Vikings

How Does the Shanahan/McVay Coaching Tree Compare To Others?

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee (USA TODAY Sports)

Fresh off a Super Bowl victory on Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator and soon-to-be Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell is riding a tidal wave of momentum to Minneapolis. However, the Rams’ offense stalled for much of the game after losing one of their more critical offensive weapons, Odell Beckham Jr., in the second quarter.

But when the pressure was at its highest, the Rams got the ball back trailing 20-16 from their own 21-yard line and 6:13 remaining in the game. Matthew Stafford, Sean McVay, and O’Connell made a conscious decision about how they were going to win this game. With the Bengals keying on All-Pro wide receiver Cooper Kupp from the moment Beckham was lost for the game, the Rams decided that enough was enough. It was time to dial up No. 10.

Kupp was targeted seven times on the LA’s final drive, but not before he saved the Rams’ season by converting a fourth-and-one jet sweep.

After hauling in three catches for 38 yards following the fourth-down conversion to put the Rams in scoring position, Kupp remained the primary target.

When a third-down pass interference penalty on Kupp gave the Rams new life, the Super Bowl MVP had a touchdown called back after off-setting penalties. On the very next play, McVay called Kupp’s number yet again on a speed out at the pylon — drawing another pass interference. Following Stafford’s sneak attempt on first down, Kupp put the finishing touches on his Super Bowl masterpiece.

Regardless of who Skoliders were cheering for on Super Bowl Sunday, it’d be pretty tough not to be fired up at the thought of O’Connell leaning on Justin Jefferson in critical moments the way the Rams relied on Kupp when they needed him most.

 

With O’Connell and former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel becoming the most recent branches of the McVay/Shanahan coaching tree, these disciples will help form the largest coaching tree in the league next season. O’Connell and McDaniel’s emergence as head coaches means that 25% of the NFL’s head coaching jobs will be occupied by this particular coaching tree.

Throughout the 21st Century, the NFL’s most popular coaching trees came from either Bill Belichick or Andy Reid. Coming into this past season, the Shanahan/McVay and Reid coaching trees were tied with six head coaches that held jobs in the NFL. But with Matt Nagy’s dismissal in Chicago, plus the addition of O’Connell and McDaniel as head coaches next season, that means there’s a new sheriff in town.

The NFL head coaching landscape continues to shift towards younger leaders who help build player-driven cultures. So let’s take a look at how the current NFL head coaches of the Shanahan/McVay tree stack up against other current head coaches from the Reid and Belichick trees. And while regular-season accolades are important, we’re going to dissect how these coaching trees have fared in the postseason.

Shanahan/McVay Coaching Tree (since 2016)

  • Kyle Shanahan – San Francisco 49ers head coach, former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator
    • 6-3 postseason record
    • 2 Super Bowl appearances
    • 3 Conference Championship game appearances
  • Sean McVay – Los Angeles Rams head coach
    • 7-3 postseason record
    • 1 Super Bowl Championship
    • 2 Super Bowl appearances
    • 2 Conference Championship game appearances
  • Zac Taylor – Cincinnati Bengals head coach
    • 3-1 postseason record
    • 1 Super Bowl appearance
    • 1 Conference Championship game appearance
  • Matt LaFleur – Green Bay Packers head coach
    • 2-3 postseason record
    • 2 Conference Championship game appearances
  • Robert Saleh – New York Jets head coach
    • No postseason appearances
  • Brandon Staley – Los Angeles Chargers head coach
    • No postseason appearances (despite having a generational quarterback)
  • Mike McDaniel – Miami Dolphins head coach
  • Kevin O’Connell – Minnesota Vikings head coach

Total combined postseason accomplishments:

  • 18-10 record
  • 1 Super Bowl Champion
  • 5 Super Bowl appearances
  • 8 Conference Championship game appearances

Led by Shanahan and McVay, this tree has combined for a .643 winning percentage in the playoffs. Interestingly enough, this group of colleagues has found themselves squaring off against one another in the postseason on four different occasions since 2020. With what these young, hotshot head coaches have accomplished in the NFL in a short amount of time, it’s easy to understand why the Vikings and Dolphins wanted in. If you remove Shanahan and McVay’s accomplishments, their former assistants still have a .555 winning percentage in the playoffs.

