Bill Belichick, now in his 46th season coaching in the NFL, is able to place 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan in unique context.
Before the two coaches’ teams meet on Sunday in a Patriots-49ers matchup, Belichick can directly compare Shanahan to his father, Mike Shanahan. Just as his father was an offensive coordinator who became a head coach, Kyle has taken the same route.
Both Shanahans are known for having a dynamic approach to offensively play-calling. Mike led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1990s. Kyle coached the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance last season.
During a Wednesday press conference, Belichick — who has coached against both on multiple occasions — was asked to compare the two.
Specifically, the Patriots’ coach was asked if the younger Shanahan has “evolved” his approach in the footsteps of his father.
“Yeah, they’ve evolved quite a bit,” said Belichick. “I mean, Mike had not only a balanced scheme, but one that had pretty good breadth to it and variety to it. Kyle’s does too, it’s just a little bit different.
“There are certainly similarities,” Belichick added, “but again, the main feature of any offense is the players, and Kyle’s done a great job of taking the skills of his players and maximizing them and utilizing them in ways where they’re effective. So, that’s different than the players that Mike had at Denver, obviously.
Belichick faced Mike when the latter was coach of the Broncos and in Washington. While in Washington, Kyle was the team’s offensive coordinator from 2010-2013.
“Mike did a good job of that and Kyle was there with him,” Belichick explained. “You play to the strengths of your team and your players. Sometimes they’re similar because you’re running a similar offense, but sometimes they’re different and you try to do things to take advantage of those.
In 2000, during Belichick’s first season with the Patriots, his first win as New England’s coach came against Mike’s Broncos. The 28-19 victory was the first of 239 that Belichick has so far amassed with the Patriots.
Yet any comparison to offensive styles and schemes from two decades ago is difficult, considering the evolution of the game, as Belichick pointed out.
“I would just say in general, defenses have changed quite a bit in the last 20, call it 25 years,” Belichick noted, “so there’s elements there of just attacking defenses is a little bit different now than it was at a different point in time. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, it’s just different.
“Kyle’s certainly adapted to those changes and we can see from the production that he consistently puts up that he does a great job of not only designing plays and attacking defenses, but also the play calling,” said Belichick. “He’s very good at that in terms of keeping the defense off-balance and kind of knowing when’s the right time to run certain plays. That’s important, too, and again that’s a real strength of Kyle’s.”
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