Shanahan at head of pack for NFL openings
Rocky Mountain News
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” Just for a moment, tip your head back and imagine …
You’re young. Well, young in the world of NFL coaches. You have a growing resume that is coming together nicely.
You’ve almost made it to being the guy waiting to be the guy, almost to being the flavor of the month, the one writing down all of the teams that are interested in hiring you as a head coach.
You feel good, you feel strong, you practice your “I’m-going-to-do-whatever-it-takes-to-win” speech in front of the mirror. You just feel ready.
Then you flick on the flat screen and see the Broncos just fired Mike Shanahan.
See, Shanahan’s got juice and two Super Bowl trophies as well. He has a proven track record, he’s been there, done that, when a lot of guys are still trying to get the “there” part of the equation.
So suddenly what was a fairly orderly looking coaching search around the league now has Shanahan in the middle of it. And several general managers said this week that probably makes Shanahan the biggest domino that has to be tipped before some of the others can fall.
Cleveland, New York or even a team to be named later will get him, and the others will fill in around the edges.
“I’m going to go through my options and opportunities …,” Shanahan said this week. “But the next place I coach, I’m going to look at it for one reason: Does it give the best chance to win a championship?”
It’s a rare thing to have a coach with multiple championships already on his things-I’ve-done list on the open market. However, some of the biggest names who have come before him in the same kind of situation haven’t been able to replicate the thrill of victory they had before.
Names most recently like Jimmy Johnson or George Seifert.
Johnson won two Super Bowls with the how ’bout them Cowboys before getting shoved out the door by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones because the two couldn’t find a marquee big enough to hold both of their names.
Johnson then went to Miami with much fanfare and anticipation of glory. He finished 8-8, 9-7, 10-6 and 9-7 in his four seasons, with a playoff record of 2-3, and the Dolphins played in no conference championship games.
Seifert won two Super Bowls, one with Shanahan as his offensive coordinator, in San Francisco but later got fired in Carolina after going 8-8, 7-9 and 1-15 in his three seasons in Charlotte.
Bill Parcells won two Super Bowls with the Giants. He then spent four seasons in New England, played in one Super Bowl but had a 2-2 postseason record with the Patriots.
He spent three seasons with the Jets, played in one AFC Championship Game there, losing it. Then, after a brief television career, he went to the Cowboys, where he won a grand total of zero playoff games.
Parcells is not coaching now but is running the football operations for the Dolphins because, well, they didn’t win enough playoff games when Johnson had the job or when Dave Wannstedt, Nick Saban or Cam Cameron followed him there.
Tom Flores won two Super Bowls in Oakland, but in Seattle? Not so much.
Joe Gibbs won three Super Bowls with the Redskins, got inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, then returned to coach the Redskins to only midrange heights in his second stint.
Even the legendary Paul Brown, whose vision of football is imprinted all over the modern game ” the first to film practices, the first to use film to evaluate players, the first to have full-time assistant coaches, and he even helped develop the face mask ” couldn’t make championship lightning strike again.
He was 167-53-8 with the Browns, won four All America Football Conference titles, then three NFL titles. He returned to coaching after his Hall of Fame induction, in a startup operation that is now the still-struggling Bengals, with Brown as part owner and general manager.
Brown did not win a playoff game in eight seasons as Bengals coach.
In the end, the guy who turned the trick, the one who won two titles and went on to win another somewhere else, would be difficult for some to recall. One of those oh-yeah names after somebody tells you the answer.
But it was Hall of Famer Weeb Ewbank. Ewbank led the star-studded Colts to championships in both 1958 and 1959. He then was the coach on the sideline for a Super Bowl remembered for other people.
Most notably Joe Namath, whose brash guarantee of a victory, over the star-studded Colts no less in 1969 ushered in a new age for the league and helped push things toward the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Shanahan has always been about challenges, about pushing, about setting goals. Now he has one. In the free-agency era, in a time when the fit of the salary cap often gives everybody headaches, he can do something nobody else has done.
He can resurrect his past for somebody who believes he is their future.