Andy Reid Coaching Tree

  • Andy Reid – Kansas City Chiefs head coach, former Philadelphia Eagles head coach
    • 19-16 postseason record
    • 1 Super Bowl Championship
    • 3 Super Bowl appearances
    • 9 Conference Championship game appearances
  • John Harbaugh – Baltimore Ravens head coach
    • 11-8 postseason record
    • 1 Super Bowl Championship
    • 1 Super Bowl appearance
    • 3 Conference Championship game appearances
  • Doug Pederson – Jacksonville Jaguars head coach, former Philadelphia Eagles head coach
    • 4-2 postseason record
    • 1 Super Bowl Championship
    • 1 Super Bowl appearance
    • 1 Conference Championship game appearance
  • Ron Rivera – Washington head coach, former Carolina Panthers head coach
    • 3-5 postseason record
    • 1 Super Bowl appearance
    • 1 Conference Championship game appearance
  • Sean McDermott – Buffalo Bills head coach
    • 3-4 postseason record
    • 1 Conference Championship game appearance

Total combined postseason accomplishments:

  • 40-35 record
  • 3 Super Bowl Champions
  • 6 Super Bowl appearances
  • 15 Conference Championship game appearances

With the luxury of having two former assistants who won Super Bowls elsewhere before Reid captured his first Lombardi in 2019, this coaching tree’s trophy case is a heck of a lot more full than the Shanahan/McVay contingent’s. Despite the three Lombardi trophies to this particular coaching tree’s name, they have a middling .533 winning percentage in the postseason. And when you remove Reid’s postseason accomplishments, his assistants have a slightly lower combined winning percentage than Shanahan and McVay’s assistants at .525.

Bill Belichick Coaching Tree

  • Bill Belichick – New England Patriots head coach, former Cleveland Browns head coach
    • 31-13 postseason record
    • 6 Super Bowl Championships
    • 9 Super Bowl appearances
    • 13 Conference Championship game appearances
  • Josh McDaniels – Las Vegas Raiders head coach, former Denver Broncos head coach
    • No postseason appearances
  • Brian Daboll – New York Giants head coach
    • Spent 2000-06 and 2013-16 working under Belichick in New England

As the saying goes: women lie, men lie, numbers don’t lie. Outside of Belichick, there isn’t a single branch of this coaching tree in the NFL today that has won a playoff game. Despite having former assistants that landed head coaching jobs such as Al Groh, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Nick Saban, Jim Schwartz, Matt Patricia, Bill O’Brien, Joe Judge, and Brian Flores, these coaches combined to win a whopping two playoff games — courtesy of O’Brien in Houston.

When comparing the Belichick coaching tree to the Shanahan/McVay tree, it’s evident that the iron-fist coaching style of Belichick is impossible to transfer to other organizations effectively. Sure, it works for Belichick. His players have no choice but to shut up and get in line simply because Belichick’s track record speaks for itself. His former assistants have attempted — and failed — to bring the Belichick-ian approach to other organizations. But it didn’t take long for players within those organizations to understand that these flash-in-the-pan head coaches didn’t have a sliver of Belichick’s pedigree — thus creating a hostile, divisive culture that quickly led to nothing other than a bunch of Ls.

Whether old-school football fans who grew up on Bud Grant, Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, or even Mike Zimmer want to admit it, the results of the Shanahan/McVay and Belichick coaching trees speak for themselves. In order to effectively lead a locker room of men from all different walks of life, you have to prioritize a player-driven culture that relies on building genuine relationships throughout the building.

Or, in the case of Belichick, cross your fingers and hope that you land the best quarterback of all-time in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft to singlehandedly save your NFL head coaching career. Because at the end of the day, Belichick has just a single postseason victory (1994 Cleveland Browns) to his name without Tom Brady as his quarterback.

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