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The Kyle Shanahan Effect: 7 Players Who Thrived under the 49ers Head Coach

Posted Feb 15, 2017

What has Kyle Shanahan's effect been on individual players? Check out this data-driven report to see seven players that prospered under the 49ers new head coach.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has received plenty of praise for being a prolific offensive mind in the NFL. But what has his impact been on specific players?

In this data-driven report, we looked back at a timeline of Shanahan’s career as an offensive coordinator in the NFL and studied his impact on individual players. We found that many of the league’s most recognizable names have enjoyed career seasons with Shanahan calling the plays. Below we included seven such players and detailed their time with Kyle Shanahan.



Season Games Receptions Yards Yards/Game Touchdowns
2008 16 115* 1,585* 99.1 8
2009 16 101 1,569* 98.1* 9

Career Best  *Led the NFL

Seven-time Pro-Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson played under Kyle Shanahan from 2006 to 2009 with the Houston Texans. When Shanahan was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2008, Johnson responded by posting the best two-year statistical stretch of his career.

In Shanahan’s offense, Johnson led the league in receiving yards for two straight years—becoming the first NFL player to do so since Jerry Rice (1992-1993). He also topped 1,500 yards in back-to-back seasons, making him one of just five players since 2000 to accomplish the feat. Andre Johnson received First-Team All-Pro honors in 2008 and 2009.


Season Games Completions Passing Yards Touchdowns QB Rating
2008 11 251 3,043 15 92.7
2009 16 396* 4,770* 29 98.6

Career Best  *Led the NFL

During the same two-year window, Kyle Shanahan developed Matt Schaub into a Pro-Bowl quarterback.

Shanahan directed a pass-heavy offense with Schaub, who led the league in yards-per-game (298.0), pass attempts (583) and completions (396) in 2009. With 29 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 98.6—both career highs—Schaub made his first Pro Bowl, where he would end up earning Offensive MVP honors.



Season Games Passing Yards Rushing Yards Touchdowns QB Rating
2012 15 3,200 815* 27 102.4
2013 13 3,203 489 16 82.2

Career Best  *Led the NFL

Kyle Shanahan moved to Washington in 2010 to serve as the offensive coordinator under his father, and head coach at the time, Mike Shanahan. In the 2012 NFL Draft, the team traded up to select quarterback Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall pick. “RGIII” ended up having a historic rookie season, setting an NFL rookie record for highest passer rating (102.4).

With Griffin under center, Kyle Shanahan’s offense shifted towards a run-focused attack. The rookie quarterback threw for a modest 3,200 yards in 15 starts, but added 815 rushing yards to lead all NFL signal-callers. Griffin made the Pro Bowl and earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.


Season Games Rush Attempts Rushing Yards Yards per Carry Touchdowns
2012 16 335^ 1,613^ 4.8 13^
2013 16 276 1,275 4.6 7

Career Best  ^Top 3 in NFL

Washington drafted Alfred Morris in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The running back would rush for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns in his rookie campaign, both of which were good for second in the league.

Morris went over 1,000 yards in each season under Shanahan. He also earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2012 and made the Pro Bowl both seasons.



Season Games Receptions Yards Yards per Game Touchdowns
2015 16 136* 1,871* 116.9* 8
2016 14 83 1,409 100.6* 6

Career Best  *Led the NFL

Julio Jones had already established himself as a premier NFL wide receiver when Shanahan joined the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. Still, Jones posted career highs in targets (203), receptions (136) and receiving yards (1,871) in his first season under Shanahan. His 1,871 receiving yards are the second most in league history.

In 2016, Julio Jones remained dominant, leading the NFL in yards per game. The receiver earned First-Team All-Pro honors in each season under Shanahan.


Season Games Rush Attempts Rushing Yards Yards per Carry Touchdowns
2015 15 265 1,056 4 11*
2016 16 227 1,079 4.8 11

Career Best  *Led the NFL

In 2015, second-year running back Devonta Freeman had a breakout year in Shanahan’s offense. The former fourth-rounder was integral to Shanahan’s powerful offense in Atlanta, leading the league in carries and touchdowns. Freeman was also involved in the passing game, totaling 1,634 all-purpose yards on the year.

The following season, Freeman split backfield duties with Tevin Coleman and also became a more efficient rusher, averaging a healthy 4.8 yards per carry and topping 1,000 yards with 11 touchdowns for the second consecutive year. Freeman made the Pro Bowl in each season, earning Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2015.


Season Pass Attempts Completions Passing Yards Touchdowns QB Rating
2015 614 407 4,591 21 89
2016 534 373 4,944^ 38^ 117.1*

Career Best   *Led the NFL   ^2nd in the NFL

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had a strong first season with Shanahan in 2015 with 4,591 passing yards and 21 touchdowns, but he evolved into an MVP-caliber quarterback the following year. Ryan led the NFL in quarterback rating (117.1) and was second in passing yards (4,944) and passing touchdowns (38). All of these stats were career-highs for Ryan and ultimately earned him the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award for 2016.

Overall, Shanahan has consistently shown the ability to adapt to his teams’ strengths, bring the best out of star players and continuously out-scheme opposing defenses. In four of his nine seasons as an OC, Shanahan led his team to a top-5 finish in regular season yards per game.