Falcons’ Shanahan says he can’t wait to work with Matt Ryan

Published 2:00 pm Wednesday, February 11, 2015

FLOWERY BRANCH (AP) — The Falcons’ new offensive coordinator can’t wait to get started with Matt Ryan.

Addressing the Atlanta media for the first time on Feb. 10, Kyle Shanahan said his job should be much easier since the team already has a franchise quarterback — a change from his previous job in Cleveland, where Brian Hoyer struggled and rookie Johnny Manziel endured a dismal season.

“Matt Ryan fits everybody’s offense,” Shanahan said. “He’s done a little bit of everything: drop back, play action. He’s not done a lot of movement, but he has the athletic ability to do it. I’m really looking forward to working with him.”

Manziel, who has entered rehab amid questions about his lifestyle and work ethic, still has the potential to turn things around, according to Shanahan.

“Johnny’s a great guy,” Shanahan said. “I think Johnny got a little bit of a bad rep. But he worked really hard for me. I really enjoyed coaching him. I’m not sure what he’s going through now, but I’m confident he’ll work it all out and have a chance at a very good future.”

The Falcons also introduced defensive coordinator Richard Smith, who said he doesn’t mind if new head coach Dan Quinn wants to keep calling the signals on that side of the line.

Quinn had been Seattle’s defensive coordinator until he was hired to replace Mike Smith, who was fired by the Falcons after two straight losing seasons.

While Mike Smith let his coordinators run each unit, Quinn hasn’t decided whether he wants to remain in charge of the defensive calls.

“I’m not an ego person,” said Richard Smith, who spent the past four years as Denver’s linebackers coach. “Dan’s got experience. The system he’s been in, he knows it a lot better than we do as a coaching staff. If it comes to that, I have no problem at all with that.”

Shanahan, the 35-year-old son of two-time Super Bowl champion coach Mike Shanahan, left Cleveland after only one season as the Browns’ offensive coordinator.

He declined to discuss his reasons for the move.

“That was a tough decision for me,” Shanahan said. “There were a lot of things I enjoyed about Cleveland. Anytime you have a huge decision like I had, a lot of things went into it. My wife and I talked about it a lot. I’m not going to get into specifics, but the more I thought about it, I just thought it was the best thing for me and my family to move on.”

Shanahan’s biggest changes are planned for the offensive line, where he will install the zone blocking schemes favored by his father going back to his championship days in Denver.

It will require Atlanta’s linemen to be a lot more mobile.

“We want them to run,” Shanahan said, “We want to challenge defenses from sideline to sideline, not just between the tackles. It takes time to develop.”

On the defensive side, Smith acknowledged that the Falcons must get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Last season, Atlanta had just 22 sacks, which tied for next-to-last in the league.

In Denver, Smith saw the benefits of having two ends such as Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, who combined for 24 sacks — two more than the Falcons had as a team.

“That’s a pretty good tandem,” Smith said. “When you have that, it makes coverages a lot easier. They do go hand-in-hand.”

Also Tuesday, the Falcons announced the rest of Quinn’s first staff: quarterback coach Matt LaFleur, secondary coach and senior defensive assistant Marquand Manuel, offensive line coach Chris Morgan, linebacker coach Jeff Ulbrich, assistant offensive line coach Keith Carter, defensive assistant and linebacker coach Doug Mallory, offensive assistant Mike McDaniel, and defensive assistant for defensive back Chad Walker.

The Falcons had previously hired former Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris as assistant head coach and defensive passing game coordinator, Bobby Turner as running backs coach, and Mike LaFleur as an offensive assistant.

From Mike Smith’s staff, the Falcons retained special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, defensive line coach Bryan Cox, tight ends coach Wade Harman, receivers coach Terry Robiskie, and assistant special teams coach Eric Sutulovich.