So much for the Coach of the Year.
This year's top three finishers for the annual award are out of the playoffs, though that's not the issue here. Losing happens, and, yes, either Chicago's Lovie Smith or the Colts' Tony Dungy was the right choice for the award. Heck, you can live with New England's Bill Belichick or Seattle's Mike Holmgren, too.
|Formidable Mike Shanahan somehow was shut out by 50 voters after what have been his best coaching job. (AP)|
In fact, there were plenty of people -- myself included -- who didn't have the Broncos reaching the playoffs. I didn't like the offseason acquisitions of Cleveland's defensive linemen, and I liked even less what I saw from this club in its season-opening defeat at Miami -- one of the worst losses ever for a Shanahan-coached outfit.
But within a week Denver was back on track, knocking off San Diego with an inspired second-half comeback and winning all but two of its remaining games. Now Denver is in the AFC Championship Game, with Shanahan one victory from his third Super Bowl with the Broncos.
Remarkable? I'd say. And it's time Mike Shanahan is recognized for the accomplishment. In fact, it's time other coaches are, too. With all of the talk about guys like Smith, Dungy and Belichick this season, we forget there were others who were just as deserving, but who didn't gain a single vote.
These are their stories:
Mike Shanahan, Denver
I tell you what really sold me on Shanahan this year: That last game in San Diego when the Broncos had nothing to gain, and the Chargers were trying to nail down a 10-win season. So Denver plays its jayvees, San Diego plays its starters and ... bang! Just like that ... Denver wins.
And the game wasn't close.
When you look at what Shanahan did this year, you realize he's taken for granted. He dumped his leading rusher for some, how should we say this, questionable defensive linemen from Cleveland, and he stuck by a quarterback who stood out in one category -- interceptions, where he tied for the league lead.
So what happens? Shanahan gets drilled by Miami. He loses on the last play to the New York Giants. And he loses to Kansas City when Mike Anderson is short on a fourth-and-1 with Denver driving near the end of the fourth quarter.
And that's it, folks. Other than that, it was nothing but gravy.
Shanahan beat the Chargers twice. He beat New England. He beat Jacksonville. In Jacksonville. He beat Washington. He beat Dallas. On Thanksgiving Day, no less. When the regular season was through, he was 3-1 against playoff-bound teams and 7-3 against opponents with winning records.