ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As he watched his son coach against the team he guided for 14 seasons Saturday, former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan revealed he was indeed poised to return as the team’s coach before the 2018 season, but that “it didn’t work out.”
The fact Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway had extensive discussions with Shanahan after the Broncos had finished 5-11 in Vance Joseph’s first season as coach has been well known. But Saturday, as Shanahan watched his son Kyle lead the San Francisco 49ers in joint practices against the franchise he led to two Super Bowl wins, Mike Shanahan spoke openly about his near return to the sideline.
“I was close, I was close,” Shanahan said. “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.”
At the time Elway and team CEO Joe Ellis were open to a Shanahan return, but there was some feeling in the organization that Shanahan’s return should only come after a full coaching search with other candidates being interviewed as well. Ellis was also with the team when owner Pat Bowlen fired Shanahan after an 8-8 finish in the 2008 season.
Shortly after the 2017 season ended, and a deal to re-hire Shanahan didn’t happen, Elway announced Joseph would then return for the 2018 season. The Broncos finished 6-10 last season and Joseph was fired as Vic Fangio was hired in January.
While Shanahan had attended a variety of team functions in the years since his firing, he had not attended a Broncos practice since that 2008 season until July 20, just after this year’s training camp opened. Shanahan said Elway, Fangio and offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, who was on Kyle Shanahan’s staff with the 49ers before he was hired by the Broncos, each had a hand in him coming back to practices.
“It’s great to be back … great to see them, great to be a part of it,” Shanahan said Saturday. “… John’s invited me back several times over the years … And Vic and the coaches, with Scangarello being here … it was time to get back here and kind of enjoy it and the years we had with the Broncos.”
Shanahan, at 146-91 (including playoffs) in 14 seasons as Broncos coach and a two-time Super Bowl winner, is the franchise’s all-time winningest coach. Shanahan, who closed out his career with the Redskins from 2010-2013, was asked Saturday if he misses coaching.
“You always miss coaching, but it’s been five years,” Shanahan said. “I made the decision a long time ago, right when I got fired (by the Redskins), 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.”
“Mike’s always been a big part of this organization,” Elway said. “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.”