49ers’ Kyle Shanahan, Chiefs’ Andy Reid differ in offensive approaches

MIAMI — They’re the two best offensive coaches in the league and they couldn’t be more different.

Sure, Kyle Shanahan and Andy Reid have similarities. They both produce big plays, wide-open receivers and high scores.

“They stress the crap out of you with all the weapons and speed they have,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh explained. “They do an unbelievable job of taking their athletes and putting them in positions that you couldn’t even imagine, because they understand athletes and how to use speed. They’ve very, very hard to deal with.”

For completely opposite reasons.

Here’s how their offenses work.

This article has 42 Comments

    1. Can we start with the basics?
      .
      ‘Re-sign’ vs. ‘resign.’ Know it.
      .
      Also, ‘sifting through.’ Not ‘shifting through.’

    2. ;p
      .
      Nice. I will once again question the wisdom about writing about free agency on the eve of the SB, but I see you have thoroughly researched the material, and seem passionate about the subject.
      .
      I agree with most of your verdicts. Armstead, by playing in the SB, will get a big payday, and will probably be signed away because the Niners will not be able to afford him. I hope they re-sign Blair.
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      I will disagree with Sanders. I would love for the Niners to retain him, but they need to save cap money to re-sign Buckner and others. Sanders has been a huge contributor, but he is 33, and Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd are waiting in the wings. Maybe if Sanders give the Niners a good deal; a home discount.
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      I would like to hear your opinions on the Reid/ Shanahan comparisons, too.

      1. Taylor and Hurd are coming off lost seasons due to an injury, so I don’t forsee the 49ers just going with them in place of Sanders. Sanders’ estimated market value is expected to cost around $10 million in free agency, but I think he could be signed for less.
        Grant broke down the comparisons to Reid and Shanahan effectively, so I really can’t offer much on that front.

        1. I am concerned about Reid and his coaches. They are competent, skilled, innovative and focused. This will not be like LaFleur last game, or McVay in the SB.
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          It may just come down to which coach makes the fewest mistakes. It may come down to which side executes their game plan better.

  1. Reid runs an air-raid offense. We were built and designed to stop it.

    Shanny’s offense is like an assassin. He can kill you in a multitude of ways. The Chiefs will die on Hard Rock field.

    1. I was feeling super confident because they don’t run the the ball and their scheme plays right into our hands. That being said, there offensive line does not give up many sacks.

      Originally I was thinking we would real havoc up front but now I am not so sure.

      1. Their offensive line hasn’t given up many sacks because they haven’t played anybody with a legitimate pass rush all year. Stats only tell part of the story, and without context, they’re completely useless.

  2. Is it a good idea to run a bit of man? Seems like zone is the preferred coverage for obvious reasons. But some man to mix it up? I think Ward, Sherman, and Williams are capable of staying with their man while front 4 go to work.

      1. I would play man on 1st and 2nd down then drop 6 in coverage on 3rd and long and rush 5.
        Like Jimmie Ward said, you counteract speed with being physical. KC has a lot of young players with speed. How will they react to being knocked down? Footsteps get louder and louder when you’ve been cold cocked a few times.
        I think back to the Giants beating the Niners in the NFC Championship in 1990. That’s the blue print to follow against the Chiefs this Sunday. Knock someone out.

  3. Iggy
    @grantcohn
    Walked two miles at night in Miami to get this.

    Those cuban sandwiches are well worth it, Grant. I hope you’ve taken the liberty to try the cuban expresso’s too.

  4. Interesting. Both came from the Bill Walsh coaching tree, but Reid is pass happy, while KS is content having his QB throw only 8 times.
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    Personally, I see a lot of the West Coast concepts in KS’s offense. Flood zones, short passing with YAC, attack weaknesses, setting up plays, mismatches, man in motion, speed over brawn, deception. Building up a lead by initially passing, then after building a lead, pounding the rock in the second half. KS has started with the WCO, then tweaked it, and taken it to a new level.
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    I thought Gibbs was more of a ground and pound, with power runs and hogs up front.
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    Reid is adaptive. Air raid. It only works with a mobile, elusive QB who has pinpoint accuracy. Mahomes is perfect for that system, especially with a stable of speedy pass catchers. The only way to successfully defend against this system is to have a fast defense. Thankfully, the Niners have that.
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    The Niner defense should implement many of the Pete Carroll defensive concepts. Do not give up the big play. Keep everything in front of them, and make the opposition make long drives down the field. Once the ball is caught, hit the snot out of the ball carrier.
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    I hope the front 4 can contain and collapse the pocket, but I also hope Saleh dials up some exotic blitzes, and gets to Mahomes early. Then, maybe he will start to hear footsteps, and rush his throws.

    1. There is some overlap with Bill Walsh’s WCO but that is true of every single offense in the NFL.

      Reid is probably conceptually closer to Walsh’s version than most in the NFL but he has deviated quite a bit from the WCO. If we are comparing Shanahan’s offense to one from the 80’s, I would agree that it’s closer to the Joe Gibbs,Redskins offense conceptually than Walsh’s offense.

      Note that this is still high praise, as I think Gibbs is one of the most underrated offensive minds in NFL history. And while it may be seen as blasphemy by some, but I believe he rivals Walsh in terms of offensive innovation, just not in terms of a “system”. He is credited for creating the bunch( or trips),12 and 13 personnel groupings. Was the first to showcase the utility of the H-back and was on the forefront of utilizing a man in motion to create mismatches and show defensive coverages.

