Norv Turner. Rob Chudzinski. Ben McAdoo.
When the Detroit Lions hired Jim Caldwell, those were three of the key names tossed around as Caldwell’s potential replacement as the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.
McAdoo was snatched away by the New York Giants before the Ravens even had a chance to interview him, and Turner appears headed for Minnesota (though according to Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland, the Browns wouldn’t stop him from interviewing in Baltimore).
One name that wasn’t tossed around much when Caldwell departed on Tuesday was one that many fans probably didn’t even think to suggest: Kyle Shanahan.
The former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator – fired along with his father Mike – wasn’t on fans’ radar, but he was on that of the team, who interviewed him Wednesday.
On the surface, the thought of bringing in someone who was a part of Washington’s demise in 2013 doesn’t seem like the direction a one-year-removed Super Bowl team should take.
But is Shanahan actually the best candidate for the Ravens? He may be.
It’s a tough pill to swallow thinking the Ravens could hire a former Washington offensive coordinator who was turned on by the media, but make no mistake about it: Shanahan is still one of the better young offensive minds in the NFL.
His coordinating experience started with the Houston Texans in 2008, where he spent two years as the offensive coordinator.
How well did the Shanahan-led offense do in Houston?
In 2008, Houston was third in the NFL in total offense and fourth in passing with none other than Matt Schaub leading the offense.
The following year, the Texans had the fourth-best total offense in the league, and the BEST passing offense in the NFL. Again, with Schaub at the helm.
He then departed for Washington in 2010, where he spent four years coaching alongside his father. In his four years, the Redskins had a top-ten offense twice (2012 and 2013).
It was easy for the media to bash the entire Redskins coaching staff in 2013 because they finished with a 3-13 record, but Shanahan the younger still managed to lead a middling group of offensive players to the ninth-most yards in the NFL, mainly behind the league’s fifth-best rushing offense.
This is where the idea of having Shanahan in Baltimore gains some traction.
If the Ravens want to improve the train wreck that was the introduction of the zone blocking scheme on offense, who better to bring in than Shanahan?
Shanahan’s resume with zone-blocking offense speaks for itself, and he could be just what Baltimore needs to make the run game look normal again.
Not only did he help coach the league’s fifth-best run offense in 2013, but in 2012 the Redskins led the NFL in rushing.
In Houston, the run offense helped allow rookie Steve Slaton to run for 1,282 yards on just 268 attempts during his rookie year in 2008.
After his time in Houston, Slaton quickly found himself struggling to make it in the NFL.
The same rookie running back success happened in Washington, as 2012 rookie sixth-round pick Alfred Morris was second in the NFL in rushing with 1,613 yards.
In 2013, Morris still managed to accumulate 1,275 yards on the ground, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
The Ravens AS A TEAM ran for 1,328 yards in 2013 on 423 attempts.
Morris accumulated his 1,275 yards on just 276 attempts.
In 2012, he reached his eye-opening 1,613 yards on only 335 attempts.
If Shanhan’s offense can create stars out of Slaton and Morris among others, imagine the potential of Bernard Pierce in a competent zone-blocking scheme.
Ray Rice’s production would figure to improve as well, but Pierce seems to be a much better fit for a zone scheme, as he relies more on his patience and vision than a quick-attack run style.
Shanahan is still only 34 years old, with six seasons of experience as an NFL offensive coordinator already.
If the Ravens could land Shanahan in Baltimore, he may be the missing coaching piece to make the team forget about an abysmal 2013 season on the offensive side.