|12-31-2008, 12:30 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2008
Kiszla is often an azz but I think he makes some good points in today's column.
There was only one way Pat Bowlen was going to win control of the NFL team he long owned in name only.
Fire Mike Shanahan.
On a Black Tuesday in Broncos Land, the best coach in franchise history was reluctantly shown the exit so Denver could finally enter the 21st century in the way it conducts football business.
Who becomes the next coach of the Broncos?
If that's your question, bubba, then I'm afraid you're looking in the wrong place for the answer on how Denver returns to championship contention.
Because what the Broncos need far more than former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher or some other big name to roam the sideline is playing talent to run for 1,200 yards, sack the quarterback or nail a clutch field goal.
If Bowlen wants to spend $10 million to fix what's wrong with the Broncos, he would be far wiser to gamble his money to lure Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth from the Tennessee Titans as a free agent rather than trying to coax Cowher off his couch.
This is a franchise that needs to again focus on the acquisition and development of impact players rather than relying on scripts, schemes and videotape. For way too long in Denver, football has been way too much about the coach.
While Shanahan began building his own 35,000-square-foot castle in Colorado, it became apparent during the past 12 months the emperor had no clothes.
Too many good people, from former general manager Ted Sundquist to veteran safety John Lynch and cornerback Domonique Foxworth, all men who dared to disagree with Shanahan or challenge his authority, were either sent packing or walked out on the coach.
More important than the absence of their contributions was the problem the departures of Sundquist, Lynch and Foxworth so clearly illustrated. An organization that sees its power shrinking tends to become more insular.
Shanahan became an island unto himself.
And the coach looked very alone Sunday night as San Diego trashed the Broncos 52-21.
Here is when we should have known the Shanahan era was at its end: After an ill-conceived play resulted in a weak incompletion by Jay Cutler within the red zone during the second half, the young quarterback turned to the Denver sideline, threw up his arms in disgust and then dismissed his coaches with a go-away wave of the hand.
Right then, right there, Shanahan had lost his authority.
Maybe the trick of being Shanahan was how a thin-framed man had always seemed to tower over huge NFL players. After Denver got trounced by the Chargers, however, I had never seen him look so haggard, so gray or so small.
Deep in the bowels of the old stadium where the Broncos once won a Super Bowl, steam from the dressing-room showers hissed at Shanahan as he blamed himself for the humiliating defeat. Behind a curtain and around the corner, Bowlen could be spied with an ear glued to his cellphone and looking extremely glum.
Less than 48 hours later, Bowlen finally made the difficult call. The owner wrestled control of his football team back from Shanahan, who made the mistake of guaranteeing a playoff berth in 2008 he was not able to deliver.
Bowlen's first priority should be hiring a general manager who can quickly restock a roster decidedly lacking in difference-makers not named Brandon Marshall, Ryan Clady or Cutler.
Is there really a Denver defensive player under age 30 with legitimate Pro Bowl potential? While other personnel mistakes have inspired louder hoots of derision, perhaps the biggest recent waste of Bowlen's fortune is when Shanahan handed a new five-year contract worth more than $30 million to linebacker D.J. Williams, whose five-year NFL career has been a case study in how awesome athleticism does not always translate into fantastic football.
Big-name coach? That's not the answer. What Bowlen needs is a frontoffice architect who can build a stronger roster of players than New England's Scott Pioli, Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome or Indianapolis' Bill Polian. If Pioli is going to leave the Patriots, let it be for Denver, not Cleveland.
It is impossible to dismiss Shanahan or his achievements.
Without Shanahan, Broncomaniacs might still be waiting to witness their first victory parade. The coach was as essential to success that made Denver the most feared team of the late 1990s as John Elway or Terrell Davis.
Shanahan, however, should have cashed in on his genius and moved to the Florida Gators or a rebuilding project elsewhere in the pro ranks, because even the message and ideas of a great leader can grow so stale you wonder if term limits should be imposed in the NFL.
Saying goodbye is never easy.
Raise a glass. Shed a tear.
Parting ways with Shanahan made for a Black Tuesday in Broncos Land.
But it was the lone way there could be a fresh, bright-orange dawn on the team's future.