John Elway tried to get Mike Shanahan back to coach Broncos, team CEO refused it

Mike Shanahan and Broncos GM John Elway reportedly talked about Shanahan returning to coach the Broncos in 2018. (AP)
Mike Shanahan and Broncos GM John Elway reportedly talked about Shanahan returning to coach the Broncos in 2018. (AP)

We almost had a bombshell of an NFL story from Denver about a year ago.

According to longtime Colorado columnist Woody Paige of the Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway and Mike Shanahan “seriously discussed” last year a deal to bring Shanahan back to coach the team. Paige cited “five independent and reputable sources.” One source told Paige that Shanahan, who coached the Broncos from 1995-2008, was “so close” to being the Broncos coach in 2018.

Paige wrote the contract was not finalized a year ago because Broncos CEO Joe Ellis refused to agree to fire Joseph or hire Shanahan.

Also in the story, Paige wrote that Kirk Cousins met with Shanahan at the Denver restaurant of the former Broncos coach and told him he would play for the Broncos at a discounted rate if Shanahan was Denver’s coach. Shanahan coached Cousins with the Washington Redskins. Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings this past offseason.

Instead, Ellis said no to hiring Shanahan again and Vance Joseph was brought back for another season. Joseph’s seat is white hot again after consecutive losses to the 49ers and Browns.

Mike Shanahan won two Super Bowls in Denver

Shanahan is the greatest coach in Broncos history, having won two Super Bowls at the end of Elway’s career. The relationship between Shanahan and Elway was long rumored to be icy after Elway retired — it’s probably not a coincidence Elway didn’t return to the Broncos in an official role until Shanahan’s run as coach was done — but it seems that has thawed.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport confirmed Paige’s story.

It’s worth wondering if those talks might be revisited. Joseph seems unlikely to keep the job for a third season. Paige wrote that Shanahan wouldn’t discuss any negotiations last year, due to respect for the team and “possibly because he could be one of the leading contenders for the job this time around.”

Broncos seem unlikely to keep Vance Joseph

A second time around for Shanahan with the Broncos does seem unlikely. Paige wrote in his column that he doesn’t expect it to happen. He wrote that Ellis pushed for Shanahan to be fired after the 2008 season. Shanahan’s time with the Washington Redskins didn’t end well. He has one playoff win since Super Bowl XXXIII at the end of the 1998 season, Elway’s last game as Broncos quarterback.

But the story does state that Ellis is ready for Joseph to be fired, something he wasn’t on board with a year ago.

The idea of Shanahan, at age 66, coming back to coach the Broncos 10 years after he was fired, is wild. But apparently it almost happened a year ago.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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