Kyle Shanahan is the Man.
Mastermind 2.0, Son of Shan.
For almost his entire life Kyle Shanahan has been trained for and training for Job No. 1 - head coach of the Broncos.
In 1984, when he was only 4, Kyle accompanied young dad Mike, the new receivers coach, to the Broncos' old, cramped training facility in North Denver. By 1990, at the Broncos' new headquarters south of Denver, Kyle served as ball boy-gofer, trying to learn every X and each 0 from his father and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, and from quarterbacks John Elway and Gary Kubiak.
As a receiver at Cherry Creek High School, which won the 5A state championship in 1996 and lost the final in '98, the teenage Shanahan would drive to Dove Valley to work out in the Broncos' weight room and study films and the playbook. He has admitted he didn't study his own school subjects enough, and mother Peggy and sister Krystal would order him and his father, by then the head coach of the Broncos, to stop incessantly talking football during dinner.
On Saturdays Kyle would bring teammates to Broncos' practices. While they asked players "how,'' Kyle would ask coaches "why.'' While the others the dreamed of playing in the NFL, Kyle's ambition was to become an NFL head coach.
The Shanahan family was close friends with John Elway and his wife Janet and their four children. In fact, Dan Reeves, the Broncos coach from 1981-93 who had hired Mike to coach John and later rehired him after Mike was fired by Oakland, accused Mike of collaborating with Elway on offensive schemes and scripts without informing him.
After the Broncos' first victory in a Super Bowl (XXII) on Jan. 25, 1998, two moments were engraved in my memory - Pat Bowlen hoisting the trophy and bellowing "This one's for John,'' and Mike Shanahan hugging his 18-year-old son Kyle.
Kyle would earn a football scholarship from Duke, then transferred to Texas, where he played as a reserve receiver for two seasons. Kyle would catch only 14 passes playing with a future five-time Pro Bowler Roy Williams and long-time NFL tight Bo Scaife (from Denver Mullen).
But Kyle was more intent on becoming a coach. After Kyle's 2003 graduation, Mike helped him become a graduate assistant at UCLA under Karl Dorrell, a former Broncos receivers coach. He then joined Jon Gruden's staff in Tampa Bay as a quality control assistant, and, two years later was hired by the new Texans coach, his old mentor Kubiak, as receivers coach. A year later, Kyle was offered a college coordinator's post, but said publicly then that his goal was to be an NFL head coach. He moved a step closer the next two years in Houston - first as quarterbacks coach, then, in 2008, as the youngest offensive coordinator in the league at 29.
Kyle married his high school sweetheart, Mandy O'Donnell, a graduate of Cherry Creek, then Colorado, on July 5, 2005. They have three children.
Mike Shanahan, who had been given the tag "lifetime coach of the Broncos'' by Bowlen, was fired after the 2008 season.
In 2010 Mike and Kyle coached together in Washington - the dad as head coach, the son as offensive coordinator.
In 2013 they were fired together.
In the meantime, the Mike Shanahan-John Elway relationship became strained. After Elway retired as a player, he was somewhat persona non grata at Dove Valley, although he has denied my characterization. After Shanahan was fired, and later, when Elway returned as executive vice president of the franchise, the former coach suffered the same "person unwelcome'' status.
The two former colleagues, chums and companions are cordial and congenial at the same golf tourney or event (as when Washington played in Denver), but haven't been close company for many years - and have their names on dueling steak restaurants in the Denver area. Both always have declined to talk about what happened to the relationship.
Shanahan the elder has been interviewed for and linked to several head-coaching positions, but has been out of football for three years. Shanahan the younger went on to become the Browns' coordinator for a season, then resigned after dealing with the Manziel Mess in Cleveland. He was hired in Atlanta in 2016.
And Kyle is the coach du jour today after the Falcons became the No. 2 seed in the NFC and the No. 3 overall offense in the league, and quarterback Matt Ryan is "Matty Ice'' again after being "Matty Mud Puddle'' for a couple of years. Ryan is a viable MVP candidate with these statistics (4,944 passing yards, 69.9 percent completion, 38 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 117.1 quarterback rating).
During the bye week, Kyle agreed to interview for head-coach openings with four teams - Jacksonville, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver.
Shanahan and Elway, who first met when John was 24 and Kyle was 4, reunite once more this weekend.
Shanahan checks all the boxes of Elway's wish list - bright, brilliant offensive coach, young (37, but a year older than when Mike became a head coach in Oakland), in the playoffs, can communicate with players and develop quarterbacks, operates a hybrid, advanced West Coast offense system that emphasizes zone blocking, running and imaginative passing schemes. His Falcons' offense overwhelmed the Broncos in their first loss of the season - in Denver.
And Shanahan has been preparing for this specific job since he was a kid. He's ready to come home.
Kyle Shanahan is the right man at the right time for the Broncos.