Mike Shanahan

Last updated

Mike Shanahan
Mike Shanahan OCT2021 (cropped).jpg
Shanahan in 2021
Personal information
Born: (1952-08-24) August 24, 1952 (age 70)
Oak Park, Illinois, U.S.
Career information
High school: Franklin Park (IL) East Leyden
College: Eastern Illinois
Career history
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
Head coaching record
Regular season:170–138 (.552)
Postseason:8–6 (.571)
Career:178–144 (.553)
Coaching stats at PFR

Michael Edward Shanahan (born August 24, 1952) is a former American football coach, best known as the head coach of the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL) from 1995 to 2008. During his fourteen seasons with the Broncos, he led the team to two consecutive Super Bowl victories in XXXII and XXXIII, including the franchise's first NFL title in the former. His head coaching career spanned a total of twenty seasons and also included stints with the Los Angeles Raiders and Washington Redskins. He is the father of San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.


Early career

Shanahan played high school football at East Leyden High School, Franklin Park, Illinois, where he played wishbone quarterback for coach Jack Leese's 1968 and 1969 Eagles teams. Shanahan held the single-game rushing record of 260 yards on 15 carries (which was set in a 32–8 win over Hinsdale South on September 20, 1969) until it was broken in 1976 by Dennis Cascio.[ citation needed ] He graduated from high school in 1970. [1]

He was a quarterback at Eastern Illinois University, where he joined Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity. In 1972, a piercingly hard hit on the practice field ruptured one of his kidneys, which caused his heart to stop for thirty seconds and nearly killed him. A priest was summoned to administer the last rites to Shanahan, a devout Roman Catholic. [2] [3]

With his playing career abruptly ended, Shanahan entered coaching. After graduation, he served as an assistant coach at Northern Arizona University and the University of Oklahoma. He then returned to his alma mater as offensive coordinator and helped his school win the Division II football championship. Shanahan worked as the offensive coordinator for the University of Minnesota for a single season, before accepting the same position at the University of Florida under head coach Charley Pell in 1980. Shanahan stayed with the Gators through 1983. [4]

NFL career

Assistant coaching stints

Shanahan first served as a receivers coach and later offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos under Dan Reeves from 1984 to 1987. This firmly places Mike Shanahan on the Tom Landry tree of coaching, as Dan Reeves was one of Landry's greatest disciples. It was his skill as an offensive mind that garnered Shanahan the attention of maverick Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis. After Shanahan and the Raiders parted ways four games into the 1989 season, Shanahan returned to the Broncos as quarterbacks coach on October 16, 1989. [5] He was fired a couple years later by Reeves after finding himself in the middle of a growing feud between Reeves and quarterback John Elway. [6]

Los Angeles Raiders

Shanahan was hired by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1988 to replace longtime Raiders coach Tom Flores. He was the Raiders' first head coach hired from outside the organization since Davis himself 23 years earlier. Shanahan (who proved very unpopular with the players) and the micromanaging Davis clashed almost immediately, and this was only exacerbated after the Raiders finished a disappointing 7–9, losing four of their last five games. Tensions increased towards the end of the season when wide receivers coach and Shanahan loyalist Nick Nicolau got into a heated argument with assistant coach Art Shell (a Davis loyalist) in which Nicolau reportedly accused Shell of only having a job by virtue of his friendship with Davis. When Shell went to Davis later to ask if this was true, Davis' response was to immediately fire Nicolau. Shanahan responded by firing running backs coach Joe Scannella and offensive coordinator Tom Walsh (both Davis hires), but Davis ordered them both back to work. [7] At the end of the season, Shanahan fired defensive assistants Willie Brown and Charlie Sumner. An enraged Davis re-hired Brown to a different position in the organization. When the Raiders began 1–3 in 1989, Shanahan himself was fired and replaced by Shell. [8] [9] Shanahan's final Raiders record was 8–12 in less than two seasons, going 2–7 after a 6–5 start. [10]

San Francisco 49ers

In 1992, Shanahan was hired as offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers under Head Coach George Seifert, capping his rise with a victory in Super Bowl XXIX after the 1994 season. His years under Seifert placed him in the Bill Walsh coaching tree. [11] In 1994 while coaching for the 49ers, Shanahan added to the ongoing feud between him and Raiders owner Al Davis when he had then quarterback Elvis Grbac throw a football at Davis' head, which missed by a few inches as Davis was able to dodge it just in time; afterwards Davis responded with an obscene gesture. [12]

Denver Broncos

Shanahan's success with the 49ers earned him a head coaching spot once more, this time back in Denver with the Broncos beginning in 1995. He led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl championships in the 1997 and 1998 seasons, during which time the Broncos set a then-record for victories in two seasons.

