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Yard work is Kyle Shanahan's baby on Sundays

Son of Broncos coach ready to take reins of Texans offense

Published May 9, 2008 at 12:05 a.m.

Kyle Shanahan, 28, will be the youngest offensive coordinator in the NFL this season. The son of Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was promoted from quarterbacks coach in January after Mike Sherman left to coach Texas A&M.

Kyle Shanahan, 28, will be the youngest offensive coordinator in the NFL this season. The son of Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was promoted from quarterbacks coach in January after Mike Sherman left to coach Texas A&M.

He no longer is the little boy who wandered off on his own when he was 31/2 and spent several hours lost in the bowels of Florida Field until a security officer finally found him and reunited him with his panicked father.

And he has come a long way from the gangly teen who used to run fly patterns alongside Broncos receivers Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey during the summer.

At 28, Kyle Shanahan is all grown up, physically and professionally. And today, when the Houston Texans start minicamp, he'll step on the field as the youngest offensive coordinator in the NFL. Those who know him best say there's no question he was born to coach.

"I saw it in my son (David, an assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs) just like I saw it in Kyle," said new Texans offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, who held a similar position in Denver under Mike Shanahan. "Mike had no chance to even move him in another direction. There was no way."

That's not to say the family didn't try.

Peggy Shanahan, Mike's wife and Kyle's mother, said they hoped their only son might choose golf or a legal degree.

"He's a real good arguer, so when he was real young, we started saying, 'lawyer,' and pushing in that direction," Peggy Shanahan said. "It just didn't work out."

And when Dad took his young son to the golf course, Kyle would hit one or two balls and sit down.

Even though he cried when his father was fired by the Raiders and lived a vagabond life, with six moves by the time he was 15, Kyle insisted he wanted to be a coach and, more specifically, an NFL coach.

"We finally gave up and said, 'OK, do what you want. You've lived this life forever. You know how hard it is,' " Peggy said.

Thus, Kyle this season will oversee players such as Chris Brown, a former University of Colorado running back and only a year younger, and quarterback Matt Schaub, two years his junior.

The age factor hardly worries Kyle.

"People make a big deal about it, but personally, I feel my age is my No. 1 asset. If you don't know what you're doing and players realize that, it doesn't matter how old you are, it's going to be miserable for you," Kyle said. "The fact that I'm younger and do know what I'm doing gives me an advantage. I wouldn't trade my age for anything."

Mike Shanahan believes Kyle is 10 years more advanced in the pro game than he was at the same age.

"He's been around football his whole life. When I grew up, my dad was an electrician and my mom was a housewife," the elder Shanahan said.

"He's been around me since he was a little kid. I was 38 before I had the knowledge he has right now."

Going the distance

Though Kyle never has worked with his father, there's no question Dad has been a big influence.

Consider the summer day when the soon-to-be high school freshman uttered a line that made his dad cringe.

Kyle was trying to make the football team and said something about "wishing" he had run a better time in the mile.

Mike hated that attitude. So he made a deal with Kyle: Work out with him for six weeks and run every day he was told to and the time would drop.

"Kyle didn't believe him, but they did it," Peggy said of those almost daily trips to the track to run sprints and distance.

When they were done, Kyle had trimmed about a minute off his mile time, even more than his dad had predicted.

"That kind of started Kyle understanding that if you work real hard at something, you can sometimes accomplish it," Peggy said.

Kyle concurs that the lesson was instilled.

"Once my dad showed me how much better you can get at something with practice, that's kind of what led me through the rest of my life," he said.

"I've always been kind of obsessive when it comes to working out or reaching a specific goal. And now that I've gotten into coaching, it's a helluva lot easier because . . . at least now I'm not working against genes," he said, a subtle dig at dad.

"Athletically, you can only make yourself so much faster, so much bigger, but with coaching, I feel like I'm not at a disadvantage."

Competitive drive

Texans coach Gary Kubiak has said having Kyle on his staff is like dealing with a carbon copy of his dad.

Though Kyle is taller, they have similar facial expressions and personalities, which reporters find difficult to believe because Kyle is known for his sense of humor and one-liners.

Asked if that first coaching job were to come at Oakland, where his father was fired by Al Davis four games into his second season, Kyle told the Houston Chronicle, "Well, that might be fun. Then I might be able to do something my father couldn't -- get along with Al."

