Last summer, Mike Shanahan attended his first Broncos practice since 2008, his final season as the team's coach. Less than a year later, Shanahan has been selected to the team's Ring of Fame, the Broncos announced Tuesday. The ceremony is set to take place in 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Shanahan is one of seven head coaches in NFL history with 175 wins and two Super Bowl titles. The other coaches are Don Shula, Bill Belichick, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Parcells, and Tom Coughlin. Shula, Landry, Noll, and Parcells have received induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Earlier this year, Shanahan and his son, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, became the first father-son duo in NFL history to appear in a Super Bowl as head coaches.
Shanahan, whose 14 seasons with the Broncos included back-to-back Super Bowl victories in the late '90s, said last summer that he was close to rejoining the Broncos after the 2017 season.
"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 Vance Joseph, who was fired after posting a 6-10 record in 2018. Denver replaced Joseph with Vic Fangio, who had served as a defensive coordinator in San Francisco (he helped guide the 49ers to an NFC title in 2012) and Chicago. After a 3-8 start, the Broncos won four of their final five games to finish the 2019 season with a 7-9 record.
Shanahan, meanwhile, has remained out of coaching. 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 [six] years," Shanahan said. "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 and shocking Brett Favre and the defending champion Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. Against the heavily favored Packers, Shanahan decided to feature his punishing ground attack, led by Davis. With Elway serving in a supporting role, Davis rumbled for 157 yards and three touchdowns, as Green Bay's athletic yet undersized offensive line outlasted the Packers' massive defensive front.
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 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. His name will also stand beside the other great names in Broncos history as a member of the team's Ring of Fame.
"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."