      1. I agree with you about Gibbs, Shoup. Anyone who believes his offense was merely ground and pound was not watching closely. I had not made the connection with KS’s offense this year, but I think you and Grant are right.

      2. I guess I was just remembering about the John Riggins days with the Hogs.
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        I will also concede that Joe Gibbs was a fine coach, being smart and innovative.

  5. Grant love the blog! Even when you predicted us to finish 6-10. But you really put your finger on the pulse of the team . Having said that you’re really favoring the Cheifs? C’mon Grant!!! Greetings from Pattaya Thailand😎😎😎

  6. Scheme is incredibly important. Great coaches can scheme out wins. Shanahan and Reid certainly both qualify as great coaches. However, IMO the game will come down to players. You can scheme a player into the perfect position to make a play but if the player he’s going against makes a better play then the scheme doesn’t really matter. For example, if the Chiefs scheme calls for Tyrann Mathieu to cover Kittle then the 49ers could move Deebo or Sanders to slot and destroy the Chiefs defense by exploiting the weakness at slot cb for the Chiefs. That’s scheme related. If the 49ers decide to call pass plays for Kittle even if Mathieu is covering him and Kittle destroys Mathieu (which I think he will) then that is just one player who is better than the other player. Chiefs LBs can’t cover TE’s. They are close to the worst in the league when LBs cover TEs. If they move Mathieu to that spot then the 49ers have all kinds of options. Both scheme related and because the 49ers players are just better than the Chiefs players.

  7. My main concerns:

    Breida and Coleman fumble
    T Mathieu making a big play
    Mecole Hardman special team returns
    Sherman giving up a long TD – could demoralize the defense

        1. It’s the super bowl. Mostert is our best gunner. Hill and Hardman are dangerous in return game. Also Coleman is hurt.

          For what it’s worth Brieda is listed as RB1 on depth chart on 49er website

  8. Grant,
    I’m happy to see that the Press Democrat is finally recognizing your value by sending you to Miami, enjoy yourself. After the SB if you would like to do a little investigative journalism, a close friend of mine who has been a 9er season ticket holder for over 45 years and was chosen in the SB ticket drawing all of the previous 6 but wasn’t this time swears that something fishy is going on this time. Previously a ticket holder’s name was put into the drawing as many times as the amount of years that they were season ticket holders. Season ticket holders were told it would be the same process this year but after talking with many other season ticket holders she believes that the team gave advantage to those who spent more on their ticket license’s and lied to ticket holders regarding the process. Maybe you and your dad can turn into Woodward and Bernstein.
    Also I saw you on KRON last night you looked and sounded good but your explanation of how the 9ers D could stop the Chiefs sounded a lot like a post I made last week. If you are going to use my material at least give me a shout out on the air.

  9. One thing I hope KS does, is activate Jeff Wilson Jr. Coleman may not last long. Dislocated shoulders can pop back, but also can pop out. Pettis probably will not see the field, so having 4 RBs is possible, and maybe prudent.
    .
    I hope KS uses Wilson and the other RBs in the passing game more. They are fast enough to create mismatches. Wilson has shown he can make difficult catches, and he has shown good production running inside, being bigger than Mostert and Breida.
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    Maybe KS should add another wrinkle, and utilize Mostert like they do Tyreek Hill. He is equally as fast as Hill, and Sorenson runs a 4.67 forty. It might also confuse Mathieu.

  10. About the only thing Kyle Shanahan and Joe Gibbs share is the very basic philosophy of establishing the run. Yeah Gibbs used motion but not like Kyle does. Gibbs ran a ground and pound version of Air Coyrell. His goal was to go vertical. It was a power run based attack; his most famous play being the Counter Trey…which you will see Shanahan use occasionally. But Shanahan’s goal is to slice up an offense with his fast run game. His passing game is mostly an extension of his run game. Play action, Pop pass type RPO’s etc…..in the WCO tradition…YARDS AFTER CATCH is Kyle’s game. The only vertical element in Shanahan’s game is the very occasional play action deep pass (and we haven’t really seen it since Marquees Goodwin was a starter).

    1. YAC is Jimmy’s game, not Kyle’s game. Kyle wants to take shots downfield off play action. He adapted to fit Jimmy skillset because Jimmy doesn’t throw a good deep ball.

      1. Kyle’s downfield passing are mostly “shot plays” from play action. Very calculated based on field position and down and distance. Most everything else are old school WCO crossing route passing concepts all dressed up with motion and various personnel groups and formations.

        Gibbs was “Air Coryell”. Most routes were about getting your guy matched one on one and going downfield. 3 verticals, deep post/mills…etc.. Gibbs, Norv Turner and Mike Martz all ran the same passing game concepts. I recall Aikman recognizing pass plays while watching the Martz’s Rams.

        I’m not so sure about the lack of deep passing game being all on Garappolo. I know he’s not a mad bomber of a deep thrower. But the 49ers don’t really have a deep receiving threat since Goodwin disappeared. More to the point, they really haven’t needed a deep passing game because their run game and YAC from shorter passes have mostly kept them on schedule. But the majority of Shanahan’s passing offense is play action and pop pass/rpo stuff. If what you’re doing is working…I think Kyle has demonstrated that he’s not going to bother with riskier stuff like shot plays.

  11. I hope JG takes a shot down field, just because they will not expect it. Maybe if it is second and short. If it does not work, it is still third and short.
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    If the Niners can score quickly, it may put added pressure on Mahomes.

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