Peyton Manning Pays Tribute to Mike Shanahan in Wake of RoF Election
This week’s big announcement that the Denver Broncos will be adding their former two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike Shanahan to the Ring of Fame has also found Peyton Manning explaining the depth of respect and friendship he built with him over the years. Additionally, more info has come to light on the relationships and back story which very nearly motivated the five-time NFL MVP to pick the Washington Redskins over the Broncos as a free agent back in 2012, thanks to the presence of Shanahan.
“You mentioned the chance to play for Mike [Shanahan] in a Pro Bowl, it’s a relaxing week over there in Hawaii,” Manning told the team site this week. “But if you love football you are still going to talk football with other players and coaches, and Mike and I really enjoyed that week. You know talking a lot of ball, talking about offensive schemes, talking about other players in games. Really enjoyed that week and kinda formed a friendship and a bond that still lasts today.”
Shanahan and Manning found enough common ground to seriously entertain the notion of a player/coach union in the nation’s capital. Such was the firm grounding and understanding that the partnership could work that the older Manning was even willing to contemplate facing his little brother Eli on the NFC East field of combat twice per year.
Coach Shanahan had previously explained in an interview with The Athletic, about Manning’s 2012 free agency grand tour, that the Sheriff was a lot closer to playing in burgundy and gold than most had thought.
“We were very much interested in Peyton at that time,” Shanahan told the Athletic. “I mean, I followed his career. I knew him quite well, so I feel like we had an excellent chance to get him. But knowing that Eli was in the NFC East, it surely wasn’t a slam dunk.”
At the time, Shanahan believed he was farther away from convincing Manning to join him than was the reality. Consequently, Shanahan mortgaged the Redskins and his own coaching future to instead trade-up to select Robert Griffith III in the 2012 draft, a move that flamed out after only one year due to a serious knee injury sustained by the QB.
“I think Peyton was disappointed,” Shanahan told The Athletic. “Kyle [Shanahan] and I were kind of surprised that he still wanted to meet with us. I can remember talking with Elway one time not long ago. He said, ‘Mike, do you realize that Peyton I think was going to go to your place? I think he really wanted to go to your place more than our place.’ I said, ‘Really? I didn’t know that.’ And that came from John. I knew we were fairly close.”
Manning also noted that the bond and mutual understanding between the parties started to take real shape once Mike’s son Kyle, who was Washington’s offensive coordinator at the time, got involved. That’s when they started to watch game film and talk offensive schemes during a break in talks with John Elway and the Broncos.
“While I was in Denver, I had a little lull there before I left,” Manning recalled. “I went over to Mike Shanahan’s house and visited with Mike and Kyle Shanahan, and we sat in their den watching film. Kyle went over their offense. I was really impressed with Kyle…I had known Mike for a long time, played for him at a Pro Bowl, and we’ve stayed in touch, and so I felt comfortable talking to them.”
Only now with Manning opening up more about his relationship with Mike Shanahan and his son in the wake of the RoF announcement do the loose threads of friendship, trust, and football compatibility all come together. Manning made that clear that he also had a deep understanding and admiration for how Coach Shanahan constructed and coached his teams in the best way possible.
“Mike was very innovative, he was always really into adapting to changing times to base his offense on what his players on that team did well,” Manning told the team site. ”Although, he was also excellent at bringing in players that were gonna be able to, you know…that certain type of running backs. Might not have to be a 1st round pick, but you take Terrell Davis who they got in the 6th round…you find guys who fit the scheme.”
Manning’s respect for the game, total dedication, and attention to detail is legendary, it has always centered on him embracing and learning from the major figures and brightest minds in the game. Watching how Shanahan sought to coach unselfish and intelligent players, from his receivers to the guys in the trenches, always appealed to Manning’s own work ethic and football ethos…and it still does.
“The offensive lineman had to be smart…they had to be tough guys…they had to be athletic,” Manning told Broncos TV. “Receivers had to be willing to block, you know a lot of receivers, they want to catch passes…if you didn’t block in a Mike Shanahan offense you weren’t going to see the field. So, these things showed up year after year with his teams. It just tells you the quality of the coach he was and that his hands were on everything, bringing in the players and also developing players as well.”
One can certainly speculate that Shanahan’s end game in DC would have played out a whole lot differently had his friendship with Manning borne fruit and became a player and coach relationship. On the flip side, Elway’s great free agency swoop that led to Super Bowl 50 success would also be subject to a much less glorious rewrite.