SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan recently recounted his team's devastating Super Bowl loss to CBSSports.com. In the interview, Ryan broke down the ways in which his team squandered a 28-3 lead on football's grandest stage.
As part of that breakdown, Ryan mentioned that then-Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was taking a bit too long to get the playcalls in, leaving little time to discuss those calls before breaking the huddle.
"Kyle's playcalls -- he would take time to get stuff in," Ryan told CBS Sports. "As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at 7 seconds if you do something along the lines.
"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with [former coordinator Dirk Koetter]. You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."
Shanahan is now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, while Ryan and the Falcons are looking to bounce back from that disappointing defeat. As his team reported for training camp Thursday, Shanahan took the opportunity to respond.
Asked if he is always cognizant of the time left on the play clock, Shanahan said he is and pointed out that his offenses have had little trouble getting the calls and getting the ball snapped before time expires.
"Any playcaller that you talk to, that’s usually one of the most important things and something I pride myself on a lot, is how quick can you get a playcall into a quarterback," Shanahan said. "And the quicker you do, the more comfortable it is, not just for him but the entire offense. They’re not panicked, they’re being able to move to the line. And with me as a coordinator, personally, I try almost every situation to get it in as fast as possible. And I can be honest, there’s sometimes I do better than others. There are sometimes I don’t do it as good. There’s sometimes I do it real good. That’s something that we all work at and one thing I can say about our two years in Atlanta that I was happy with and happy with the whole entire offense that we were the only team in the NFL that went two straight years without one delay of game. I’ve never done that in my entire career and I don’t think many other teams have."
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Falcons had the fewest offensive delay-of-game penalties in the NFL over the past two seasons, with just one such infraction, and that came after a long catch by receiver Julio Jones. No other team has gone without a pre-snap delay of game in that time. For frame of reference, last season's Niners were flagged for the penalty three times despite snapping the ball, on average, faster than every other team in the league.
Shanahan credited Ryan and the Falcons' offense for getting in and out of the huddle in timely fashion and getting the ball snapped before the play clock ran out.
"There were times we did better than others, but what I was really proud of those guys on offense, which is a lot of credit to Matt and the rest of the guys, that regardless when we did get it in, two years straight without a delay of game and being the only team to even do that one year I think was a pretty impressive task," Shanahan said. "We did a good job of that as a whole.”
To help the process along, Shanahan said he prefers not to have a system that requires a lot of pre-snap machinations such as the ones quarterback Peyton Manning made famous in his time with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.
"I believe in playing fast and not having to get up there and sit at the line forever and have to look at all these things and get yourself into the perfect play," Shanahan said. "As a playcaller, I always try to call the perfect play, which doesn’t happen all the time. If it’s not the perfect play, there’s usually four other options that you’ve just got to adjust to and either get an incompletion or get a smaller gain. But, it’s not, ‘Hey, if I don’t call the perfect play, you check and get us into the perfect play.’ I’ve been in systems like that and it’s just what your opinion is and there’s really no right answer. But I was pretty happy with how our system worked in Atlanta and I’ve been confident with players playing fast and not putting so much pressure on them to fix every play that the coordinator calls."
While Shanahan is now a head coach, he will retain playcalling duties from the sideline, which means he'll have to be even more on point in the future in order to do that while still overseeing the rest of the team.
"I like to put a little more on myself and I want them when I do call a bad play, we’ll give you an answer," Shanahan said. "Just get rid of it and go right there.”