Monday, December 06, 2004

Enter Mike Shanahan? | by Michael

Frankly, I'd like to see us take an NFL coach...a guy like Shanahan or even Fassel. I see Fassel as the safe choice, but Shanahan would be an impressive get and I think would definitely get us turned around. Interestingly enough, former ND assistant coach Kirk Doll is now on Shanahan's staff.

Decade might be enough
By Mark Kiszla
Denver Post Staff Columnist

San Diego - Nobody in America knows more football than Mike Shanahan. But there comes a time when all the X's and O's begin to look the same, and a coach's message is reduced to white noise.

That time is now for Shanahan and the Broncos. The NFL's most beautiful mind has run out of fresh ideas.

After a 20-17 loss to San Diego, there was nothing new for Shanahan to say about this game, his team or where it all went wrong.

"When it was on the line, we couldn't get it done," said Shanahan, uttering an early epitaph for a season of false hope.

Any coach who understands clock management instinctively realizes when it is time to go.
"There's about a 10-year shelf life in this business, maximum," said Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer, employed in the NFL since 1975.

The 10th season of Mike Shanahan in Denver seems doomed to end the same disappointing way as every one of his previous five years.

Departing the visitors locker room, Broncos linebacker Al Wilson angrily slam-dunked his playbook into a hamper.

With the team bus waiting, veteran receiver Rod Smith was too peeved to put his angst into words, declaring: "Got nothing to talk about. You saw the game."

We've all seen this performance by the Broncos too many times. A bad bounce here, a dumb turnover there, no luck anywhere. "Kind of the story of the year," Denver safety Kenoy Kennedy said.

Looking for a fresh edge, Shanahan traded for cornerback Champ Bailey, trying to show the NFL his genius also applies to defense. But the results of this bold experiment prove only that the Broncos are not significantly closer to being serious championship contenders than in any season since John Elway retired.

And so it goes. The story grows older every year.

"At the outset, it takes you a few years to get things in place as a coach. Then, if you have the good fortune to be able to stay there for some considerable length of time, it gets easier. But the minute you start getting into year nine and year 10, it becomes more difficult, because you keep trying to find different ways to get your message across," said Schottenheimer, who has won 174 regular-season games as head coach of four NFL franchises. "But try as you might, and I'm an English major, when you get so far down the road, it's pretty hard to find a new way to convey the message."

With a 9-3 record, the Chargers own a two-game lead in the AFC West. Win the division, and San Diego would be the fourth team to be best in the West since 1999. The other recent champions are Oakland, Kansas City and Seattle, which has moved out of the division.
Denver has been just another NFL franchise for longer than Broncomaniacs would like to admit.
Schottenheimer walked away from the Chiefs after 10 years. "I had a great run in Kansas City and could have stayed there," he said. "But I just felt it was time to give somebody else a chance."

Without a doubt, Shanahan has earned the right to determine when and how he wants to leave the Broncos.

Respect, however, has ceased to be the issue. How satisfying can sneaking in the back door of the NFL playoffs be for Shanahan? The pain of one loss bleeds into the next defeat, until a coach goes numb.

"It will hurt for a while, and we'll see what we can do," said Shanahan, a monotone voice carefully dispensed from a poker face. "You don't know what's going to happen down the road. You can take it a game at a time, and figure it out at the end."

As a man obsessed with control, Shanahan understandably hates unfounded rumors and idle speculation about his future. So we offer this as nothing more than a suggestion for a coach who has gone stale:

Notre Dame needs to start acting like an elite football program that's willing to pay the price for success. Shanahan could use a new challenge and gratification that money can't buy.
While it is conceivable he can discover another 1,000-yard rusher, develop a quarterback who is truly a worthy heir to Elway and maybe lead the Broncos back to the Super Bowl one of these years, the odds are that Shanahan's remaining time in Denver ultimately will end in disappointment.

There is absolutely nothing left for Shanahan to say that the Broncos have not already heard.

Nothing except goodbye.