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Mike Shanahan coaching tree: Son Kyle, Matt LaFleur face off in battle of coaching tree products

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NFL coaching is all about who you know.

To that end, there’s no one that Kyle Shanahan probably knows better than his dad, Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning former head coach of the Broncos and the architect of one of the most prominent offensive schemes in the NFL today.

While much attention is paid to Bill Belichick and Andy Reid’s trees — the fruits of which are polar opposites — probably no tree has borne better fruit than the Mike Shanahan tree. Sunday night, two of Shanahan’s proteges faced off against each other once again, with son Kyle’s 49ers facing off against Matt LaFleur and the Packers.

While Mike Shanahan has been retired since 2013, his influence is still felt across the NFL — and his fingerprints are still all over offensive playbooks.

Kyle Shanahan

(Getty Images)

Head coaching record: 31-35

Mike’s son has had quite the successful run as 49ers head coach, even with a few rough records and a constant shuffling of the quarterback position since he walked in the building.

Interestingly, Shanahan has just a single winning season with the Niners (13-3) but a lot of the overall record can be attributed to injuries and roster turnover. 

With Shanahan finding his passer of the future in Trey Lance, there’s a good chance his scheme will evolve again once Lance takes the reins in the near future.

Matt LaFleur

(Getty Images)

Head coaching record: 27-7

When the Packers hired LaFleur after just two seasons as an OC (with the Rams and Titans), some eyebrows were raised: Here was a 39-year-old first-time head coach being given charge of one the NFL’s all-time great passers. 

Boneheaded coaching decisions aside, LaFleur’s squad has made it to back-to-back NFC championship games with identitcal 13-3 records. He also has gotten an MVP season from Rodgers, so he must be doing something right in Green Bay.

LaFleur and Kyle Shanahan worked alongside each other every year but one between 2008 and 2016, so you could say they came up together.

Gary Kubiak

(Getty Images)

Head coaching record: 82-75 (61-64 with Texans, 21-11 with Broncos)

Kubiak is arguably the most successful of any of Shanahan’s disciples, and alongside Shanahan he helped to create the system that so many coaches in the league still use today.

As an OC, Kubiak helped guide the Broncos’ offense during Denver’s Super Bowl title seasons of 1997 and 1998. He stayed with the Broncos until he was hired as Texans head coach in 2006. Kubiak would stick with Houston until he was fired in 2013. He resurfaced with the Ravens in 2014 as their OC before returning to Denver in 2015 as its head coach. 

His return to the Mile High City was a bit of a success: The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 — albeit with an all-time defense and not its offense, which was led by a broken-down Peyton Manning. Still, Kubiak deserves credit for being one of the most successful coaches to spin out from the Shanahan line.

Sean McVay

(Getty Images)

Head coaching record: 45-21

Every NFL team wants to find the “next McVay” — but maybe they should be looking for the next piece to fall from the Shanahan tree, instead.

While there’s something of shared custody of McVay considering the Rams coach got his career started with the Buccaneers and Jon Gruden in 2008, the wunderkind also served under Shanahan with Washington before Jay Gruden promoted him to OC in 2014. 

Combining Gruden and Shanahan’s minds makes for a very appealing head coaching prospect, and so far, it has worked out just fine for the Rams: McVay hasn’t had a losing season yet as head coach and likely won’t anytime soon with his pairing with his new quarterback, Matthew Stafford.


— Former Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn got his start with Mike Shanahan in 2000, operating as a Broncos special teams assistant. He also played under Shanahan for three seasons.

— Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski spent time alongside Kubiak with the Vikings in 2019.

— Falcons head coach Arthur Smith replaced Matt LaFleur as Titans offensive coordinator and used the same principles left behind by the Shanahan understudy. 

— Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, brother of Matt, was part of San Francisco’s coaching staff under Kyle Shanahan. 

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