Only 14 head coaches in NFL history have won more games than Mike Shanahan. Shanahan's 170-138 (.552) head-coaching record ranks him No. 15 all-time.
Shanahan is also in an uber-elite fraternity of NFL coaches who've won at least two Super Bowls, and when you factor in that Mike did so back-to-back, that list shrinks even more. He hasn't coached in the NFL since 2013 and yet, he hasn't even sniffed consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
However, with former head coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson getting enshrined in Canton, OH, this year, perhaps momentum could shift Shanahan's way. If it were up to Cowher, who won a single World Championship while leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowl appearances, Shanahan would be in the Hall.
“Mike Shanahan belongs in the Hall of Fame," Cowher said via 9NEWS' Mike Klis from the red carpet of the NFL Honors ceremony on Saturday night ahead of Super Bowl LIV. "I’ve said it, the two toughest coaches I had the hardest time preparing against were Bill Belichick and Mike Shanahan.”
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Shanahan was a head coach for three different NFL teams; the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins. His Hall-of-Fame resume starts and stops in Denver, though.
What he achieved, assembling the arsenal that finally got long-suffering quarterback John Elway over the hump in Super Bowl XXXII, was remarkable. The Shanahan-led Broncos would win it all again the next year, successfully defending their World Championship in Super Bowl XXXIII. Elway would retire a back-to-back champion having appeared in a whopping five Super Bowls.
Shanahan carried on in the post-Elway era, having hit-and-miss success with the likes of QB Brian Griese, before finally getting the Broncos back into perennial playoff contention after acquiring Jake Plummer. From 2003-05, the Broncos challenged in the Conference but were headed off by Peyton Manning in the Wildcard Round the first two years.
Finally having assembled the caliber of defense it takes to push deep into the playoffs, the offensive-minded Shanahan led the Broncos to the AFC Championship Game in 2005, ultimately falling to Cowher's Steelers and the upstart Ben Roethlisberger.
The next spring, Shanahan would make the fateful decision to draft Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler in the first round. Cutler would take over for Plummer down the stretch in 2006 (despite the Broncos leading the AFC West at the time) and the team missed the playoffs for the first time since '02.
The next two seasons would serve as the Cutler era in Denver, with Shanahan coaching him to a Pro Bowl level in 2008, before finally the old coach was dismissed at the end of that season after the Broncos had failed to make the playoffs for the third-straight year, which had never happened before in the Shanahan era.
It marked the end of a 14-year run as the Broncos' head coach. Shanahan was, and still is, one of the most respected offensive minds in the history of the NFL.
Although he doesn't deserve all of the credit, the West Coast Offense evolved under Shanahan's Xs and Os acumen with the invention of the zone-blocking scheme that added a new, unique wrinkle to Bill Walsh's brainchild. Shanahan's Broncos, thanks in large part to the contributions of O-Line Coach Alex Gibbs and RBs Coach Bobby Turner (now coaching in San Francisco), became famous for cranking out 1,000-yard rushers.
From Terrell Davis to Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Reuben Draughns and Tatum Bell, Shanahan's offense made even the least likely running backs into household names. Davis is now in the Hall of Fame himself, while Anderson and Portis each won Offensive Rookie of the Year, respectively.
Honestly, Shanahan's body of work speaks for itself. His legacy is still being felt in the NFL today, as exemplified by his son, Kyle Shanahan, and the San Francisco 49ers. Kyle will seek to bring the fourth Super Bowl ring to the Shanahan family on Sunday vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.
Maybe one day Mike Shanahan will be in the Hall of Fame. A good starting point, in terms of bolstering his case, would be for the Broncos to select him to the team's own Ring of Fame.
The Broncos have doubled their Hall-of-Fame presence over the last four years, with the aforementioned Davis getting enshrined in 2017, late owner Pat Bowlen and Champ Bailey in 2019, and Steve Atwater going in this year. With great representation by respected voters like Jeff Legwold diligently chipping away at the perceived 'Broncos bias', who knows what the future holds for Shanahan? I remain optimistic that he'll one day get his due.