Barring the unexpected emergence of a “perfect situation,” former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has told NBC Sports he does not intend to coach anywhere next season.
A month ago, when the Broncos were 8-5, they appeared likely to win the AFC West and advance to the playoffs. But a season-ending three-game losing streak, including a crushing final week loss to the San Diego Chargers, ended the Broncos’ playoff hopes and prompted the organization to fire Shanahan.
Even if the Broncos had beaten San Diego, it was by no means a sure thing that they would have won even so much as their first-round playoff game. In the decade since their last Super Bowl victory in January 1999, Denver was 1-4 in postseason games under Shanahan.
But, even when his 8-5 playoff record is included, Shanahan had a career mark of 146-93 in Denver with two Super Bowl titles since taking over as coach in 1995. And Broncos fans are justifiably proud of the fact that, between 1996 and 1998, Shanahan’s teams won 46 games, which is an NFL record for a three-year period.
That’s the kind of thing that can be quite tempting to a team like the Detroit Lions, who set a modern standard for NFL futility with their 0-16 mark in 2008.
Merely winning a game or two is not the objective in Denver, though. In Denver, the debate over which direction is most likely to result in postseason success for the now coach-less Broncos is under way.
Bernie Lincicome of the Rocky Mountain News enunciates the adage that the person who replaces a “legend” (such as “Bear” Bryant or Vince Lombardi) will fail to live up to the fans’ (and management’s) expectations.
“The one after that is the one who will win,” he writes.
In fact, it doesn’t always work out that way – but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.
Meanwhile, Woody Paige of the Denver Post focuses his attention on the immediate future – and he has a replacement for Shanahan in mind.
“[Steve] Spagnuolo is the guy,” he writes.
His logic is simple. “[T]he Broncos need a certified, creative, experienced, professional, defensive specialist who has won a Super Bowl,” he says.
And it’s hard to argue with his logic. Perhaps the greatest achievement of Spagnuolo’s defenses was the triumph over previously undefeated New England in last year’s Super Bowl.
Technically speaking, however, the victory is attributed to the head coach, not the defensive coordinator.
Paige concedes that “there’s no guarantee” Spagnuolo would accept the offer – if it is made.
“But the Broncos give Spagnuolo the best chance to win the Super Bowl, and he gives the Broncos their best chance to win the Super Bowl.”
Rocky Mountain News