Immediately before Mike Shanahan turned the Denver Broncos into back-to-back Super Bowl champions in the late 1990s and then proceeded to spend 14 years nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the Broncos were coached by a laid-back, good-natured man who had made his reputation as a strong defensive coordinator.
Once again, Wade Phillips should be worried.
With Shanahan hitting the streets Tuesday after Broncos owner Pat Bowlen fired him, you have to think that the ears of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones perked up more than the year he had plastic surgery.
Word around the NFL is that Shanahan will have another job soon and might have set up something before Bowlen dropped the axe. The Rocky Mountain News reported that Shanahan forced Bowlen’s hand by refusing to fire defensive coordinator Bob Slowik.
It’s odd given that Shanahan has treated defensive coordinators like Kleenex in recent years (three in the past three seasons) and lends credence to the notion that Shanahan has another option.
Meanwhile, Jones has told anyone who will listen that he’s not changing coaches. He has said it more than once, including before the end of the season and again after it. Furthermore, neither of the other high-priced coaches on the market, Bill Cowher and Mike Holmgren, fit for Jones and the Cowboys.
But it doesn’t take long to realize that Shanahan is a perfect fit for what ails the football team from the other D city that celebrates the ranching life.
It’s time for Jones to cowboy up and herd in the stray bronco. Or else Jones can sit back and watch hundreds of millions of dollars he has spent on players and the new palace they play in go to waste.
While there are plenty of Shanahan detractors who claim that he has been nothing special since John Elway was his quarterback, those people don’t get the big picture. Here’s a quick list of why Shanahan should be so compelling:
He’s a disciplinarian
In just about every tangible way, Shanahan is the anti-Phillips. Shanahan is uptight and combative, almost to a fault. He doesn’t tolerate fools. In that way, he can rein in the many egos that have run over Phillips. Just as important, Phillips is kidding himself with the idea that he’ll regain control of the locker room.
On Monday, Phillips told Dallas media: “If it means being more demanding, more whatever, I have to get it done.” The follow-up question to that was how Phillips can do that while being true to himself.
“My personality is probably not going to change as much as what you ask them to do … My personality of looking like I’m laid back all the time, that’s not going to change,” Phillips said.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take an MBA from Harvard to understand that it’s hard for any manager to control employees once they know you’re not a tough guy. Phillips can ask for anything he wants. He’s just not going to get it when he really needs it.
Shanahan will. Or he’ll put his foot somewhere way up somebody’s backside until he does.
Shanahan is a larger than life personality
During Jones’ 20 years with the Cowboys, his best success has come with the likes of Jimmy Johnson or Bill Parcells riding herd over the collection of stars that Jones likes to assemble.
Shanahan is cut from the same cloth as Johnson and Parcells, bowing to no one. In Phillips, the Cowboys have a guy who didn’t command as much respect as offensive coordinator Jason Garrett when HBO’s “Hard Knocks” was taping the team in training camp.
Shanahan already has Terrell Owens’ respect
When Owens was on the open market in 2006, the Broncos were the only team that brought him in for a look. That was after Shanahan expressed interest. Ultimately, Shanahan refused to pay the price Owens got from Dallas, but Shanahan at least paid his respect to Owens. That will go a long way with getting Owens to be on the same page as Shanahan. While it might not work over the long term (nothing usually does with Owens), it certainly could work in the next season or two when Dallas needs to win or risk wasting the talent Jones has collected.
Shanahan knows offense
Be it Owens, quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten or whoever, none of them can question Shanahan’s ability to game-plan or call plays. Even with the limited squad Shanahan had to work with this season in Denver, he could run plays and put pressure on opposing teams.
Furthermore, when Shanahan is at his best, he’s a run-first play-caller, and the Cowboys have a run-first team. Armed with backs Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice running behind that big offensive line featuring Flozell Adams and Leonard Davis, Shanahan has a good mix of players to operate his type of game. Yes, the pass blocking is suspect, but Shanahan has the ideas and the tools to cover that up.
Shanahan can’t ask for control over personnel
Unlike Cowher and Holmgren, who both want to buy the groceries, Shanahan can’t do that right now. Shanahan’s biggest problem as a coach was Shanahan the general manager. He botched the draft and self-destructed in free agency. Shanahan also mangled his defense year after year by changing coordinators at the drop of a hat.
In that way, he fits with Jones, who refuses to give up control over personnel. Not that Jones has been brilliant with the draft or free agency (he has yet to win a playoff game since Johnson was picking the players), but there’s no question that the Cowboys are a talented bunch. This is the same team that went 13-3 in 2007 and looked like it could roll to the Super Bowl before being upset by the New York Giants.
In other words, even if Shanahan wanted to be in charge of players, there isn’t much for him to do. Dallas is ready-made to win.
And as Shanahan showed in the late 1990s, he can win with a good team.
Even if he has to run over Phillips to get the gig. Case for Shanahan sporting a Cowboys hat - NFL - Yahoo! Sports