If the Rocky Mountain News is to be believed, the firing of Mike Shanahan after 14 years and back-to-back Super Bowls came down to an ultimatum over Broncos’ D-coordinator Bob Slowik. Owner Pat Bowlen wanted him out; the Rat Fink wouldn’t fire him, even after this horrendous defensive season. So, out goes the coach that helped John Elway and Terrell Davis take Denver to the Promised Land.
Truth is, it probably should have happened a couple of years ago. Maybe not the firing, but at least a reduction in the Fink’s authority; a removal of the exec VP of football ops title he held — with an Isiah-style plan, rebuild in one or two years or you’re done. The trends in the NFL have changed again; coaches who hold final personnel say are an endangered species. Only Coach Hobo continues to wield this power in New England; someone will give Bill Cowher similar power to return to the ranks, but that’s it.
When Shanahan fired GM Ted Sundquist last year (and I say Shanahan did it rather than Bowlen for a reason), all the focus went on him and a very visible inability to identify defensive talent and the right coaches to bring them along. Elvis Dumervil and D.J. Williams were the only two recent draft picks on defense that turned out ot be anything decent. (Verdict’s still out on Marcus Thomas; Spencer Larsen could be really good.)
You never want to be the person pulling for the coach who won two titles to get fired, but I had come to that conclusion after watching seasons where the Fink blew through DCs every year with no defensive improvement; at the very least, he needed a GM to check and balance.
Shanahan wanted all the responsibility, accepted it, and did well with legendary talent. Now, he has to accept the loss of his job for sustained mediocrity. Such is life in the NFL, and maybe, just maybe, the Broncos needed to cut losses now and start over, because no matter how promising that offense looked with Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, and Tony Scheffler, the defense would have let them down — and after so many DCs, that goes straight to the man who wanted all that authority and responsibility.
So, thanks for the titles and the aggressive play-calling, Coach, but the franchise needs to go somewhere you can’t take it any more. It happens. Nothing can last forever when you go 1-4 in the playoffs in the 10 seasons after the glory years.