I can’t say that I saw it coming. I am not sure anybody did. But now the fact that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has fired Mike Shanahan as sunk in a bit, I have to admit that I am not shocked either. Bowlen is known for putting together a first-class, winning organization from top to bottom and the Denver Broncos of late have been anything but first-class and, well, winning.
Missing the playoffs for three strait years is something the Raiders are known for, not the Broncos. Denver has a reputation as a great sports city, so winning is a must. This is a bittersweet time for Denver. We have lost one of the best, most respected offensive coaches in Broncos history. Shanahan ran a winning club but somehow lost the direction of the team and those of us in Broncoland have suffered for it.
Most sports commentators and football know-it-alls thought Shanahan would have had his job with the Broncos until his retirement. That he and Bowlen were joined at the hip. Inseparable. I thought so, too. But when disappointment is repeated in professional football somebody must pay, and this time the offensive mastermind took the fall. A good relationship means nothing when you lose in Denver.
Over the course of the past few weeks, I have heard a lot of perspectives on the Shanahan firing. “It wasn’t his fault, there were tons of injuries.” Or “Is Bowlen crazy? Name one coach who is better than Shanahan?” Or even, “Cutler isn’t maturing like we thought, maybe we should cut Cutler?” People are still recovering from the shock of the firing. What I have learned from other’s perspectives on the matter is that those who aren’t Bronco fans are generally the ones calling Bowlen crazy.
I have an acquaintance who loves the Patriots. A diehard New Englander. Sometimes I call him a friend (usually after football season) and most times I refer to him as an ass…Anyway, his reaction to the firing was one of harsh criticism.
“Holy shit, somebody get Pat Bowlen some [f-ing] oxygen,” the jackass said from his quaint desk somewhere on the East Coast, all geeked up in fresh Celtic gear. “Is it really Mike’s fault? Cutler played like shit and so did that defense…all year. I guess Mike should have fired some of his staff.”
In my mind, jackass, all of this is Shanahan’s fault.
And most of the people I have talked to around here agree. Those who love the Broncos have accepted Bowlen’s decision to set sail into the unknown with some new coach and a new system. Anything is better than having high hopes and then watching a complete fall from grace at the end of the season. If Denver doesn’t make the playoffs next year, well that sucks, but it would be a losing year with a new coach and at least we wouldn’t feel like we are stuck in the same old rut from the past three years.
That rut has included a new tendency to get blown out, which is certainly not Denver Bronco football. This year, the Broncos lost to New England, Oakland, Carolina, and San Diego by a combined 106 points. This just shows how ill-prepared the Broncos were this year for big games. Shanahan lost his way for great game prep.
No, with the firing things are already on the up and up for Denver. What we need is a defense. Hell, even a defense-minded coach. That would be a fresh look for Denver. Gone are the days of Atwater, Dennis Smith, Greg Kregan, and Karl Mecklenberg and somehow, we need to bring those days back. Bowlen would agree with me on this.
Cutler is fine. He needs to pull his head out of the clouds every so often but he is young and is a budding leader. What he needs is a disciplinarian as a coach. I say give him some time to grow. He is almost there. Cutler, combined with an able defense is everything we are asking for. He needs a defense to keep him and his talents on the field.
The O-line? They were great this year. Probably deserve an award for doing what they did for the seven or so running backs that looked pretty good behind them.
In his tenure with Denver, Shanahan has set a foundation for a successful offensive scheme. It won’t be lost immediately under a new head coach.
I don’t know who Bowlen plans to hire as the next head coach or even GM (Elway, please). Right now, I am leaning toward Giants Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who would bring the needed defense back to Denver.
I certainly admire Bowlen for shaking things up. It’s simple. He wants to win. And I guess I am thankful that Denver has an owner who wants to win, yet knows not to step in and coach like Jerry Jones or even the dark Al Davis. If we have to be stuck with an owner, at least we are stuck with Pat Bowlen, who is dedicated to running a first-class organization and one that wins, no matter who is at the helm.