Mike Shanahan, Hall of Famer.
It just sounds right, don’t you think?
If not, ponder what “Shanny” has done over the course of his career.
Shanahan began his coaching career with Eastern Illinois way back in 1973, being an offensive coordinator with Oklahoma, Eastern Illinois again, Minnesota and then Florida in the early 80s. He quickly became regarded as an intelligent football mind, specifically on offense.
In 1984, Shanahan was brought in as the wide receivers coach with the Denver Broncos, being promoted to offensive coordinator in 1985 and keeping the job until he was hired as Oakland Raiders head coach in 1988. Shanahan was the quarterbacks coach in Denver from 1989-1992, then moved onto offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, winning a Super Bowl with Steve Young and Jerry Rice among many other playmakers.
In 1995, Mike the Mastermind came back to the Mile High City, once again coaching John Elway, while also helping to construct the greatest Broncos team in the 54 years of the franchise.
This stint with the Broncos is what earns him a Hall of Fame bronze bust in Canton, Ohio, while all of it adds up to quite a formidable resume.
He found a diamond in the rough with Terrell Davis, who carried Denver’s offense with powerful running through zone-blocking and then swift, nifty moves to juke defenders out of their shoes. Shanahan hired Alex Gibbs to be his offensive line coach and Gibbs installed that infamous zone-blocking scheme that worked so well every single team in the NFL has tried it or still uses it to this day.
Shanahan got the absolute best out of an aged, bruised and battered Elway, running him out on bootlegs and using that cannon of an arm to throw deep to Eddy McCaffery. He turned undrafted free agent Rod Smith into arguably the best receiver of his day and even Howard Griffith scored touchdowns. Of course, he also had Shannon Sharpe, the man who redefined the tight end position and gave rise to Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and even Jimmy Graham.
After leading the orange and blue to back-to-back Super Bowl victories, Shanahan held onto control in Dove Valley for an entire decade longer.
During that time, he turned a Jack Plummer-led team into Super Bowl contenders, losing in the AFC Championship game to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Come to think of it, maybe it was this period, in which he didn’t have the top-level talent, that earns him the Hall of Fame bust.
Shanny turned Mike “The Marine” Anderson, Tatum “Tater Tot” Bell, Mike Bell, Olandis Gary, Reuben Droughns and Clinton Portis into 1,000-yard rushers; 11-14 seasons as Broncos head coach his team enjoyed a 1,000-yard back. Of those names, only Davis and Portis would have gained the milestone multiple times with other teams, and Shanny intelligently traded Portis to Washington – where he did it twice – for all-time legend at cornerback, Champ Bailey.
Not all of his front office moves went well, in fact, many went very poorly, especially in the 2000s; still, Shanahan assembled a competitive team each and every year.
Seven of the 14 years his Broncos teams went to the playoffs, earning the only two NFL Championships the storied franchise has ever won. Shanahan won a team-record 138 games as head coach in Denver, which was enough to get him into the top-20 all-time among NFL coaches.
But, even though his Broncos faded down the stretch of his 14 years a Mile High, Shanahan is such a great coach, he found another job, with the Washington Redskins. It says something about his adaptability to continue to connect with players one-third his age and his relationship with Robert Griffin III seems to be going very well. He’s been the head man in Washington – at least on the field – since 2010 and now has racked up a total of 169 NFL victories, leading his Redskins to the playoffs last year.
Maybe that, being able to teach 20-somethings to play his style of offense, and the fact that his offense is still working, is evidence enough that he is deserving of being a Hall of Famer.
This Sunday, he has a chance to beat his former team and a current Super Bowl contender in Denver, when the Broncos will also play a tribute to him.
169 wins makes him 12th all-time and four more wins would put him at 11th. Six of the 11 ahead of him are already in, with Bill Parcels, a lock, still coaching.
Shanahan’s coached Elway, Sharpe and Gary Zimmerman and many more believe Davis should be in the hallowed hall as well. He led Gary Kubiak, who has enjoyed some success as Houston Texans head coach and his son, Kyle Shanahan, is currently the Washington offensive coordinator.
Hell, Shanahan’s sun-soaked skin tone is already bronze, so it’s easy to imagine him on the wall with the many other greats in Canton.
In all seriousness, there’s no doubt he’s influenced the game of football in many ways, re-writing the history books at times, and Mike Shanahan deserves to be in the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
Rich Kurtzman is cover32’s Denver Broncos Managing Editor. Follow Rich on Twitter (@RichKurtzman).