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Kyle Shanahan named NFL Assistant Coach of the Year

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  • By Jeremy Bergman NFL.com
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Before Kyle Shanahan jets off to San Francisco to become the 49ers' next head coach, he has one more game to coach on Sunday. He'll do so with an well-earned award under his belt.

The Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator was named the 2016 Associated Press NFL Assistant Coach of the Year during Saturday's NFL Honors ceremony. He is the third recipient and first offensive coordinator of the three-year-old recognition; then-Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and then-Broncos DC Wade Phillips won in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

In his fourth OC gig, Shanahan built Atlanta into a juggernaut Super Bowl contender in just two seasons. The 2016 Falcons led the NFL in points per game (33.8) for the first time in franchise history and broke franchise records in total yards per game (415.8) and yards per play (6.7). Stocked with weapons at every position, Shanahan has made household names out of All-Pros (Julio Jones), unheralded tailbacks (Tevin Coleman) and one former Brown (Taylor Gabriel).

After an unceremonious exit in Cleveland and a slow start in Atlanta, Shanahan earned the praise and adulation from players and coaches on his team and around the league with his offense's historic performance in Atlanta.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said his career year in 2016 was a product of him and Shanahan working out their differences "over a couple of beers" in the offseason.

"People drew all these conclusions about what we lacked, but really, we just needed to play a little better in some key moments, and we could have been right there," Ryan told NFL.com's Michael Silver. "And really, you've just got to have role players who do their jobs and execute when you need to. We're doing that this year, and you see the results."

The results? Ryan completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards, with 38 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a league-best 117.1 passer rating.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick this week said Shanahan's league-leading offense reminds him of those Kyle's father, Mike, used to run in Oakland, Denver and Washington.

"A lot of positive plays, not a lot of penalties, not a lot of turnovers," Belichick explained. "They always seemed to be in control offensively, don't lose a lot of yardage. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They make you go out there and stop them."

Shanahan's ultimate validation will come Sunday, if he can help guide Atlanta to its first Super Bowl victory over New England's top-ranked scoring defense.

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