Too often we give a coach or player a pass for bad decisions because they have won a championship. Look at how Mike Shanahan is handling the Donovan McNabb situation in Washington. This is a quarterback he hand selected then traded for. He benches him for Rex Grossman,whom the Chicago Bears deemed expendable for single handedly losing a Super Bowl and regressing. What is he doing? Is there a psychological edge to what he’s doing? No this is an ego-maniac who fell in love with his genius mantle and is personally affronting McNabb with benching him and embarrassing him. You know what? We’ve seen this before…
Mike Shanahan is one of a long list of coaches who fell into some good situations and were given more credit than they really deserved. He was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos when John Elway led them to the Super Bowl yet this was a Hall of Fame talent already in tow. What is missed during those years is everyone forgets that the 1986 Denver Broncos were #1 in the AFC in defense and were highly ranked in 1987. We tend to forget that when we remember those defenses collapsing in the Super Bowl against the Giants, Redskins, and 49ers respectively. When he finally was given a head coaching job with the Los Angeles Raiders, his results were terrible. He had a losing record (8-12) and was fired mid season. Funny thing is 1 1/2 years later Art Shell had those same Los Angeles Raiders in the 1990 AFC Championship Game in Buffalo playing for the right to go to Super Bowl XXV. So don’t sell me on his expertise.
Here is where it gets interesting. The San Francisco 49ers offensive plays, playbook, and ALL training sessions were all on video for the incoming offensive coordinator. From Bill Walsh on down. There was no serious input and you HAD to learn how the 49ers ran their offense period to be hired as a coordinator. So when Mike Holmgren was hired away to be the Green Bay Packers head coach, Shanahan was hired on and had to learn their system. Holmgren had just led the 1988 & 1989 Super Bowl champion’s powerful offense. Throw in the 14-2 1990 season where the 49ers made the NFC Championship Game, and then in ’91 they again had the #1 offense although Joe Montana and Steve Young missed significant playing time. So when they hired Shanahan in 1992 the 49er offense was already a juggernaut. They ranked highly through the Super Bowl XXIX triumph that made it seem as though Shanahan was some genius when he ran what was already in place in deployment and personnel.
Now we know he inherited Hall of Famer John Elway when he became head coach of the Denver Broncos in 1995. By a twist of luck they had Terrell Davis develop as a running back. He installed a running offense and signed a ton of defensive free agents to fortify the defense and he was rewarded with back to back Super Bowls. He coached well and had the pulse of his team along with defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. Yet for all his offensive acumen he hasn’t developed his own quarterback having inherited Steve Young and John Elway. He drafted Brian Griese in 1998 and that didn’t work out as well as Bronco fans would have hoped. He traded away for Jake Plummer who did play good enough to help the Broncos to the 2005 AFC Championship, yet they were upset at home. From 1999-2005, a 7 year period, he only won 1 playoff game after the retirement of John Elway.
With the help of Alex Gibbs zone blocking schemes the Broncos did provide many a 1,000 yard rusher starting with Terrell Davis. Mike Anderson and Olandis Gary were surprising 1,000 yard rushers in Davis’ absent to knee injuries that derailed a Hall of Fame career. Then with the 2002 NFL Draft, the Broncos nabbed Clinton Portis off of the NCAA Champion Miami Hurricanes. Clinton seemed he would be a serviceable back although he had an outspoken personality. What happened?? Clinton Porits turned out to be the most prolific back, for their first two years, in the history of the Denver Broncos. Where Terrell Davis rushed for 1,117 and 1,538 yards his first two seasons, Portis burst onto the scene to the tune of 1,508 and 1,591 yards. Portis also scored 29TDs to Davis 20TDs while garnering the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year for 2002 and setting an NFL record of averaging 5.5 yards per carry for his first two years. He also became the youngest player in league history to have a 5 TD game and was a rising star.
So did he build another champion around a talented running back? Nope. He traded away one of history’s most prolific backs for CB Champ Bailey. Not only did the Broncos not improve on their defensive statistics in terms of touchdowns given up, guess what happened with their star cornerback in tow?? The ’04 AFC Wildcard Tilt saw Peyton Manning throw for the most yards EVER in the playoffs for a non overtime game with 457 yards passing while losing 49-24. Now thats genius!! The record is Bernie Kosar [The U] who threw for 489 yards in a double overtime victory over the Jets in the 1986 divisional round. Peyton almost did that in 4 quarters. Yikes!
So where did the genius mantle come from? He did win 2 straight Super Bowls with the NFL’s all time winningest (at the time) quarterback in John Elway, but where is the other developed talent? Where is the other quarterback he’s groomed into an elite passer whether we are talking about Brian Griese or even Jake Plummer?? So now here we are with his on again off again mistreatment of Donovan McNabb. He won’t give him a vote of confidence in being the starter yet this lockout is keeping him from trading Donovan. Shanahan is the same coach who put McNabb in the news signing him to a huge contract extension only to bench him two weeks later. Lets face it the re-signing was only to back-load the contract money to years McNabb would not see. For a reason that has not been introduced to us this seems to have gone into the realm of the personal.
Once you look at the body of work, I don’t see an elite coach. I see an old coach who is achieving what he always has: marginal years with a couple playoff years. Doesn’t really develop any of the talent he drafts and is callous to many of his players. Rod Smith and Terrell Davis the notable exceptions. I think the sand is out of his hour glass and he won’t be coach of the Redskins after this season with a sub-par performance. I would like to word things differently Redskin fans but I call them like I see them. He is overrated and past his prime. The Albert Haynesworth debacle withstanding, what has he really done in Washington? Its hard to see the present situation with Donovan McNabb as anything other than personal. Now the NFL lockout is keeping McNabb in place to prolong the agony which is unfortunate.