I have mixed feelings on Shanahan. I think he's a very good coach. I think he looked worse than he was the last decade because he stopped being able to use a HOF QB and TD. The thing is that almost every head coach looks that way when they lose those guys.
I loved Shanahan the coach. He WAS the Broncos to me. It was even mentioned "Mike Shanahan's Broncos." I liked his predictable answers in press conferences. I liked his commercials on the local radio. I liked how he could take any scrub and scheme them into the top third in the league at what they do. Shanahan was routinely called the hardest coach to game plan for. He even have advice to some of our coordinators for things that can help confuse QB's. There is no question in my mind that Shanahan is still one of the greatest NFL football minds working right now.
Shanahan the GM, on the other hand is another story. His draft picks were, for the most part, poor. He was a victim of his own success. Because he could take any guy on offense and make them at least decent, there were a lot of teams that made the wild card slot that would have been 6 win teams on if they were being coached by most of the other coaches in the league. This would leave us fairly distantly out of reach of the real blue-chip players every year. Consider it took McDaniels to give us Von Miller!
A lot of his coaching hires were rooted in nepotism and personal familiarity. Sometimes it worked out, like with Bates as OC. Sometimes it was a disaster, like with Slowick and son-of-slowick. SoCal thinks that Bowlen held money back from Shanny. Everyone but him knows that's not the case. I do think Ted Sundquist's fail quotient was quite large and may have negatively impacted a lot of what he did, however. It's tough to prove because no one knows where Ted began and Shanny ended, and Shanahan had carte blance, so at the end of the day the buck stopped with him, but that's my own personal theory.
Shanahan would throw money at marginal players in hopes of turning them into great players. He would take too many chances on locker room cancers and it would toxify the locker room. He was a risk taker, but they often didn't work out. It's one of the reasons he is a great play-caller. He was very good at trades, which makes sense. He would polish up some turds and then sell his pretend porceline and get great value in return. He also was one of the best at signing and developing undrafted rookies. Remember this guy wanted Tony Romo. However the draft free agency issues doomed him as a GM.
Free agency as a viable way to get "great" players all but died after 2002 when the cap grew so much that every team had the room to sign their good draft picks. We rarely had any good draft picks so we had to look elsewhere. I knew that in order for the Broncos to get out of their rut, Shanahan the GM would have to go.
I'm someone that believed, as Bowlen said, the divorce will be best for both parties. Shanahan was able to get away from his game and reflect. Now he has two possible franchise QB's (not saying they're the greatest, just that they can be franchise QB's - especially for Shanahan) and is the only team in that whole division who seems to have a clear identity and direction. I don't believe Shanahan would make the HOF today if he retired. But if he makes it to another SB, or puts together a five year stretch of 9-12 wins with the Skins, I think he gets in. I will always love and root for Shanahan. I hate the guy he works for, but am willing to look past that to Shanny succeed.