FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Kyle Shanahan remains focused on helping the Falcons win their first Super Bowl championship.
No matter what happens, Atlanta’s offensive coordinator appears certain to land his first head coaching job.
Shanahan said Thursday he plans to talk again with the San Francisco 49ers about their coaching vacancy, with all signs pointing to him landing the position. He is the only apparent candidate, and the 49ers are the lone team that hasn’t hired a coach.
“I’m definitely excited about that,” Shanahan said. “But it’s not really something that I know what the situation is right now.”
The son of former NFL coach Mike Shanahan interviewed with the 49ers when Atlanta had a bye week during the wild-card round. He said they would arrange another meeting, most likely next week after the Falcons face the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game. He insisted that he doesn’t yet have a formal offer from the 49ers.
If the Falcons win, Shanahan would have time for a follow-up meeting before the Falcons head to Houston for the Feb. 5 Super Bowl.
Under NFL rules, he couldn’t take over the job until Atlanta’s season ends.
“It makes it pretty easy for us,” Shanahan said. “Regardless of what happens in this game, win or lose, you can talk to them again when your season’s over or if you get another bye week. So I think I’ll get that opportunity next week whatever happens, and I plan on doing that.”
The 49ers are seeking a replacement for Chip Kelly , who was fired after his only season in San Francisco. The team went 2-14, the second-worst record in the league.
Shanahan would be the 49ers’ fourth coach in four seasons. They are also seeking a general manager, a decision that would likely need the approval or at least the input of the new coach.
The 37-year-old Shanahan emerged as one of the NFL’s top assistants this season, directing an offense that paced the league in scoring and produced one of the leading MVP candidates, quarterback Matt Ryan .
“I’m looking forward to having those conversations next week,” Shanahan told reporters. “Really, until then, I don’t have much else for you guys. It makes it very easy to focus on Sunday.”
The relationship between Shanahan and Ryan didn’t take off right away.
The quarterback endured one of his worst seasons in 2015, and the Falcons slumped badly over the second half to finish 8-8. The team’s leading career receiver, Roddy White, criticized Shanahan for reducing his role in the offense.
But Ryan fully embraced the outside zone scheme in Year 2. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns, with just seven interceptions.
“We found a way to clean up some of the mistakes we made, whether it be in the red zone or turnovers,” Ryan said. “I think Kyle would do a great job if he ever does get the opportunity. I think he would be an excellent head coach. But we’ve got enough on our plate this week. I think everybody’s focus is kind of on that.”
Julio Jones, the Falcons’ All-Pro receiver, said Shanahan is a big reason for the team’s offensive success, which included an NFL-record 13 players catching touchdown passes.
“He’s a player coach. He understands. He gets it. He listens,” Jones said. “He just really takes it in throughout the game. If you see something, like, ‘Hey, I want this,’ he’s going to give it to you because he has that much trust in you to make it happen.”
Shanahan was left as San Francisco’s only candidate after New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pulled out Monday and Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable followed suit on Tuesday.
Shanahan spent two years as Houston’s offensive coordinator before moving to Washington in 2010 to handle the same job for his father. They were fired after the 2013 season, and the younger Shanahan spent one lost season in Cleveland with Johnny Manziel before getting a call from Quinn, a former Seattle defensive coordinator who landed his first head coaching job in Atlanta.
Quinn said he was drawn to “an offense that had real balance.”
Now, it looks like Shanahan will get a chance to take that offense to the Bay Area.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .
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