SANTA CLARA, Calif. — There’s only one official title Mike Shanahan has in relation to the San Francisco 49ers: “Dad.”
As in, he’s the father of Niners coach Kyle Shanahan and isn’t on the team payroll as a consultant, assistant coach or anything of the sort.
But the title of father of the head coach offers Mike Shanahan, the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the Denver Broncos and former assistant in San Francisco, an opportunity to be there for his son as sounding board and consigliere without any of the defined roles that go with a job with the team.
During the first few months of Kyle Shanahan’s first crack at being a head coach in the NFL, Mike Shanahan has been around the team facility on a fairly regular basis. He observed organized team activities and then watched more practices during the team’s final minicamp last week. Having his father around has allowed Kyle Shanahan to slow things down as he raced through his first offseason program.
“It’s been going so fast you don’t have that much time always for phone conversations,” Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s real nice when, as a first-time head coach, trying to do the whole offensive thing and do all the head coach stuff too, you’re going 1,000 miles an hour. Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff, and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.
“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you, has a similar background, and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed. The more people you have who know what you’re trying to do, watch stuff, there’s always something to find. That’s why all of us kind of go crazy with never feeling like we’re done. There’s something else to look at. The more you can get people in that situation, it’s only a benefit.”
It’s even more beneficial considering the Shanahans have worked together in the past and know how each other operates. Mike Shanahan, 64, also once went through the same transition from successful offensive coordinator to head coach.
In making that adjustment, Kyle Shanahan has acknowledged there were moments during the first few OTAs when he wasn’t exactly sure where to go or what to do during certain periods of practice.
Having been so accustomed to focusing only on offense, the 37-year-old Shanahan seemed to get more comfortable as those practices rolled along. By the final session of minicamp, he was spending time with the defense, doling out tips on how to cover certain routes and even serving as the “quarterback” against the defense before team drills began.
Meanwhile, Mike Shanahan spent most of those practices alongside 49ers general manager John Lynch, whom he coached in Denver. When the workouts are over, the elder Shanahan retreats to what his son calls a “huge” iPad loaded with film and makes note of what he sees. Then the Shanahan men do what they do best: talk ball.
“I’m not sure we talk about much other than football, because we enjoy it a lot,” Kyle Shanahan said. “He loves football and he likes to be in a place where he can watch everything. He’ll have an office attached to my office, so he just posts up in there and watches a lot of tape and comes out with ideas a lot and saying stuff. It’s good to have as many eyes as possible looking at stuff. Especially on people that you think are talented at what they do and people you trust their opinions. I use any advice I can get from anyone.”
As for Mike Shanahan’s role moving forward, it’s fair to expect he’ll be around, particularly during 49ers training camp, and can help out where needed, but there are still no plans to bring him on in any official capacity, as Kyle Shanahan said from the beginning.
“I think he’s enjoying life right now,” Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver and where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”