Mike Shanahan says he was close to re-joining Broncos as head coach in 2018
Shanahan guided the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in the late '90s
Mike Shanahan recently attended his first Broncos practice since 2008, his final year as Denver's head coach. Shanahan, who watched his son (49ers' head coach Kyle Shanahan) practice against his former team on Saturday, admitted that he nearly had a second stint as the Broncos head coach before the team instead decided to stay with Vance Joseph for the 2018 season.
Shanahan, whose 14 seasons with the Broncos included back-to-back Super Bowl victories in the late '90s, said that he "was close" to re-joining the Broncos last offseason.
"I was close, I was close," Shanahan said, per ESPN's Jeff Legwold. "One thing that has to happen is you all have to be on the same page. One thing you've got to make sure of when you are a head football coach that the owner, the GM, the quarterback are all on the same page. And if it doesn't happen the chances of you winning the Super Bowl aren't very good. ... I had a great conversation with John as everybody knows, it didn't work out, sometimes it works out for the right reasons."
The Broncos, despite positive talks with Shanahan, stuck with Joseph, who was fired this past offseason after Denver went 6-10 while missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Denver replaced Joseph with Vic Fangio, who served as a defensive coordinator in San Francisco (he helped guide the 49ers to an NFC title in 2012) and Chicago.
Shanahan, meanwhile, has remained out of coaching after things fell through in Denver. He hasn't coached since 2013, when he was fired by the Redskins following a 3-13 season. Washington was coming off a 10-6 season that included an NFC East division title.
"You always miss coaching, but it's been five years," Shanahan said on Saturday. "I made the decision a long time ago, right when I got fired (in Washington), I said if I didn't get the right job right away, where you had a chance to win a Super Bowl, that I was probably going to do what I'm doing, being a dad, kind of following your son, the organization, being a part of it."
Shanahan coached in four Super Bowls during his coaching career. He served as Denver's offensive coordinator when the Broncos advanced to their first of three Super Bowls in a four-year span in 1986. It was Shanahan calling the plays when Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway orchestrated "The Drive" during Denver's legendary comeback victory over Cleveland in the AFC Championship Game.
Shanahan won his first Super Bowl in 1994, serving as the 49ers' offensive coordinator during the team's most recent Super Bowl run. With Shanahan's guidance, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young won league MVP honors that season. His six touchdown passes in the 49ers' victory over the Chargers in that year's Super Bowl remains a Super Bowl record.
His success in San Francisco earned him the job as Denver's head coach in 1995. After a 7-9 rookie campaign, Shanahan's Broncos, buoyed by a little-known running back named Terrell Davis, won 13 regular season games before being upset by the Jaguars in the divisional round of the playoffs. Denver made up for that disappointment the following season, routing Jacksonville in the Wild-Card round before defeating Kansas City and Pittsburgh on the road before shocking Brett Favre and the defending champion Packers in Super Bowl XXXII.
The '98 Broncos rolled through the regular season, winning their first 13 games and finishing with a 14-2 record behind the play of Davis, who earned league MVP honors that year after rushing for 2,008 yards and 23 touchdowns. Davis led the Broncos to return trip to the Super Bowl, where Elway stole the show by winning Super Bowl MVP honors in his final NFL game.
While they remained competitive, Shanahan's Broncos did not return to the Super Bowl during his final decade with the club. The closest they came was in 2005, getting to the AFC title game before losing to the eventual champion Steelers. In the 2008 offseason, following a third consecutive non-playoff season, Denver fired Shanahan, who compiled a 146-91 overall record with the Broncos.
Time has healed any wounds that may have previously existed between Shanahan and the Broncos. And while he will probably not have a second stint as Denver's head coach, Shanahan seems content to catch an occasional Broncos' practice from time to time.
"Mike's always been a big part of this organization," said Elway, who is now the team's general manager/president of football operations. "And it's nice to get him back out, in my mind it was never really closed, but it was nice to get the communication back -- I've played some golf with Mike ... it's always good to see him out here because I always enjoy talking football with him ... glad he was able to come back and know that this is home to him.''
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