- Kyle Shanahan left his job as an offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns in 2015 after presenting a list of 32 items to his bosses about why he should be let out of his contract.
- The move proved smart, as Shanahan joined the Atlanta Falcons as an offensive coordinator, helped get them to the Super Bowl, then joined the San Francisco 49ers as a head coach in 2017.
- In 2017, Shanahan said presenting the list to the Browns was one of the hardest decisions of his life, but he knew there were issues with the team that didn’t bode well for his career.
- Read more of Business Insider’s Super Bowl 2020 coverage here.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers might not be in Super Bowl 2020 if Shanahan hadn’t went to extreme lengths to get out of a job six years ago.
In 2014, Shanahan was an offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns. While Shanahan didn’t exactly set the league on fire in his only year in Cleveland, he still built the 21st-ranked passing game in the league with Brian Hoyer at quarterback and an anonymous group of skill-position players. The team went 7-9 — which doesn’t sound great, but it was their best record since 2007.
However, Shanahan didn’t like the direction of the franchise. CBS’s Jason La Canfora reported at the time that Shanahan crafted a 32-point presentation about why he wanted to leave the Browns after the season, and used it to convince head coach Mike Pettine to let him out of his contract.
“At season’s end Shanahan, the lone bright spot on offense, perhaps, presented Pettine with a 32-point presentation on why he wanted to get out of his contract, sources said. And after much deliberation among lawyers and negotiation, in a bizarre precedent, a statement was crafted and Shanahan was a free man. … Allowing Shanahan to walk sent shockwaves through the building, with such a talented coach allowed to go at a time when the Browns desperately needed to develop a quarterback and with a quarter of the teams in the NFL needing a new offensive coordinator.”
Shanahan had two years left on his deal. The team could have fought to keep him or at least asked for compensation from whichever team he signed with, Pettine told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, but they ultimately chose not to.
“It’s just very hard to win in the NFL (even) when everybody’s into it and they truly want to be there,” Pettine said. “And again if you have somebody that just doesn’t want to be there, I know it’s easy to say, ‘Hey he’s under contract, hold him to it,’ (but now) there’s a dark cloud over your coaching offices and I’ve been a part of that.”
Shanahan ended up joining the Atlanta Falcons as an offensive coordinator, which proved crucial to his resume. After a rocky first year in Atlanta, Shanahan helped turn things around big time in 2016. The Falcons went 11-5, scored more points than any team in the league, finished first in offensive DVOA, and Matt Ryan won MVP. They went to the Super Bowl, where they eventually lost to the New England Patriots, notoriously blowing a 28-3 lead.
Even that dramatic loss — during which the Falcons’ offense stalled out — had its benefits. The next day, Shanahan became head coach of the 49ers. A month later, at the NFL draft combine, he spoke to Bill Belichick at length about that game and about head-coaching. Belichick had been close with Kyle’s father, legendary NFL coach Mike Shanahan.
Their relationship paid off down the line, as when the Patriots decided to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, Belichick called Shanahan and offered the young quarterback for just a second-round pick. The 49ers landed their franchise QB.
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
Shanahan reflected on his presentation in 2017 before the Super Bowl, saying it wasn’t a PowerPoint presentation, but a list of items he gave to Pettine.
“It wasn’t a Power Point presentation,” Shanahan said (via Cleveland.com). “It was all on paper. I gave a number of points — 32 of them, which you guys were accurate on. I gave them to the head coach.
“I told him he could do whatever he wanted with those, whether he gave them to the owner or the general manager. I’m sure that he did. I just wanted to be up front about it. I had some specific reasons I didn’t think it was going in the right direction, why it wasn’t the best place for me and my family.”
Shanahan also called it one of the hardest decisions of his life.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I had to make in my life, so it’s not like it was an easy decision. There were a lot of things that my wife and I really loved about Cleveland,” Shanahan said.
“But I also have a family to think about, I have a career to think about and that’s really what it came down to. That’s why I was open with those guys about it and the fact that they understood and let me move on is something that I really appreciate all of them for.”
- Read more:
- The 49ers and Chiefs landed their star quarterbacks thanks to a chain of events that all began with Colin Kaepernick’s breakout season in 2012
- WHERE ARE THEY NOW? The key players from the 2012 49ers, San Francisco’s last Super Bowl team
- Check out the most iconic Super Bowl moment from the year you were born
- The 14 players with the best odds to be named MVP of Super Bowl LIV — and our pick to win the award
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe