FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- If Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan decided to go off on a tangent in voicing his frustration with the offense, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan sounds more than willing to listen.
"I feel like when you're comfortable with someone, you can be yourself," Shanahan said. "I'm a very fiery guy. I think Matt is, too. ... I argue with my close friends, my parents, and my wife probably more than anyone on this planet because we all genuinely love each other and we're tight. We know who each other are.
"I want the same thing with players. If a player thinks I'm messed up, I would love for him to tell me. He doesn't have to do it on the field in front of you guys or anything, but I'd love for (the player) to come up to my office and have a talk. That's never been an issue with Matt. Matt and I have a real good relationship. We're open about everything. When you do, you can have those tough conversations. When you're not close with someone, that's usually when you get a lot of ... people aren't genuine around each other when you're not close."
The word is that Ryan has raised his voice and his offensive concerns behind closed doors. He also has admitted to being a little overwhelmed by the playbook at times, although publicly Ryan continues to talk about how there is a transition period with any new offense. He's thrown 12 interceptions this season, including a league-leading four in the red zone.
Since the Titans game in Week 7, Shanahan has scaled back the game plan in increments. Maybe that's why teams apparently have gotten a better read on what the Falcons are doing at times. But Shanahan obviously believes his system can be effective -- although he's tweaked some things, such as going more up-tempo of late.
Shanahan was asked if an intelligent guy such as Ryan has mastered the offense.
"This isn't the most confusing thing in the world," Shanahan said. "It's about playing and being in the heat of the battle and seeing and reacting. We'd be doing something else if we were all geniuses. We're all capable of learning this stuff, but that's not what this is about. It's about being through the situations, going against certain coverages, getting rushed through things and having to react to someone missing a block, having to get rid of the ball early and stuff like that.
"That takes time, with newer stuff. And when you've been doing something pretty consistent for seven years and you change it up a little bit, that does take time. ... Anytime you go through this drought we have offensively, everything's going to get magnified."
But, as Shanahan noted, the learning process has been constant with Ryan since Day 1. It's not as if the two don't discuss how to solve their issues.
"That's been ongoing since the first time I was legally allowed to talk to him this offseason," Shanahan said. "That's something we talk about every day. Neither of us have much of a life outside of football, so we struggle to talk when it's not about football. We're always talking Xs and Os and things like that -- what he likes, what I like, why we like them. That changes week to week. It's something you always want to work.
"If he likes something a lot and he's good at it -- whether it makes sense or not -- usually he can make it work. It's about believing in things. It's process, especially going through the first year together. But, I do think we do get better at it each week. I'm going to continue to do that the entire time I'm with him."
Wide receiver Julio Jones said Shanahan has been receptive to player input throughout the season. We'll see what type of influence Ryan's words have in the final five games, starting Sunday against the Buccaneers. The season is on the line for the 6-5 Falcons as they hope to land a wild card berth. A second loss to the 5-6 Bucs, the team behind them in the playoff race, could be devastating.
Shanahan has all the faith in the world in Ryan, who is currently fourth in the NFL with 3,212 passing yards.
"I think Matt's picked things up great," Shanahan said. "Matt's made some turnovers in a few games that has been the focal point all around. Matt's also been doing a lot of good things this year, too. I look at Matt and when you're No. 1 in the NFL on first down and No. 2 in the NFL on third down, it's pretty tough to do that without really good quarterback play. So, there's a lot of good things Matt's doing. We know the glaring thing is he's thrown some key interceptions at some bad times. Whatever those reasons are, it's my job to help him figure those out. We've got to work to not let those happen."