SANTA CLARA -- Kyle Shanahan convinced then-Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine with a 32-point presentation to let him out of the final two years of his contract as offensive coordinator following the 2014 season.
Then, Shanahan was unemployed and getting increasingly anxious about where he was going to be heading next on his football coaching odyssey.
His plan was to join Dan Quinn’s staff.
But Quinn, then the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, did not yet have a head-coaching job. And he could not become a head coach until the Seahawks’ season concluded. Seattle advanced to the Super Bowl that season.
“I was specifically hoping to go to Atlanta, but Dan still had another five weeks going through their playoff run, their bye week and the Super Bowl,” Shanahan recalled on Wednesday. “I knew that talking to him that it would be a chance if he did end up taking a job and stuff, but he turned one down (head-coaching offer) the year before.
“Sitting there without a job, it wasn’t like I was just totally set and confident that it was going to happen. But I was definitely hoping it would.”
Shanahan was determined to join Quinn’s staff, despite never before meeting Quinn. He knew of Quinn’s reputation, and the two men had spoken on the phone. But it was not until the Monday after Seattle’s loss to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl that they first met face-to-face.
“I was already sitting there in the office, so I met him that Monday in person,” Shanahan said. “I always thought he was going to be a great guy on the phone, and then after being able to spend two years there with him, learned a lot from him. It was good to be in a good place like that and really enjoyed the players, too.”
Shanahan was Quinn’s offensive coordinator for two seasons before the 49ers hired him as head coach the day after the Falcons’ crushing Super Bowl loss to the Patriots in February 2017.
The 49ers will face the Falcons on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. Shanahan's 49ers are 11-2 and atop the NFC, while Quinn’s job appears to be in jeopardy as Atlanta is 4-9 in his fifth season as coach.
Shanahan said he specifically targeted joining Quinn’s staff to join because he found Seattle’s style of defense to be particularly vexing as an offensive coordinator. He wanted to get close to that kind of defense to learn more about it.
He freely admits that part of his purpose was to study the Falcons' defense to help him down the road when facing teams that play the three-deep zone concepts. He also had an eye to the future -- if or when he became an NFL head coach.
“That’s why I wanted to go to a place like that as a coordinator and that’s why when I became a head coach I was hoping to get someone who knew that type of defense and also knew how to expand it,” Shanahan said.
Shanahan eventually hired Robert Saleh to become defensive coordinator. Saleh spent the 2013 on the Seahawks’ defensive staff when Quinn was defensive coordinator.