DENVER (AP) - Mike Shanahan became the latest and most stunning victim of the NFL coaching purge, fired today by the Denver Broncos after a late-season collapse knocked the team out of the playoffs for the third straight year.
Despite that, and the 52-21 loss to the Chargers that ended Denver’s season Sunday, this was a shocker: The ouster of a 14-year coaching veteran who won two Super Bowl titles for Denver and was considered by many in this town to be a lifer.
Shanahan’s record was 146-89, but the Broncos remained stuck at only one postseason victory since John Elway retired in 1999 after Denver’s second championship.
This year, as the defense floundered, it became obvious it wasn’t just a coaching problem. It was an issue of talent on the field, and in Denver, Shanahan makes all the personnel decisions.
Known as “The Mastermind” during his tenure with the Broncos, Shanahan shouldn’t have much trouble getting another job if he’s interested - and willing to part with the 35,000-square-foot house he’s building in a fancy part of Denver.
He earned the reputation honestly, returning to lead the Broncos after a short, unsuccessful stint with the Oakland Raiders, where he was fired by Al Davis in a contentious parting that still isn’t fully resolved. (Shanahan still claims he’s owed $250,000).
Shanahan became a coaching star as a coordinator and confidant of Elway’s while the Broncos were being coached by Dan Reeves. But Reeves ended up firing Shanahan, accusing him of insubordination for supposedly conspiring with Elway to hatch game plans behind the head coach’s back.
Denver’s two Super Bowl victories came behind the running of Terrell Davis and the brilliance of Elway, but Shanahan pulled the strings and finally helped deliver the title to a city that had been through four painful Super Bowl losses, three with Elway at the helm.
I am one of the many people surprised. I haven't watched TV since I moved into my apartment. I don't want it to be the focus of my life, but even I thought Shanahan would be in Denver forever. He and Elway were magic. It had to end, and it is very difficult to create that chemistry once, much less twice...I guess he couldn't find anyone to take Elway's place in his heart.