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Friday, February 13, 2009
Where will Mike Shanahan end up?

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Now that every NFL team has a head coach (all of the jobs were filled when Oakland and Kansas City made hires last week), barring an unforeseen bombshell, Mike Shanahan will be taking the 2009 season off.

 
  Rick Stewart/Getty Images
  Mike Shanahan will likely be a hot coaching candidate following the 2009 season.

It will be Shanahan's first season away from being a head coach in the NFL since he was hired by the Denver Broncos in 1995. Denver unexpectedly fired Shanahan on Dec. 30 after 14 seasons with the team.

Shanahan said shortly after he was fired that he will definitely coach in the NFL again, and that he would require a special situation to coach in 2009. Several teams poked around Shanahan, but he opted to wait for an ideal situation.

He will now be part of an all-star cast of Super Bowl-winning coaches who could come back to the league in 2010. The others are Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren and Jon Gruden. Shanahan will be as sought after as any of the coaches because of his pedigree, his offensive resume and his ability to lead a franchise.

Here is a look, alphabetically, at some of the potential fits for the former longtime Denver czar after the 2009 season:

Cincinnati Bengals

Why: If the Bengals struggle again, coach Marvin Lewis will likely be in real trouble. The Bengals have a good passing game and Shanahan would have an instant centerpiece in quarterback Carson Palmer. Just like in Denver, Shanahan's biggest issue would be defense.

Stumbling block: Hiring a big-name, big-dollar coach such as Shanahan would be way out of character for the Bengals and Shanahan would likely have sexier options.

Chances: Not high.

Dallas Cowboys

Why: This is the sexiest possibility for Shanahan, and it has to be considered a favorite for his next landing spot. It has already been reported that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones could consider Shanahan next year if coach Wade Phillips fails to deliver big in 2009. Shanahan, many league insiders believe, would be a perfect fit with Jones.

Shanahan would love the spotlight that comes with being the Cowboys' coach and he and Jones are very friendly. Shanahan also would crave the chance to work with the offensive weapons Dallas possesses. He is a big Tony Romo fan (he tried to sign him out of Eastern Illinois, which by the way is also Shanahan's alma mater) and Shanahan wouldn't be scared off by the presence of Terrell Owens. Shanahan entertained the thought of bringing Owens to Denver three years ago.

Stumbling block: Jones has publicly said he may be wary of bringing in a big-name coach. Also, if the Cowboys make a long playoff run in 2009, all bets are likely off.

 
  AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
  Mike Shanahan won a pair of Super Bowls with John Elway.

Chances: Pretty strong.

Minnesota Vikings

Why: Shanahan has Minneapolis ties and he'd ignite some excitement in a team that needs a spark on offense, especially in the passing game. The defense is set in Minnesota. The team needs some life on offense. Imagine what a run-game guru like Shanahan could do with Adrian Peterson.

Stumbling block: Vikings coach Brad Childress won't be in trouble unless he takes a few steps back. Childress put himself in good graces again with a division title in 2008. Plus, the Vikings could have issues raising the funds to entice a name of Shanahan's caliber.

Chances: It would be an upset.

San Diego Chargers

Why: Some around the league think in the back of Shanahan's mind that this could be his dream job. The Chargers are loaded. They have a star quarterback in Philip Rivers and they are in the AFC West, where Shanahan would have the chance to torment Al Davis and Pat Bowlen, the two men who fired him.

Stumbling block: The only way this could be possible is if the Chargers lose the division. Let's face it: Because the rest of the division is so weak, if San Diego doesn't win the division, changes could be on the way. But with a healthy Shawne Merriman coming back and better overall health, San Diego enters the season as a heavy favorite to win the AFC West again.

Chances: If the right things happened, it could fall into place.

  Mike Shanahan interview
  NFL.com Video
  Adam Schefter has a one-on-one interview with former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.

Washington Redskins

Why: If Jim Zorn doesn't turn the corner in a tough division, it wouldn't be a shock if Daniel Snyder made a move. Hiring Shanahan would be a big splash that Snyder has been known for. Shanahan has friends in the Redskins' organization, and he would be comfortable working with Clinton Portis again. The idea of working with quarterback Jason Campbell would likely be appealing as well.

Stumbling block: Maybe Snyder and Shanahan couldn't work together. He is used to a hands-off boss in Bow
len.

Chances: Don't sleep on this possibility.