Between 1996 and 1998, the Broncos set the NFL record for victories by going 46–10 over a three-year span. The 1998 Broncos won their first 13 games on their way to a 14–2 mark. Shanahan, taking his cue from West Coast offense guru Bill Walsh, was well known for scripting the first 15 offensive plays of the game, and helped the 1998 Broncos set an NFL record for first quarter points scored in a season. In 2005, he passed Dan Reeves as the winningest coach in franchise history. [13]

Shanahan is known for an offense featuring zone running plays and play-action passes. He has often found unheralded running backs from later rounds of the annual NFL Draft and then turned them into league-leading rushers behind small-but-powerful offensive lines. Examples of this phenomenon are Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell, all of whom have had at least one 1,000-yard season in a Denver uniform during Shanahan's tenure. [14]

In 1999, with the assistance of writer Adam Schefter, Shanahan penned Think Like a Champion, a motivational book about leadership; it was published by Harper Collins. [15] In 2006, he cooperated with Stefan Fatsis's endeavor to spend a year as a Broncos place-kicker, and much of the resulting book A Few Seconds of Panic (2008) covers Shanahan's coaching from the player's point of view.

After Elway's retirement and Davis' career-ending injuries, Shanahan went six years without a playoff win (including three seasons when the Broncos failed to qualify for the postseason), [16] a drought which caused criticism from fans. The playoff drought ended during the 2005–06 postseason when the Broncos defeated the two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs at Invesco Field at Mile High. [17] The victory, however, would be Shanahan's last playoff win as a head coach. [16]

Shanahan was fired after the 2008 NFL season following a collapse that caused the Broncos to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive year. [18] Although the Broncos held an 8–5 record by Week 14 and would have won the AFC West with one more victory, the team lost their remaining three games and the 8–8 San Diego Chargers won the division on a tiebreaker. [19]

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan at an Open Practice on August 5, 2010, at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia Shanahan 05AUG10 at Redskins Open Practice.JPG
Mike Shanahan at an Open Practice on August 5, 2010, at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia

In the early part of the 2009 season, it was reported that the Washington Redskins were interested in naming Shanahan their head coach, replacing Jim Zorn. Although this was reported by several media outlets, the Redskins' Vice President of Football Operations, Vinny Cerrato, stated that a coaching change would not be considered until the end of the season. [20] On November 18, 2009, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Buffalo Bills had contacted Shanahan about their head coaching vacancy after the team parted ways with former coach Dick Jauron. [21]

On January 5, 2010, Shanahan was formally introduced as the Redskins' 24th full-time head coach. As part of the deal, he was also named vice president of football operations, with the final say on football matters. He was one of several coaches who also had the title or powers of general manager, along with New England's Bill Belichick and others. [22] Shanahan was signed to a five-year, $35 million contract. [23] Several months earlier, Bruce Allen was named the team's general manager. Shanahan and Allen split the duties held by a general manager, with Shanahan having the final say. [24] This model is similar to how Belichick and Scott Pioli worked during their eight years in New England.

Shanahan's son, Kyle Shanahan, became the offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins on January 20, 2010. [25]

Shanahan had a combined 11–21 record in his first two seasons as Redskins coach, followed by a 3–6 start to the 2012 season, but ended the year with a seven-game winning streak on the way to the team's first NFC East title and home playoff game since the 1999 season. During this season Shanahan also continued his trend of developing unheralded draft picks into 1000-yard rushers, with the 6th-rounder Alfred Morris. The Redskins lost in the Wild Card round of the 2012 NFL Playoffs to the Seattle Seahawks by a score of 24–14, during which his quarterback Robert Griffin III sustained a tear of his LCL and a damaged ACL to his previously injured knee. [26] Shanahan came under criticism for his handling of the injury, both in bringing Griffin back to play after the initial injury on December 9 and keeping him in the game against the Seahawks after reinjuring the knee. [26] While there were reports in December 2012 that the Redskins were considering negotiating a contract extension with Shanahan in the 2013 offseason, this did not happen and there were later reports that Shanahan had considered resigning after the end of the year. [27] [28]

Griffin underwent reconstructive surgery of his knee on January 9 and returned as the starter for the beginning of the 2013–2014 season, though Shanahan held him out of the preseason to protect him from further injury. [29] [30] [31] The team continued to struggle in 2013. With the final three games of the regular season, Shanahan decided to make Griffin inactive for the rest of the season because Shanahan thought it was best for both Griffin's and the Redskins' future.