Then there's this two-liner.

Asked about his father's influence on him as a youth, he is quick to point out his dad always was his hero.

"I didn't think he could do anything wrong. Now I'm older, so I can see he can make lots of mistakes," Kyle said.

Peggy Shanahan cites similarities in their confidence and determination and drive for perfection.

And, of course, there's the competitive side.

After a Thursday night Broncos-Texans game in Houston last year (won by the Texans 31-13), Mike and Peggy stayed behind to spend time with Kyle, his wife, Mandy, and their daughter, Stella, who was born in August.

Before long, father and son became consumed playing the Wii version of Guitar Hero, a wireless, interactive game that has developed almost a cult following.

"Kyle was so good at it and Mike wouldn't put it down because he had to beat Kyle. I don't think he ever did beat him," Peggy said.

"Really, that was all those two did for two days. They'd take a little break every so often and talk a little football, but the main thing was playing Guitar Hero."

Top job in future?

While Mike admits he's not ready to compete against Kyle at Guitar Hero, he believes Kyle is ready to be an NFL offensive coordinator after working his way up the ranks -- in record fashion.

After graduating from Texas, where he was a walk-on receiver, Kyle went to work as a graduate assistant under Karl Dorrell at UCLA.

He then spent two seasons under Jon Gruden with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an offensive assistant before joining Kubiak's staff in 2006 as receivers coach.

He was named quarterbacks coach last season, then promoted to offensive coordinator in January after Mike Sherman left to coach Texas A&M.

"He's got the ability to be a head coach someday," Kubiak said last year. "He's got the brains, the work ethic and the fire. He's just like his dad from that standpoint."

Which begs another question.

While Kubiak always was the obvious heir apparent in Denver, now that he's at Texas, could it be Kyle who one day replaces Dad, should the circumstances be right?

Mike, who at 55 is in his 14th year coaching the Broncos and 34th overall in the profession, would only say all coaches work to be top honcho.

"We don't talk about it. I just know his goal is to be a head coach. Any team to project would be, to me, not reality," Mike said. "There's 32 teams out there and to get one of those jobs (down the line) would be a dream come true."

So far, that inquisitive little boy once lost in an empty stadium has found his way up the ladder quite nicely.

Coming of age

Kyle Shanahan is a chip off the old block when it comes to landing coaching jobs at a young age. How he measures up to his dad:

*Mike Shanahan

25 becomes offensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois.

32 becomes offensive coordinator in NFL, with Broncos in 1985.

35 becomes youngest coach of his era, with Los Angeles Raiders in 1988.

*Kyle Shanahan

24 becomes offensive assistant, with Tampa Bay in 2004.

28 becomes youngest offensive coordinator in NFL, with Houston in January.

Family business

There have been plenty of father-son coaching combinations in the NFL. Could Kyle Shanahan one day be a head coach like his dad?

"I think most coaches who get in the business would like to be a head coach one day. It's been my goal from the day I got into coaching," the younger Shanahan said. "I want to make sure if I do get that opportunity one day that I'm definitely ready for it. I don't think about it much (now) because then you're not very good at doing the job at hand. . . . But it's definitely a goal."

Some other father/son coaches in the NFL:

* Bum Phillips/Wade

* Don Shula/Dave

* Jim E. Mora/Jim L.

* Dick Nolan/Mike

They said it

* Broncos publicist Jim Saccomano, on Kyle Shanahan's maturation: "Some guys are 19 forever. He jumped from 19 to 40, so to speak."

* Peggy Shanahan, on the interaction between father and son: "I know his father thinks (he's ready). I think Mike would have hired him already, actually, other than he'd be afraid they'd argue all the time. They'd be sitting there and Kyle will be asking Mike why he did it a certain way and Kyle's trying to say, 'Well, if you did it this way, it'd be better.' And Mike would sit there and say, 'Did you think about this? That's why it wouldn't be,' and they'd go back and forth."

* Kyle Shanahan, on his reaction when his dad was fired by the Oakland Raiders: "I was in third grade then. I was old enough to realize what happened. I understood what being fired was. But back then, it affects you about a day, maybe two days. You cry when it happens, you're (ticked) off, but I was happy to go back to Denver and see all the friends I had."

* Kyle Shanahan, on the media's perception of his father as always serious: "It's funny. My friends from high school and college think of my dad as a very fun dad."

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