McVay of the rival Los Angeles Rams.
How did Shanahan out-rank the Vince Lombardi Trophy holding head coach from this past season? Is it because of his past history of success over McVay despite the NFC title game loss? Eager wrote this explanation: How Shanahan attacks linebackers.
“Shanahan makes the list this year for a few reasons. It will come up in the McVay section, but linebackers simply do not move against Shanahan’s offense — they don’t flow in the run game, and they don’t bite on play action,” Eager said. “With linebackers standing still, quarterbacks of Jimmy Garoppolo‘s caliber can simply “throw what’s called” — be a Ron Burgundy of sorts — and it ends up working out.”
Garoppolo, who has also been equally criticized for his play with the 49ers, has still gone 31-14 as a starter under Shanahan in the Bay Area. Eager and PFF brought up how Jimmy G delivered a high passer rating when it came to shorter throws in Shanahan’s scheme.
“Last year, Jimmy G posted a 107.4 passer rating when throwing the ball between 10-19 yards downfield, even though PFF charted him as having just two big-time throws and 15 turnover-worthy plays on such passes,” Eager said.
He added this past element regarding linebackers versus the 49ers: How they “bit less.”
Why McVay Rated Lower Than Shanahan
McVay cracked the top five of the PFF list — plus placed ahead of Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers.
But what was the dilemma McVay faced in ranking higher than his longtime friend/NFC West rival Shanahan?
“McVay runs the ball too much on early downs, which almost cost him a Super Bowl, and is dreadful at fourth-down decisions and timeout usage,” Eager wrote.
Despite the criticism, Eager did give McVay his praise, and comparison to Shanahan.
He’s a dynamite play caller, though,” Eager wrote. “And much like with Shanahan, linebackers simply do not feel comfortable flowing against the Rams’ offense, which makes life easier for that unit.”
But again, both were placed in their respective rankings based off of two elements involving runs and a critical down.
“Anyone who watched the final two games of the 2021 NFL season can see that, while the two men are brilliant, their offenses leave a lot on the table by running the ball too much, not to mention their fourth-down decisions,” Eager said.
And PFF’ top play caller? Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs. Coming in second was Kellen Moore of the Dallas Cowboys, who was the highest-ranked assistant coach on the list.