As big of a Denver Broncos fan as I am, I’ve previously opted not to use my blog publisher as a means for expressing sentiments on the topic. Sports opens up a whole, new subject of conversation I’m choosing not to use my blog forum for at this time. However, I feel compelled at this point to articulate some feelings I have about the Broncos that spill over beyond sports to the subject I do write about, on occasion, of leadership and management.
When the Broncos won back to back Super Bowls before John Elway’s retirement in 1999, I articulated loudly that I was at peace with whatever happened to the Broncos from that point forward. To my surprise though, and to my dismay, I have watched in agony a Broncos team that has been mired in mediocrity for the past nine years. In fairness, the ’99 team was riddled with injuries (including a career-threatening one to Terrell Davis) and a post-Elway hangover that didn’t really count. On the other hand, this year’s pathetic squad has also endured its share of injuries but has no good excuse for its generally poor play. Except for one main one. And, oddly enough, one that’s not being talked about hardly at all–not on the Denver radio stations, in the Denver newspapers or really even on the popular football blogs including Pro Football Talk.
I’m referring to an increasing need for Mike Shanahan to leave his post as the head coach of the Broncos. This notion is generally startling when I mention it to folks around Denver but I don’t understand why: the Bronx have won one playoff game since Elway retired, all facets of their game this year (O, D, Special Teams) were ranked towards the bottom of the league, their defensive and offensive lines are in virtual shambles, expensive pick-ups including Travis Henry didn’t pay dividends at all this year, etc etc.
I, honestly, felt like Shanahan should have been gone earlier this decade but was willing to be patient especially after the ’06 team (which also didn’t make the playoffs after an embarrasing home loss in week 17 to the Niners) showed signs of great, youthful potential with the likes of Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Mike Bell (poor Mike Bell–where have you gone in just one year’s time?) Now, however, after this pathetic season–what excuse can be used for Shanahan now? He is the longest tenured coach in the league and deserved some significant time to rebuild and grow a new foundation for the team after Elway’s departure. But, nine years? In the business world, I can say with a high degree of certainty that a business CEO would never get nine years of patience from a Board of Directors if the company underperformed for such a period of time. No matter how successful they had been in the distant past.
I do understand that owner Pat Bowlen won’t be willing to fire Shanahan and I fully comprehend that notion. But, I believe that it’s time for Shanahan to acknowledge that his leadership has run its course, as does happen in the world of sports and business alike, and recognize that new blood at the top is exactly what this rebuilding organization requires. He would depart now, disappointed I’m sure, but respected and able to obtain future employment with almost any other organization in the league if he was interested in the future. However, another season in ’08 like this one in ’07 will cause collateral damage that may leave Shanahan, among others, unable to even faintly recall those great years of the late 1990s and his accomplishments a a leader of the organization at that time.