SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan took similar paths on their journey to becoming NFL coaches.
Both rose from famous football families to their first NFL jobs as quality control assistants on Jon Gruden's staffs in Tampa Bay and then spent four years together on Kyle's father Mike's staff in Washington.
Now McVay and Shanahan are both first-time head coaches ready to face off as opponents on Thursday night when McVay's Los Angeles Rams (1-1) face Shanahan's San Francisco 49ers (0-2).
"Once I got around Kyle, it takes you about two minutes to realize what a bright offensive mind he is," McVay said.
"The next couple of years we just really continued to grow in our friendship and I learned a lot from him. ... He's one of the guys I respect as much as anyone in this business and he's been a huge influence on my coaching career."
McVay, the grandson of former 49ers executive John McVay, capitalized on the four years as an assistant for Washington when Kyle Shanahan was offensive coordinator to take over that job when Jay Gruden replaced Mike Shanahan as head coach and Kyle left for Cleveland.
A successful tenure there helped the 31-year-old McVay become the youngest head coach in modern NFL history when the Rams hired him this offseason. None of that came as a surprise to Shanahan.
"You never know until you get put in that spot, but usually when you get hired, you're capable of doing it," Shanahan said. "You don't know until you get on the job. And regardless of what your age is, you know, Sean's been a coordinator, he's been through it, he's been around football a lot.
"Whether he got this opportunity now, which he did, or eight years from now, Sean is going to adjust to the situation and rise to the challenge and I think he'll do a great job there."
Niners receiver Pierre Garcon knows both coaches well, having played for them in Washington and now with Shanahan in San Francisco. He said they are both passionate about football and run similar offenses, but there are some differences off the field.
"Sean might be a little bit smoother and funnier," Garcon said. "Kyle is on top of all the details. That's a little bit of difference."