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Shanahan calling the shots


There's a reason Texans offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan looks so young. He is. At 29, he's the youngest coordinator in the NFL, easily mistakable for a ball boy until he puts on the headsets.

This season, Shanahan begins his second year as offensive coordinator and his first at gameday play calling. He called plays at times last season, but coach Gary Kubiak has removed the training wheels and given him the job full-time.

"Honestly, I feel my responsibilities this year are exactly the same as last year," Shanahan said. "Going into my second year into it, guys know what I want to get done and I'll get a little more respect."

Shanahan doesn't think he'll be reaching for the Alka-Seltzer more often.

"This is why I like coaching," he said. "We like the pressure. It's the motivation to get up as early as we do and stay as late as we do. If the pressure wasn't there, it would be too much of a grind. It's what we enjoy and why we do it."

Shanahan has a good situation as he takes the next step in his coaching career.

The Texans finished third in the league in yards last season and set franchise records with 6,113 total yards, 4,267 passing and 1,846 rushing. Quarterback Matt Schaub became a 3,000-yard passer for the first time, rookie Steve Slaton ran for 1,282 yards, leading all NFL rookies. Andre Johnson led the NFL with 1,575 receiving yards and 115 catches and earned a Pro Bowl assignment.

"I've been excited about this year, because he's (Kubiak) been more vocal about it and told me he wants me to do it full-time," Shanahan said. "I think I owe it to him so I can do my job and he can focus on his.

"I think Kubs has seen me go through it. He knows what I'm trying to do and he's letting me go with it a little more. It's not my first time doing it. This is the first time in my coaching career that I've had for two years in a row. I've changed jobs or positions every year. Finally getting to go through a job for another year, I feel more comfortable. The guys know what to expect."

Shanahan's new assignment is more noteworthy to fans than it is within the team.

"It's just a different voice on the headset," Schaub said. "I don't think it's going to be too much different. It's the same plays. Kyle has the same mindset as Kub with certain situations and being aggressive and knowing when to take a chance. He called a lot of the last few games.

"We have a good relationship with Kyle. He knows us as quarterbacks . I think it's going to be a smooth transition."

Shanahan likely will put his imprint on the playbook.

"I can be a little more aggressive," he said. "I'm more impulsive being a little younger and not having that wisdom with my age. I think that can be good and bad, and when it gets bad, he's (Kubiak) going to hold me back."

Kubiak has seen enough to trust Shanahan with the reins of the offense.

"It's a great feeling that you prepare for a game and you go into the game and Kyle's going to call it and you're sitting there," Kubiak said. "We've been over it together and worked on it. I might have some different ideas in certain situations but it's a comfort zone for me as we prepare for games to know that he's ready to go do it."

The question of Shanahan's boyish looks has been answered long ago. In fact, Shanahan sees his youth as an asset.

"I always wanted to be in this position when I was young," Shanahan said. "If you know what you're doing when you're young, you are able to relate to the players a little better. You're closer in age. You put on some of the same music, do some of the same things."

Schaub and Shanahan have developed a close relationship, partly because they are both young.

"We talk after every single play," Shanahan said. "We're in every meeting together. I know how he thinks and he knows how I think. It's no more telling him if he's right or wrong because he knows. He knows our rules and what we want. We watch film together. If he sees something I don't see, I trust him that he knows what he's talking about."

Schaub is anticipating more aggressive play-calling this season.

"I love it as a quarterback, especially with the receivers we have," Schaub said. "And up front, we have guys that can get those things done.

"Kyle is a little more aggressive play caller and aggressive coach. He's new at it, but he understands defenses. You don't get too many chances to make a big play. When you get those opportunities, you have to take advantage of them. You have to dial them up right away. You don't want to hold on to them and wish you had called them."

Shanahan has had football crammed into his head since he was a kid. He's the son of former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls in the 1990s. He spent one season as a graduate assistant at UCLA. His first pro job was offensive quality control at Tampa Bay. In 2006, he coached wide receivers for Kubiak and the Texans. He moved to quarterbacks coach the next year and became offensive coordinator in 2008.

"If you know what you're talking about, you can get through to them," Shanahan said. "If you are young and don't know what you're talking about, I can't think of a worse position to be in. They'll see that right away and they'll walk all over you.

"We have a good group of guys. I think they all respect me and they are easy to coach."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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