DENVER (CBS4) – When the Broncos announced last week that long-time owner Pat Bowlen would step down from his duties as CEO, Mike Shanahan reflected on his time as Broncos head coach with CBS4’s Vic Lombardi. Shanahan, who coached the Broncos from 1995 to 2008, spoke mostly about high-level, franchise-defining decisions.
Shanahan lauds Bowlen for walking a fine line in ownership: knowing when to be active in the franchise’s decisions and when to be hands-off. A telling example, for Shanahan, was the renegotiation of Terrell Davis’ contract. The running back signed a nine-year deal worth approximately $56 million prior to the 1998 season but retired following the 2001 season after a few injury-plagued years.
“We made the decision to kind of tear up Terrell Davis’ contact. That was a big decision at that time,” Shanahan said. “We gave him a contract that we thought was fitting for what he’d done for this organization.”
Shanahan remembers the conversation with Bowlen: “I walked in there and said, ‘Pat I’d like to talk to you. We’re making a decision with Terrell Davis. We think he should have a new contract. This is what I thought was fair.’ ”
Bowlen didn’t even look at the contract.
Shanahan asked: “You don’t want to look at it?”
Bowlen’s response: “What do you think I hired you for?”
Those decisions — signing big names and providing support for your All-Pros — mark a team’s fortunes. Fast-forward nearly a decade a half and witness the Broncos’ luring of Peyton Manning.
“To get a guy like that is really hard to do,” Shanahan said.
WEB EXTRA: Shanahan Talks Manning, Broncos
He notes the Broncos success with Manning but argues the team needs to take pressure off him by strengthening the running game and the defense.
“If you’ve got to play an eight-man front against Peyton Manning, you’re going to be in for a long day. And (having) running games going takes away the pressure of the quarterback,” he said. “If your defense is playing well, obviously it takes away a lot of pressure where you’re not always going to have to score touchdowns. And I know that’s (John Elway’s) goal.”
That was his approach with Elway in the ’90s, too — making Davis the feature of the team’s offensive scheme: “Your job as a head coach is to give him the support that the quarterback doesn’t have to do everything. He knew we were going to emphasize that running game. It took a little pressure of John.”
The Broncos weren’t the only team seeking Manning’s services. Shanahan’s Washington squad approached him, too, but decided to bank on the long-term future with Robert Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Shanahan said they chose to draft Griffin before talking to Manning, but they still met.
“Knowing that his brother (Giants quarterback Eli Manning) is in the NFC East, we knew it was going to be a longshot. He was nice enough to talk to us, but at the end of the day, I tried to put myself in his footsteps. There’s no way, if I’m a father, why would you go to play in the NFC East against your brother? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Shanahan said he wants to coach again, but he’s waiting for the right opportunity.
“I’m not going to force it,” he said.