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Your Texans: Kyle Shanahan


Though young, Shanahan has plenty of football smarts.

At 27, Texans quarterback coach Kyle Shanahan is the youngest position coach in the NFL. He understands this is an unusual fact for fans in a sport filled with statistics. So, he smiles weakly through the obligatory questions about his age.

Yes, he's younger than some of the players he coaches. No, Texans quarterbacks don't call him Kid. Yes, he's been mistaken for a ball boy. Yes, he once was a ball boy when he was much younger.

Here's another fact: Age has little to do with Shanahan's effectiveness in tutoring the Texans' quarterbacks. Shanahan says being young helps. So do his players.

"As long as you can help them, they will listen and respect you," Shanahan said. "The fact that I'm young only helps me to relate with them better. It makes my job easier. I understand them better.

"I understand this moment that they are at in their life because I'm going through the same things. Now, if I wasn't prepared and not ready, being young would be really tough."

Shanahan's knowledge is what's important to the Texans quarterbacks.

"One, he's very smart and knows football as well as anyone I've ever been around and for a young guy that's a lot to say," backup Sage Rosenfels said. "Two, it's good to have him because he is a young guy from the same generation and he's on the same page and we can talk about some other things when we have leisure time.

"He'll be a key to us this year as far as being successful quarterbacks."

Most NFL coaches fight through the ranks to gain a coveted spot on a pro staff. It took Shanahan one season as a graduate assistant at UCLA in 2003 to make the jump.

He handled offensive quality control for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004-2005. Last season, he was the Texans' wide receivers coach and shifted to quarterbacks coach this season.

Another fact omitted from the Texans' media guide is Shanahan's ancestry. He's the son of Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. The younger Shanahan doesn't mention it unless asked.

"We don't really talk about that," Rosenfels said. "I think he wants to set his own path and make his own way and earn his keep and he definitely does that."

Shanahan is independent but still close to his father.

"He let me be a part of everything growing up," Shanahan said. "I was a ball boy. When I grew out of that, he let me work out there when I was trying to be a player. He let me run routes against his corners, do DB stuff, go to meetings. I've been so fortunate that he let me be a part of everything. It's prepared me for what I'm doing now."

Shanahan has the players' respect. That doesn't prevent an occasional zinger.

"We give him a little crap about his dad every once in a while, the coach of the Broncos," Rosenfels said. "He and Chris Simms are best friends from college over at UT. I think he's happy back in Texas, coming back and having gone to school here."

Shanahan transferred from Duke to Texas in 1999 and played two seasons at wide receiver for the Longhorns. As receivers coach last season, Shanahan tutored Andre Johnson to his best season ever with 103 catches to lead the NFL and a Pro Bowl starting role.

"He's not new to the game," starter Matt Schaub said. "He's been around the game his whole life. He gives us a lot of confidence. He was a wide receiver coach before. He understands routes and lets us know our responsibilities every day."

{QUOTE} A Texans quarterback film session could be mistaken for a fraternity house with all the youngsters in the room. Shanahan is in control, but he keeps it light.

"We give each other a lot of crap," Shanahan said. "We keep each other in check. We don't allow anyone to get too big-headed. We have put in a little fine system. We don't allow complaining. When guys are complaining, we'll fine them."

There is also a sensitivity fine.

"We tell a guy something and they take it personal, we all get on him," Shanahan said.

Shanahan thinks his new job was a natural progression.

"It's been a real good transition," Shanahan said. "I can understand that aspect of the game, the receiver, and now dealing with the quarterbacks, getting the balls to the receivers and making plays, it's been a perfect transition."

Shanahan's coaching career is progressing as he had hoped.

"I played receiver so I wanted to start out with that," Shanahan said. "I always enjoyed the technical aspect of that more because that's what I worked at as far as running routes.

"But the quarterback position has a lot more to coach. They dictate more of the offense, so there's more to do."

It's been an easy move over to the quarterbacks' huddle.

"They are intertwined," he said of the two positions he has coached. "Receivers catch the balls from the quarterbacks and they make the plays and the quarterback has to get it to them to make the plays.

"I've enjoyed being able to tell them why the receiver might be taking a little more time on this route, why the quarterback has to sit on his back foot and buy a little time for this coverage, why the receiver – if he does go quicker here – he's going to overrun the hole or be late.

"It's nice to explain to the quarterbacks what those guys want. I think it will help us."

On the field, Shanahan doesn't scream at an errant throw. The quarterbacks beat themselves up more than their coach.

"I don't have to go up there and lay into them," Shanahan said.

"It's pointless. I go up there and try to talk to them about why they made that decision, what he did wrong and what he can do next time to help not make it again."

Even ball boys grow up. Shanahan's attention has been divided because he and his wife, Mandy, are expecting baby, Stella, at any moment.

"I still want to be a kid but you've got to be a dad sometime, so I'm ready for it to happen," he said.

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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