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One of the NFL's best play callers explains his approach for putting together an offense

When it comes to the best offensive play callers in the NFL, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is near the top of the list.

He's helped to bring a proud franchise from the bottom of the league to once again competing for Super Bowls, and his offensive creativity is admired from coaches at all levels. A lot of that stems from working under guys like his dad (Mike Shanahan), Jon Gruden, and Gary Kubiak.

In the recent Chris Simms Unbuttonedpodcast episode, Shanahan explains how working under mentors like that, all with very different approaches, has shaped his offensive philosophy.

"Everything that I have ever put it, you try to learn everything, but it has to fit. It has to fit with what you're attacking and it has to go with a theme. I'm not trying to just dial up plays. You're trying to attack certain things, and unlock certain things against that defense, so you've got to understand that defense and how it all goes together. It's still evolving, you never stop learning, you understand football, but you've got to adjust to your players every week and every year."

When asked by Simms how many plays he takes into a game, with Simms knowing that when Shanahan worked under Gruden the playbook was 190 plays deep, the Niners play caller shared that's where things have changed.

"It's so different now. I might have 30 types of plays, which isn't much, but it's the way to organize it and put them together and a way to mix five eligibles around. If you have 30 types of concepts, and you have five eligibles between your backs, tight ends, and receivers who are somewhat interchangeable, what do those different packages give me?

"If I put out two tight ends, based on our studies, we're getting these types of coverages so now I'm going to package this stuff with that. It's how to run stuff that you're good at, stuff that your quarterback is good at, that you can always do, but you're still attacking the defense and they don't know what they're going to get. So you have to find ways where it looks different, but your quarterback is doing the same stuff he was doing the first day you met him."

That answer reminded me of "The Bucket Concept" that Ryan Day and so many other coaches believe strongly in using.

Shanahan talked about using different formations and splits and alignments to give the same concepts with the help of the back out of the backfield before diving in a bit deeper.

"Then it depends on who you're going against. Are you going against guys who just play zone and play areas of the field, or then you go against guys like Belichick who, to me, play the numbers battle where you've got 11 guys and he's got 11. He knows he has to stop five eligibles, he's going to rush four, he's got six left but he wants to double this guy so then it becomes math on what you're attacking."

"There's all these different ways to do it, and it never stops. You can't control it all, but you can prepare the best, and to me that's what different about football than every other sport because it's not continuous play."

A little later on in the interview (about the 43 minute mark) Shanahan shares how he builds his coaching style around being really honest with his players.

The whole interview is a fascinating look inside one of the best offensive minds in football. Head here to listen to it all.