Kyle Shanahan coaching tree: 49ers head coach has budding branches, following in dad’s footsteps

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Kyle Shanahan has cemented himself as one of the NFL’s best coaches during his head-coaching career. While his 49ers are still chasing that elusive championship ring, success has come in droves thanks to his offense. Oh, and the defense is pretty good, too.

That’s why Shanahan’s coordinators have been among the trendy candidates in recent NFL hiring cycles. As we know, the NFL is a copycat league, so everyone is going to want a piece of Shanahan’s success.

Much like his father Mike, the younger Shanahan has already helped develop head coaches and assistants around the NFL, with more in the pipeline, continuing the Shanahan dynasty across the NFL.

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Here’s how the younger Shanahan’s tree is starting to blossom:

Kyle Shanahan coaching tree

Robert Saleh

(Getty Images)

Robert Saleh

  • Team: New York Jets
  • Years: 2021-present

Saleh gained a reputation for being a fiery, passionate coach on the sideline, but for being an intelligent, well-spoken football man in press conferences. That hasn’t translated to much success just yet — the Jets have failed to make the playoffs in each of Saleh’s first three seasons with the franchise. That came despite a 6-3 start in 2022 and the Aaron Rodgers trade during the 2023 offseason.

Rodgers’ torn Achilles derailed the Jets’ season in 2023, so Saleh survived for another season. He enters 2024 on the hot seat and will need to see things come together on the offensive ball after he spent the last two seasons turning New York’s defense into one of the best in the league.

Mike McDaniel-021022-GETTY-FTR

(Getty Images)

Mike McDaniel

  • Team: Miami Dolphins
  • Years: 2022-present

With the departure of Mike LaFleur to the Jets, McDaniel was the one and only OC in San Francisco in 2021. He made the most of it: He got a career year out of Deebo Samuel, made Elijah Mitchell a household name and helped guide the Niners to an NFC championship game appearance.

Led by the third-year development jump of Tua Tagovailoa, McDaniel’s high-powered offense in Miami resulted in a playoff appearance in his first year at the helm. He continued that trend in 2023, turning Tagovailoa into the NFL’s leading passer (4,624 yards) while Tyreek Hill was one of the NFL’s best offensive players.

McDaniel may not have a playoff win yet in two seasons, but he has gotten the Dolphins there both years. He also led them to a 70-point game against the Broncos, so it’s clear that he’s one of the best offensive minds in the NFL.

DeMeco Ryans

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DeMeco Ryans

  • Team: Houston Texans
  • Years: 2023-present

A former linebacker, Ryans took over an already elite defensive unit headed up by Robert Saleh and turned it into an all-world unit. He parlayed that success into a head coaching job with the Texans and enjoyed a terrific first season.

Despite low expectations, Ryans led the Texans to a 10-7 record and an AFC South title behind rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud. The Texans won a playoff game under Stroud’s leadership and also got a stellar season out of rookie edge rusher Will Anderson.

Ryans figures to have coached both the Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year and has Houston well ahead of schedule in its rebuild. He may not have surpassed McDaniel in the power rankings among Shanahan’s disciples yet, but with another strong season in 2024, he could establish himself as one of the best young coaches in the NFL.

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Future Kyle Shanahan coaching tree branches

Mike LaFleur

(Getty Images)

Mike LaFleur

  • Team: Los Angeles Rams
  • Years: 2023-present

LaFleur worked in tandem with Mike McDaniel to build the 49ers offense toward a Super Bowl appearance in 2019. He eventually left the 49ers to work on Saleh’s staff with the Jets but was “allowed to pursue other opportunities” following a poor offensive showing in 2022.

LaFleur landed on his feet as the Rams’ offensive coordinator, a role that his brother, Packers coach Matt LaFleur, held before going to the Titans for one year and getting the Green Bay gig. With a second solid year with the Rams, there should be renewed interest around LaFleur as a potential coaching candidate.

Bobby Slowik, C.J. Stroud

(Getty Images)

Bobby Slowik

  • Team: Houston Texans
  • Years: 2023-present

Slowik spent six seasons on Shanahan’s staff with the 49ers, serving as everything from a defensive quality control coach to the team’s passing game coordinator before following Ryans to Houston as his offensive coordinator.

Slowik’s first season in that role saw him lead Stroud to an excellent season during which Stroud broke rookie records for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a single game while logging 4,108 yards, 23 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 15 starts. Slowik drew interest from NFL teams for head coaching gigs but ultimately decided to stay with the Texans — while getting a hefty raise for his staying put.

At just 36 years old, Slowik’s star is rising. It would hardly be a surprise to see him be the next fruitful branch of Shanahan’s coaching tree.

The Sporting News’ Jacob Camenker also contributed to this report.

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