New 49ers OC Mike McDaniel explains the thinking behind a Kyle Shanahan offense

Mar 1, 2021 at 2:00 PM--

Before landing with the San Francisco 49ers, the longest Mike McDaniel had spent with an NFL team was three years. That came with the Houston Texans between 2006 and 2008. That's also where he started working with Kyle Shanahan. Then-Texans head coach Gary Kubiak gave Shanahan his first shot as a position coach and McDaniel his first shot as a paid assistant. Then Kubiak threw the two in a room together.

That's where the relationship started, McDaniel shared with NBC Sports Bay Area. The two went on to work together in Washington, Cleveland, and Atlanta.

Shanahan built so much trust in McDaniel that he brought the assistant to San Francisco when Shanahan was named the head coach in 2017. McDaniel has been with the 49ers since — his longest tenure with one organization.

The 49ers named McDaniel the offensive coordinator in January. It's the first time Shanahan, who calls the offensive plays himself, will enter a season with an offensive coordinator under him.

Not much will change for McDaniel, who was already handling a lot of the game-day preparation for Shanahan before the promotion. He is grateful for the opportunity, though, and loves the environment that Shanahan has built within his coaching staff.

"[The promotion] is an accomplishment, no doubt," McDaniel told Matt Maiocco on the 49ers Talk podcast. "It's very exciting, but I think it's also not that big a deal because of kind of the environment that Kyle Shanahan builds on his coaching staffs. It's one of the reasons that he's had so many people in the NFL—whether they're head coaches now or coordinators—flourish, because the environment we have here, everyone contributes. And he really gives us the opportunity at any level, regardless of your role ... to contribute to the offense and the game plan week in, week out, offseason.

"So, in the process, because of that, you are always challenging yourself, and kind of the assumption is that you're always evolving. That is the standard.

"One thing that's always hit with me is that there's a lot of people around the NFL that talk about what they know. And really, our culture and the way Kyle has always gone about things is that it's not about what we know. It's about what we don't know. So, challenging us year in and year out."

That's part of the reason McDaniel sees the transition from the 49ers' run-game coordinator to offensive coordinator as seamless.

McDaniel and Shanahan share a similar view when it comes to the play calling. The coordinator went on to share what makes a Shanahan offense work so well. It's not new information for anyone who has followed the 49ers over the last four years, but interesting to hear again nonetheless.

"Really, in its simplest form, something that Kyle came up with a long time back ... is the idea is to have no stand-alone plays in a game," McDaniel explained. "What that means is let's remove the success or failure factor. That play should influence the defense in one way, shape, or form for another play. Even if a play doesn't work, showing them that presentation of that play should make them worried about something that we have to play off of it."

You can listen to the entire conversation with McDaniel below.

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