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder fired Shanahan on December 30, 2013. [32] The team finished 3–13 in the 2013 season, and was in last place in the NFC East division three of Shanahan's four seasons.

Potential return to coaching

Shanahan has not held a coaching position since his dismissal from the Washington Redskins in 2013. In 2015, he was interviewed by the Buffalo Bills [33] and Chicago Bears [34] for their vacant head coaching spots, as well as the Oakland Raiders, [35] whom he previously coached from 1988–1989, when the club was based in Los Angeles. Shanahan was also interviewed for the vacant head coaching spot by the San Francisco 49ers in 2015, whom Shanahan previously served as their offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 1992–1994 and was part of the 1994 team that won Super Bowl XXIX. Coincidentally, the 49ers would hire his son, Kyle Shanahan as their head coach 2 years later. [36] In 2016, Shanahan was nearly hired as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins [37] before they hired Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase for the vacant spot on January 9, 2016. On August 17, 2019, it was revealed that the Denver Broncos, whom Shanahan previously coached from 1995–2008, nearly re-hired him as head coach in 2018 before their decision to retain Vance Joseph on January 1, 2018. [38]

Head coaching record

TeamYearRegular SeasonPost Season
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
LAR 1988 790.4383rd in AFC West
LAR 1989 130.2503rd in AFC West
LAR Total8120.400---
DEN 1995 880.5003rd in AFC West
DEN 1996 1330.8131st in AFC West01.000Lost to Jacksonville Jaguars in AFC Divisional Game
DEN 1997 1240.7502nd in AFC West401.000 Super Bowl XXXII champions
DEN 1998 1420.8751st in AFC West301.000 Super Bowl XXXIII champions
DEN 1999 6100.3755th in AFC West
DEN 2000 1150.6882nd in AFC West01.000Lost to Baltimore Ravens in AFC wild card game
DEN 2001 880.5003rd in AFC West
DEN 2002 970.5632nd in AFC West
DEN 2003 1060.6252nd in AFC West01.000Lost to Indianapolis Colts in AFC Wild Card Game
DEN 2004 1060.6252nd in AFC West01.000Lost to Indianapolis Colts in AFC Wild Card Game
DEN 2005 1330.8131st in AFC West11.500Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers in AFC Championship Game
DEN 2006 970.5633rd in AFC West
DEN 2007 790.4382nd in AFC West
DEN 2008 880.5002nd in AFC West
DEN Total138860.61685.615
WAS 2010 6100.3754th in NFC East
WAS 2011 5110.3134th in NFC East
WAS 2012 1060.6251st in NFC East01.000Lost to Seattle Seahawks in NFC Wild Card Game
WAS 2013 3130.1884th in NFC East
WAS Total24400.37501.000
Total [39] 1701380.55286.571


Coaching tree

Shanahan has worked under six head coaches: [42]

Fifteen of Shanahan's assistant coaches became head coaches in the NFL or NCAA:

Two of Shanahan's former players became head coaches in the NFL or NCAA:

Five of Shanahan's executives/former players became general managers in the NFL:

Personal life

Shanahan is a Catholic. [2] [47] [48] He and his wife, Peggy, have two children — a son, Kyle, the current San Francisco 49ers’ head coach, and a daughter, Krystal. [49] Shanahan is also a Brother in the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity.

In May 2008, Shanahan attended the wedding of George W. Bush's daughter Jenna Bush, who was the former college roommate of Shanahan's daughter. [50] [51]

In July 2016, Shanahan hosted a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. In October 2016, Shanahan spoke on Trump's behalf at a campaign rally in Loveland, Colorado. [52] [53]

In October 2021, Shanahan sold his mansion in Cherry Hills Village for a record $15.7M. [54]

See also

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