By Derek Lofland
The Denver Broncos fired Mike Shanahan earlier this week, meaning that the Broncos will have a new coach for the first time since the 1995 season.
I think Shanahan is viewed unfairly for not winning a ring without John Elway. When Shanahan got there in 1995, the Broncos hadn’t been to a Super Bowl since the 1989 season.
They were coming off a 7-9 season. Elway had been 1-2 in the playoffs since the 1989 season. He was also 35 years old at the time.
That’s not always an easy situation for a coach to enter. Head coaches prefer to bring their own quarterback in that they can develop in their system. John Elway had never run the West Coast Offense.
Shanahan was able to turn that team into a contender in just two seasons. He did that by bringing his zone-blocking scheme. Terrell Davis had monster years early in that system. He rushed for 6,413 yards and 56 touchdowns from 1995-1998. John Elway arguably played his three best seasons from 1996-1998.
With a new running game, an upgraded defense, and a proven quarterback, the Broncos did very well under Shanahan. They went 47-17 in his first four seasons there. They made the playoffs three times in four seasons going 7-1 in the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl in 1997 and 1998.
That is a major accomplishment and Elway's mere presence in Denver should not take away from what Shanahan did.
Shanahan did not fall of the map after Elway left. He still managed to go 91-69, which is a .568 winning percentage and kept his job for 10 seasons in a league where most can’t keep one for three.
The Broncos won the AFC West in 2005 and went as a Wild Card three other times. The problem is that they went 1-4 in those playoff games.
Still, consider the Cowboys haven’t won a playoff game since 1996, the Bengals have been in the playoffs once since 1990, and the Cardinals are making only their second playoff appearance in Phoenix. It’s hard to win in the NFL.
Shanahan had only two losing seasons in his 14 years in Denver. He’s a Hall of Fame coach.
Like all good things, this probably needed to come to an end. While the Broncos will not be able to find someone as qualified as Mike Shanahan on the free agent market, he hasn’t had a lot of success the last three years.
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