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Published on 09/01/2008 at Mon Sep 01 17:31.
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Mike Shanahan

BroncoTalk’s week-long Denver Broncos 2008 Season Preview kicks off today. We’ll bring you daily articles to get you ready for the 2008 season. Enjoy.

Head Coach Mike Shanahan closed the 2007 Denver Broncos 7-9 season by publicly pinning the blame on himself. Saying the team had the talent to win 10 games, Shanahan indicated he needed to do a better job preparing his players and a better job coaching to exceed that threshold.

“Well, I’m just going back to me,” Shanahan said in his season-ending press conference in January. “I’m in charge of this thing and I just think if I would have done a decent job coaching, we would have won 10 games or more. And so it goes back to me.”

His actions indicate he didn’t consider himself the only one to blame. Two of the top-decision makers for the 2007 Broncos, Assistant Head Coach/Defense Jim Bates and General Manager Ted Sundquist, were shown the door before April. Bates was offered a position as linebackers coach but ultimately resigned after crafting the worst Broncos defense in several years. Sundquist’s firing was a surprise at first, but the reasoning became clear as the growing dissonance between he and Shanahan became public.

Vocally, Shanahan may look inward for answers for the Broncos’ struggles in 2007, but professionally, he pinned the blame to an even greater extent on these men.

This leaves Shanahan alone at the top. He is solely in control of this team, and the group will only go so far as his coaching can take them. If they fail, only Shanahan is left to blame. If they triumph, Shanahan deserves lofty praise.

Shanahan doesn’t shy from this type of pressure. In fact, he embraces it, and at times, places even more upon himself. His training camp declaration that the Broncos “will not miss the playoffs” raised eyebrows – not only for the statement itself, but for the source from which it originated. Mike Shanahan making season predictions? Simply unheard of.

While it isn’t accurate to say Shanahan was on the proverbial “hot seat” heading into this year, those comments may have seated him firmly on it. If the Broncos struggle again this season, and fail to make the playoffs, Shanahan’s playoff promise will be mourned and echoed across the Rocky Mountains. If they struggle mightily, these comments will lead to proclamations that Shanahan is no longer in touch with his team, and is no longer a suitable judge of talent.

There’s no doubt that Shanahan knew all of this when he went on local radio and made that statement. He knew the stakes – it’s the very reason he’s never said anything similar in the past. His confidence is contagious, sparking something in fans and players and the community in general. Maybe that was his plan all along. While I was hesitant to proclaim playoffs for the Broncos in 2008 throughout the offseason, Shanahan’s comments singularly convinced me that Denver will be playing meaningful football in January. I’m on board, Coach. 11-5, here we come.

A return to the playoffs – particularly a deep trip into the contest – will only confirm what I already believe: Shanahan is the right coach for the Denver Broncos, now and for years to come. His bold moves this offseason show he has that same confidence in himself.

He’s made his stance; now it’s time to deliver.

Photo courtesy Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

  • Shawn

    This team will go as far as Jay Cutler takes it. We have built around him and now it’s all on his shoulders. Coach Shanahan made those comments to take a little pressure off of his third year player. The reality of it is, though, that players will get hurt around him. Backups will have to carry the load, but Jay will determine how far we go. Go Broncos!!!

  • Boisebroncoguy

    Nice article. I was skeptical for a while as well. But after watching our first units in pre-season, I think we will be good. Plus the fact that the majority of the media is downright negative to hostile toward the Broncos makes me feel better. Most of these idiots have no clue! Go Broncos!!!

  • Ian Henson

    There was a Saturday Night Live skit about two or three years ago, called “The Hugo Chavez Roundup.” Where Iranian president Mahmoud Amadinejad, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, and the supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il all sat at the panel. After several questions such as, “Is President Bush the Devil?” and “When will America crumble under the weight of its own arrogance?” The question of where would the four like to live, if given the choice, all but one answer, “America,” where as Kim Jong Il answers, “Hollywood!”

    Similar to the NFL, if you coach were to quit and you could have any other coach in the NFL… Who would it be? “Denver Broncos!” says some mighty voice in north eastern Nebraska. There’s a pile of Shanahan haters and to me it’s kind of like countries that hate America. You don’t need to read his book to know, he’s the man that you want at the helms.

    I’m not going to spout of stats, but at the end of Shanahan’s career, he will be in the Hall of Fame. He’s already amongst the greatest to have ever coached.

    Granted, that is not what this article is covering, hell Vince Lombardhi had a season with the Washington Redskins before he retired. The Cincinnati Bengals wouldn’t have existed had it not been for Paul Browns departure from Cleveland. The difference between those great coaches and Shanahan. There isn’t a one of them that could have competed with a Mike Shanahan offense. Amazing for the time, but the times have changed. Shanahan’s an innovator amongst innovators, you can count on less than one hand the amount of times a player’s been released from Denver and had one bad thing to say about the organization.

    Give Shanahan supreme authority, if he’s willing to take supreme ownership of his mistakes. He’s not investing all that money in Colorado property because he plans on leaving it to his daughter Krystal. He’s planning on winning and starting his own traditions.

  • Jason

    Ian, that was captivating.

  • Quicksilver

    Very well written

  • dan

    I am a huge Bronco fan, but to say he could not Paul Brown could not compete with Shanny is misguided. brown changed the way offenses were in the 50’s into the 60’s. If Art Modell did not fire him he would have stayed there longer. Granted Shanny is a great offensive mind. But its not fair to compare different era’s especially when the rules now favor the passing game. Plus Lombardi died as the Skins HC.
    I love Shanny and he is the best coach for the Broncos, and he will get this team into the playoffs and they will be in the Super Bowl in a few years. I love everybody in the media not giving Denver any love, it makes it so much more sweeter when Denver surprises the world and wins the West this year

  • 96isgone

    Saying that Paul Brown could not have competed with Shanahan on offense, is like saying that Giselle Bundchen is sexier then Marilyn Monroe: different eras….different tastes….

    Brown was quite simply the forefather of the modern offense. He initiated the passing attack as the major weapon of the NFL. The “west coast offense” comes from Brown, and his legacy of offense geniuses includes Bill Walsh, Weeb Ewbank, and Don Shula,,and all of the guys that came from those three….

    Brown was NFL Coach of the year as late as 1970. Another thing Brown did was bring African American players into profootbal……

    As for Shanahan, the Broncos have won one playoff game since Elway retired (along with Davis injury). Shanahan came into a team in 1995 that had a lot of talent left by the previous regime, got lucky with Davis, and hasn’t been the same since they’ve left. His judgement of talent is extreemly questionable. The “free-agent’ route has been a bomb for the most part (Walker, Carter, etc.), and most of his drafts have been busts (Toviesi, etc). This year seems to be the “year of the youngsters” with all the rookies and 2nd and 3rd year players.
    He’s promised a playoff game. Let’s see it.