- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS — As most of the NFL’s head coaches made the rounds at the league’s Scouting Combine, two of the newest members of the 32-man club drew some of the largest crowds.

Both were peppered with questions about their pasts, and even more about their futures. At one point, a veteran head coach poked his head through the throng of reporters to offer congratulations.

Young and considered, each of them, among the brightest of NFL offensive minds, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay also share on their coaching resumes noteworthy stints in Washington as offensive coordinators.

While their tenures at Redskins Park ended differently, both new coaches — Shanahan with the San Francisco 49ers and McVay with the Los Angeles Rams — said working in Washington prepared them to lead their new teams.

“I don’t feel like it’s necessarily my first time being a head coach after being down in Washington,” Shanahan said Wednesday.

For Shanahan, that feeling is owed to the level of scrutiny he felt he was under in Washington, where he was a coordinator from 2010-2013 under his father Mike Shanahan, the head coach at the time.

After the coaching staff and management disagreed over the handling of then-starting quarterback Robert Griffin III, both Shanahans were fired, along with much of their staff.

“Whether it’s labeled a good thing or a bad thing, the main thing is it’s all experience and I went through a lot of different things in Washington. Different quarterback situations, different schemes,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan, who went on to become the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator after a brief stint with the Browns in the same position, said he wasn’t bitter about his time in Washington.

“Being under the microscope out there and having to deal with the media — having the same last name as the head coach also puts you out there a lot more than a normal coordinator — so going through Washington really helped me a lot. I feel more battle-tested [having gone] through that,” Shanahan said.

“But I mean it’s good experience, so it helps in everything and I wouldn’t take Washington back for anything.”

Jay Gruden replaced the elder Shanahan as head coach, and McVay, who had been the tight ends coach, was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2014. McVay’s experience as a coordinator was much more positive: Gruden called the plays in his first year, but McVay took over play calling in 2015 and 2016, helped reboot Kirk Cousins, designed a highly effective passing game and earned his new job as the youngest head coach in NFL history.

Like Shanahan, McVay will call the plays for the Rams next season. He said he feels ready, but that he knows from the past two years that the task of play-calling is always more difficult in reality than it is in theory.

“Well I think what you learn is anytime before you get a chance to call plays you’re always confident that when that opportunity presents itself that you’d like to think that you’re ready,” McVay said. “And then when you get a chance to do that in ‘15 and ‘16 you realize that it’s a pretty humbling experience and you look back and you try to learn from those mistakes that you’ve made,” McVay said.

McVay will face the adjustment of having to oversee all three phases of the game after only two years calling plays on offense. It’s a tall task, especially considering that McVay still saw himself improving significantly last season.

“I look back and I feel like there was some improvement from year one to year two but even looking back at our tape last year in Washington, some things, you’re just shaking your head - ‘What was I thinking there?,’ McVay said. “But I think more than anything it’s being able to self-evaluate, look at yourself and be able to move forward with, learn from those mistakes but continue to do some of the things that enabled you guys to have success.”

Gruden, who was a first-year play caller himself in 2014, said he thinks McVay is ready.

“He’s up for it,” Gruden said. “I was up for it. It’s just a matter of how good you feel about the people on your staff. I think once I became more comfortable with Sean here and us having the same line of thinking and putting a plan together I felt good about him talking to the quarterback and calling plays or I calling plays. It doesn’t matter. But I think he’ll do a good job. He’s a very organized guy very detailed guy he’ll find a way to get it done.”

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