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How much does Kyle Shanahan include his quarterbacks in the game plan?

We all know that Kyle Shanahan is a control freak when it comes to quarterbacking, and we got another example of that in a quote from a man in position to know, former 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.


According to an article from Raiders beat writer Vic Tafur of The Athletic, Garoppolo watched film with new head coach Josh McDaniels so the two could decide together what 49ers concepts they would include in the Raiders' new offense.

“It was awesome," Garoppolo said, "I always saw Josh and Tom [Brady] do that in New England, and thought it was really cool. That’s just smart football, when a play caller and quarterback are working together like that. Putting your two cents in as a quarterback and adding plays that are new to Josh as well as some that are new to me … we’re just trying to make it all work. It’s been really cool.”

The fact that Garoppolo had to go all the way back to his Patriots days to recall a time when his play-caller included the quarterbacks in the gameplan was surprising to me.


The quote implies that Kyle Shanahan doesn't meet with his starting QB every week to decide which plays to include in that week's game plan. If that's true, it would be a rarity among NFL teams. In fact, I'd wager that every other team has their quarterback meet with the play-caller to find out which plays they like, and which plays they don't like.


But Shanahan is notoriously attached to his plays. All of them. In the podcast series The Playcallers, Robert Griffin III tells a story about his time in Washington when Kyle was the offensive coordinator. Shanahan told RG3 to choose any play he wanted and install it into the offense to use that season. Griffin ended up having to run the play during multiple practices in order to get everybody on the same page.


"Why do you think I made you put that play in," Griffin says Shanahan asked him that year, "I made you put that play in because I knew for a fact that you were going to make that play work because you put that play in. Now, take that from my perspective. Every time I'm putting a play in, that's the kind of conviction that I have when I'm putting that play in."


If that's the case, can we really picture Kyle letting anyone else throw out plays from his beloved game plan? Both quotes reinforce the idea that Shanahan views the quarterback as another cog in his offense, just as interchangeable as a right tackle or a wide receiver.


In my opinion, this is Shanahan's biggest flaw as a head coach. He simply doesn't value the quarterback position properly. In today's NFL, the play-caller and the quarterback need to be partners. They need to mold and shape the offense together until it's a perfect blend of the concepts from the coach that are going to be effective against a given defense, and plays the quarterback is the most comfortable running that particular week.


I don't believe Kyle views things that way at all. I believe in his mind, a quarterback doesn't have to be comfortable with anything on a given play. All that QB needs to do is throw the ball where Kyle wants it thrown, when he wants it thrown there and everything will be fine. The system is good enough to overcome things like quarterback comfort. That's why he's able to get production out of a variety of lesser passers.


Until Kyle learns to put more stock in his players and loosen his grip on the reigns, I truly believe he is narrowing the window in which his team can win a championship. Meeting with his quarterbacks and giving them at least a little agency over that week's game plan would be a great place to start.


Like Jimmy Garoppolo said, "That's just smart football."

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