“Part Ways”? Like they slapped each other on the back and walked away, whistling as they went?
The first line of the statement read: “Denver Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen today relieved Mike Shanahan from his position as Executive Vice President of Football Operations/Head coach of the National Football League team, effective immediately.”
Ohhh, those Broncos. The National Football League ones.
No matter how much the Broncos wanted to pussyfoot and stack up euphemisms so as to A) not offend Shanahan and/or B) make Bowlen feel like he didn’t really axe his buddy, there’s no getting around it.
Mike Shanahan got fired.
Even though he might have deserved it, nobody saw it coming. Shanahan’s tenure as Broncos head coach appeared to be like a Supreme Court appointment. He could have it as long he kept showing up.
But Bowlen apparently tired of his team not showing up. The last worthless evening of Shanahan’s tenure came Sunday. A 52-21 mail-in job against the Chargers that cost Denver the playoffs.
“I appreciate the 21 years that Mike Shanahan has given to the organization as an assistant and head coach and the two Super Bowl wins in that time,” Bowlen said in a statement. “His contributions hold a special place in Broncos history.”
Mostly the contributions from 1995 through 1998, though. That was when Shanahan and John Elway shared a brain and a vision for how the quarterback should be used, Terrell Davis came out of nowhere (actually, the sixth round out of Georgia in ’95), the Broncos receivers were excellent and the defense was fearsome.
Denver went 54-18 (including 7-1 in three postseason appearances) and won two Super Bowls during that span.
He went 100-73 (including 1-4 in the playoffs) from 1999 through 2008 and missed the playoffs each of the last three years as Denver went 24-24.
Wins over decent teams like Atlanta, Tampa and the Jets only served as proof that Denver had talent but, for whatever reason, it wasn’t playing up to it.
Jay Cutler, the Broncos' third-year quarterback, took an aggressive stance on the dismissal, telling Jeff Legwold of the Rocky Mountain News on Tuesday, “I’m disappointed, I’m shocked, I’m not happy about it, I’m not pleased with it at all. We had zero inkling this was going to happen. I didn’t have a clue.”
Irked as Cutler may be, his play waned after a brilliant start as well, throwing six touchdowns and seven picks while Denver was going 2-4 down the stretch.
Defensively, the Broncos were an embarrassment. They allowed 448 points (and an eye-popping 857 over the past two seasons) and were minus-17 in turnovers.
Shanahan didn’t have the out of being able to blame the general manager for providing him with players who couldn’t take coaching or didn’t have talent. He was the Broncos' GM, as well.
So what now for Shanahan, a coach who at one point seemed to be building a Hall of Fame resume? Well, again, according to the Rocky Mountain News, there are three years left on Shanahan’s contract and he’s owed approximately $21 million dollars.
Attractive as he might be to the slew of teams with head coaching vacancies — Detroit, the Jets and Cleveland, currently — he might decide to take a year off and collect.
As for Denver, it now enters both the coaching and GM sweepstakes. Both are attractive jobs. Cutler’s a Pro Bowler this year, wide receiver Brandon Marshall is one of the league’s most talented wideouts and Bowlen’s not afraid to spend money (although he might tighten the purse strings a tad considering he’ll be paying Shanahan to sit). Scott Pioli, the Patriots' vice president of player personnel, has been given permission by his team to talk to the Cleveland Browns about their GM job. He’ll likely appeal to Bowlen as an architect. And defensive-minded head coaching candidates like the Giants' Steve Spagnuolo and Tennessee’s Jim Schwartz would certainly be a good idea in Denver where the points have been plentiful.
Whatever happens next, it’s the end of an era for the Broncos. Mike Shanahan got fired.
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