Former NFL head coach Mike Shanahan says his fondest Father’s Days were when he had a chance to spend time with his family.
Well, then, this must be one of the most memorable.
That’s because the former Denver and Washington head coach spent last week with son Kyle, now head coach of the 49ers, at the team’s mini-camp in Santa Clara, Cal., … where, it just so happens, Mike served as offensive coordinator in 1994 when San Francisco won its fifth Super Bowl and quarterback Steve Young was league MVP.
Though last week was the first time father and son were together there since Mike left, it wasn’t the first time they were paired on a football field. The two coached together when Mike was head coach at Washington, and Kyle was his offensive coordinator.
Now, of course, Dad is retired, and his son is a head coach for the first time in his NFL career. So that got us here at the Talk of Fame Network to thinking: What’s the best piece of advice Mike Shanahan passed on to his son?
“He’s given me a lot,” Kyle said on this week’s broadcast, “but I think the thing that sticks with me the most is that he always told me to be myself. If you work hard and prepare, he’s always told me … just from being with me … ‘You’re good at what you do. (So) just work your hardest, be honest with people and be yourself. And good things will happen.’”
He was right. Kyle was offensive coordinator in Atlanta last year when the Falcons led the league in scoring, won the NFC and came this close to pulling off a Super Bowl upset of Tom Brady and the Patriots.
And now he’s a head coach.
But after that Super Bowl loss, he absorbed a raft of criticism for his play-calling in a second half where the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead. Yet he rolled with it — saying he understands it goes with the territory.
And he understands because he witnessed it as a the son of a head coach of a successful NFL team. In fact, he said he was exposed to it at an early age as a spectator at a Denver Broncos’ game … suffering more, much more, than mere criticism from a fan angry with his father’s coaching.
“I can remember being … I don’t know exactly what age; I want to say seven, because it was definitely before 10 … but I remember a guy talking a bunch during the game, and I yelled at him as a little kid,” he said. “And I remember him throwing a beer on me at the end of a game … and I wasn’t able to do anything about it.
“So I started to learn at a young age that people love the sport. And I loved it being the son of a coach, and (being) around it. People get very into it. And I get into it. So I get it. I would live and die it as a young kid, watching it, and I see it in everyone.
“Everyone tells you what to do, but it’s hard. You’ve just got to not take it personally. You’ve got to understand people are into this; that’s what makes it so special. People care so much about it that there’s going to be a lot of bad that comes with the good.
“But it’s worth it. We enjoy it, and I think that’s what makes it so fun. There are a lot of hours you put into coaching, but being able to go to Sunday and compete at something and to really find out a lot about yourself … I think that’s harder to find in other sports or in other jobs. And that’s what’s makes it special about the job I’m fortunate to have.”
Wait a minute. A guy threw a beer on him? Maybe Kyle didn’t take it personally, but you gotta hope his mother did.
“She did,” said Shanahan. “She didn’t see it happen. And when it was over, she just looked over and saw me crying and soaking wet. The guy got out of there too fast, and she went after him.”
Fortunately … maybe for both parties … she didn’t catch him.
“I’m glad she didn’t find him,” Shanahan said, laughing. “I don’t know what would’ve happened. Probably wouldn’t have been too good.”