AFC West: Shanahan fired

Stoops could be on Bowlen's radar

December, 31, 2008
12/31/08
12:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

An intriguing name has come up as a possible candidate to succeed Mike Shanahan as Broncos coach: Bob Stoops.

Two NFL sources said Tuesday that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has long been enamored with Stoops, the coach of Oklahoma. Bowlen is an Oklahoma alumnus. Stoops brought his staff to Denver's training camp for a day two years ago to observe.

At the very least, Stoops will be on Denver's list of prospective coaches.

There has long been rumors that Stoops could end up in the NFL. Perhaps if the Sooners win the national championship next week, Stoops would find it the right time to bolt to the NFL.

Some people close to the situation believe Bowlen may not be able to come up with the money it would take to bring Bill Cowher to Denver, especially since Shanahan is owed about $20 million over the next three years. Shanahan signed a three-year contract extension in the spring of 2007. Ironically, had Shanahan not be given the contract, his previous deal would now be expired.

Bowlen could probably come up with a financial package appealing to Stoops. The question is, would Stoops be given total control or would be working with a general manager? It would be risky giving a college coach full control.

While this is only the beginning of the process, Stoops could be a name to keep on an eye in the Denver coaching search.

Shanahan will have his choice of jobs

December, 30, 2008
12/30/08
10:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

OK, let's get this out of the way. Here's one job Mike Shanahan won't be taking: The Oakland Raiders.

Other than Shanahan's former team, all other bets are on.

If Shanahan decides he wants to coach in 2009, he will have his choice of jobs. But any job Shanahan takes probably will have to come with the same power he enjoyed in Denver, where he spent the past 14 years.

Many coaches who leave an organization after a long period take time off. Shanahan could decide to go that route. He has a home in Mexico and he could enjoy a year of golf.

Shanahan would be as attractive to teams in a year or two as he is now.

Still, Shanahan strikes me as a coach who would like to get right back in the game. And that was the indication Tuesday evening from people who know him.

Among the jobs that could interest Shanahan are Cleveland, the New York Jets and Kansas City. Shanahan probably would get the necessary power in all three of those spots.

There are a couple of jobs that, if they became available, probably would entice Shanahan. Both Dallas and Tampa Bay could be fits, if coaching changes were made. Dallas could be intriguing because Shanahan and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones have a good relationship and Shanahan has expressed his respect for Jones on numerous occasions.

Shanahan tried to get Terrell Owens to Denver, so he wouldn't be averse to working with the mercurial wide receiver. Also, he tried to sign quarterback Tony Romo -- Shanahan and Romo were quarterbacks at Eastern Illinois a generation apart -- as a college free agent. However, Wade Phillips would have to be fired before any Shanahan-to-Dallas talks could materialize.

Meanwhile, it is being reported that Shanahan's refusal to fire defensive coordinator Bob Slowik led to Denver owner Pat Bowlen firing him Tuesday afternoon. More details could come out Wednesday when both Bowlen and Shanahan address the media.

Bowlen will have his pick of coaches

December, 30, 2008
12/30/08
7:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

For the first time in 14 years, Pat Bowlen will be making a significant hire as the owner of the Denver Broncos.

What will he do? Whatever he wants.

Bowlen is the possessor of the greatest job in the NFL as a result of his firing of coach Mike Shanahan.

Bowlen is in a great position. He can either hire a true successor to Shanahan and bring someone who is both the coach and general manager, or he can hire a new general manager and bring in a coach with less power.

Often in the NFL, after a long string of going in one direction, owners try the opposite. Thus, Bowlen could hire a general manager and a coach. There have been rumblings around Denver recently that if there was a change, Bowlen would go that route.

However, there is the Bill Cowher factor.

Bowlen could think the team is a Cowher away from being a Super Bowl contender. Cowher certainly would give the team a new direction. It is the best job on the market, without a doubt. Jobs like this don't often open.

That could be a workable marriage that would give Denver instant juice.

If not, Bowlen could jump in the Scott Pioli sweepstakes. Pioli is the most attractive general manager available.

Pioli could then hire New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. He would be a perfect fit in Denver. The team's centerpiece is quarterback Jay Cutler. McDaniels has a great reputation working with quarterbacks. That could be a fit.

Cutler is going to need a strong offensive mind to continue his development.

Other coaching possibilities could be Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick, or perhaps a defense-minded coach to shore up one of the worst units in the league -- New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz or San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.

Whatever decision he makes, Bowlen will have virtually the entire league at his disposal. The Denver job is the jewel of the league right now.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Pat Bowlen's decision to fire Mike Shanahan is the best move for both parties.

The Broncos need to go in a different direction and Shanahan needs a fresh start.

 
 Kirby Lee/US Presswire
 Mike Shanahan was fired after 14 seasons as Broncos head coach.

Let's face it, Shanahan's recent track record is of a coach who deserved to be fired. The Broncos failed to make the playoffs the past three seasons, going 24-24. That is the epitome of average. And the Broncos tied a league mark by blowing a three-game lead in the AFC West, finishing 8-8.

Bowlen deserves credit for making this happen. The Broncos have gotten stale the past few years, and Bowlen was seemingly blind to it. He held true to his longstanding mantra that Shanahan had a "job for life."

Presumably, Bowlen had a private caveat: For life or until Shanahan blew a three-game division lead in the final three weeks of the season, whatever came first.

This move puts Bowlen back in control of his team. He gave the Shanahan the keys to the shop while Bowlen was simply a very well-informed bystander. That worked well for a while, and it earned Bowlen the reputation as one of the best owners in the NFL. But he let the expiration date pass. After 12 seasons or so, this marriage had to end.

Shanahan seemingly got bored and the organization lost its mojo. Now, this move allows it to fight back and become one of the more relevant teams again.

When the Broncos put out the news release announcing Shanahan's firing, the Denver job instantly became the best available job in the NFL. It's not even close.

Bowlen's reputation as a great owner, the presence of a franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler, the team's willingness to spend money and a great fan base make this an intriguing team to take over. The Broncos are very young and have a chance to be good right away. The best available coaches will look at this job.

This team needs a different direction and new leadership.

This is not to say Shanahan is not a good coach. He is one of the best. But he needs a new start as well. After Denver lost the final home game in the Shanahan era, to Buffalo on Dec. 21, Shanahan said he was "disgusted." You could tell he needed a fresh start.

Bowlen fires Shanahan

December, 30, 2008
12/30/08
5:54
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Pat Bowlen did it.

I never thought he'd do it. But Mike Shanahan is out as the Denver Broncos coach after 14 seasons.

Wow.

Bowlen has long said Shanahan had a job for life. However, after the Broncos lost their final three games including Sunday against the Chargers for the AFC West title, Bowlen changed his mind. They are the first NFL team to blow a three-game lead with three games to go.

Here is Bowlen's explanation for the move in a release by the team:

After giving this careful consideration, I have concluded that a change in our football operations is in the best interests of the Denver Broncos. This is certainly a difficult decision, but one that I feel must be made and which will ultimately be in the best interests of all concerned.

I appreciate the 21 years that Mike Shanahan has given to the organization as an assistant and head coach, and the two Super Bowl wins in that time. His contributions hold a special place in Broncos history.

Bowlen and Shanahan will meet with the Denver media Wednesday.

I will come back with analysis of this move later Tuesday.

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