The return of Andy Reid to Philadelphia, after 14 seasons and one Super Bowl appearance with the Eagles, was a huge story when the Chiefs played there earlier this year.
Mike Shanahan, after 14 seasons and the only two Super Bowl wins in Broncos history, is returning to Denver this week as coach of the Redskins. That story has barely registered with anyone.
Perhaps Denver is burned out on homecomings after Peyton Manning returned to Indianapolis last week, but there hasn't been a ton of buzz around the city for Shanahan's return. The main reason is that a lot of time, relative to the NFL, has passed since he was Broncos coach. He was fired at the end of the 2008 season, and is in his fourth season with the Redskins already.
Even Shanahan understood that takes some of the edge off his return. In his press conference, he was asked just three questions about coaching at Denver for the first time since he was fired. He was asked seven questions on the team's defensive backs and their hitting techniques.
"You know it’s been four-and-a-half years, so it’s not like it was yesterday or the year before," Shanahan said about his return, according to the team's transcript. "So, I think it’s a little bit different than what normally happens when you’re gone for six months or nine months."
The Broncos have a short video tribute planned, which Shanahan said was a nice gesture. It is well deserved, too.
Although it seems like ages ago, Shanahan brought two championships to Denver. He was the coach who helped beloved quarterback John Elway get over the hump and become a champion. Shanahan is the greatest coach in Broncos history by a mile. Shanahan's 146 wins is the most for a Broncos coach and Dan Reeves is second at 117. Third place is 104 wins behind Shanahan.
It went sour at the end. He won just one playoff game from Super Bowl XXXIII at the end of the 1998 season to his firing 10 years later. Shanahan's Broncos had some historic late-season collapses. In his final season, the Broncos became the first team in NFL history to lead its division by three games with three to play and not make the playoffs. Shanahan, who had final say over personnel decisions, ultimately couldn't overcome his bad draft picks (Maurice Clarett in the third round, ugh) and foolish signings (Daryl Gardener comes to mind).
The Broncos have moved on. There's a mania over Manning and the team's chances of winning its first Super Bowl since Shanahan's second title. Very few players remain from Shanahan's last team. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard, cornerback Champ Bailey and kicker Matt Prater are the most prominent holdovers. Most of the roster has no connection to Shanahan, except maybe eating at the Denver steakhouse that bears his name.
Still, Shanahan spent most of his coaching life in Denver. It'll be a special moment to come back.
“It’s something that you look forward to," Shanahan said. "You’ve got so many friends there. You spend 21 years, you raise your kids there, people that you’ve spent a lot of time with – a lot of great experiences there. Seven as an assistant coach, 14 as a head coach and that’s been our home. Yeah, it’s something that you look forward to and what a great experience with the fans both as an assistant and a head coach. Yeah, we’ve got a lot of great memories there, no question about it."
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