ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos rolled out the welcome mat Saturday for the winningest coach in franchise history, as Mike Shanahan attended his first Broncos practice since he was fired as head coach in 2008.
Shanahan, who was 146-91 (including playoffs) in 14 seasons as Broncos coach and a two-time Super Bowl winner, was fired by then-owner Pat Bowlen after the team’s 8-8 finish in 2008. Shanahan had attended several team functions through the years, including games, a ceremony to honor the Super Bowl winners and the dedication of the team’s fieldhouse, but this was the first time he had been at the team’s practice field since he was the coach.
He also attended Bowlen’s funeral last month.
Just a few Denver locals watching #BroncosCamp.
Welcome back, Coach Shanahan! pic.twitter.com/KumzluUFOj
“I was glad to have Mike here. I invited him. I’m glad he could come,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “I invited him for the spring work, and the schedules never matched up, but I was glad he was here. I think it was good he was here. Mike’s got a big part in the rich history of this franchise. He’s welcome to come here any time he wants.”
Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway and offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello also had hands in arranging the visit. Elway had talked extensively with Shanahan about a potential return in recent years, but it didn’t come to fruition.
Shanahan arrived Saturday shortly after practice had started and quickly moved to his usual vantage point behind the team’s offense. He spoke with Elway and others during practice before going inside the team’s complex to see staff members who still remain from his time with the team.
Fangio, who said they go back “far as competitors, but not long as friends; we’ve gotten to know each other the last five, eight years,” stood with Shanahan and Elway during a special-teams period late in practice.
Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was on Shanahan’s staff from 1995 to 1999, and assistant offensive line coach Chris Kuper was a Shanahan draft pick in 2006. Trainer Steve Antonopulos, who will be Bowlen’s presenter for his Hall of Fame enshrinement next month, was also with the team during Shanahan’s entire tenure.