According to Adam Schefter, Mike Shanahan will interview with the Dolphins on Tuesday, January 5. What is most interesting about this is that it will be his second interview as he met with Mike Tannenbaum and others in the organization on December 22. Everyone knows his name but does everyone really know who he is and what he is about? To get that information, we are going to take a look to the very beginning of his coaching career and end with his time with the Washington Redskins.
The Early Years
Shanahan began his coaching career as a quarterbacks coach and later offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos under Dan Reeves in the 1980s. He was hired by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1988 but was fired just one year later by Al Davis. He was fired because he was unpopular with players and was considered a micro-manager. He clashed with Davis almost immediately and also feuded with several of his assistant coaches. He returned to Denver as an assistant but was fired several years later by Reeves after he got involved in a feud between Reeves and quarterback John Elway. This is because it was rumored that Shanahan and Elway were going behind Reeves' back to form game plans that they liked better.
He was then hired by George Seifert as an offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, where he oversaw an offense that captured the Super Bowl during the 1994 season. His success earned him a head coaching spot once more, this time back with Broncos in 1995.
Two-Time Super Bowl Champion with the Denver Broncos
Within two years, Shanahan led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998. Between 1996 and 1998, the Broncos set the NFL record for victories by going 46-10 over a three-year span. In 2005, he eventually passed Reeves for most wins by a head coach in franchise history.
Shanahan made his mark using the West Coast offense, with a focus on the run game. His claim to fame was having success with almost any running back out there. Whether it was Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns or Tatum Bell, his run game always seemed to click. In fact, all of these players had, at least, one 1,000-yard season while they were a part of the Broncos.
However, how much credit goes to Elway? Some will point to the fact that after Elway retired, he went seven years without a playoff win, which included three seasons where they didn't make the playoffs. In 2008, the Broncos fired Shanahan after they failed to once again make the playoffs, despite being ahead in their division for most of the season. The 2008 season capped a 24-24 record over the previous three seasons. His final loss was an embarrassing 52-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers with the division title on the line. He finished with a 146-91 record over 14 seasons in Denver.
Shanahan would leave football during the 2009 season but it wouldn't be long before he got his third opportunity to be a head coach in the National Football League, this time with the Washington Redskins.
Misery and Disaster in Washington
Many will point to his time with Washington, where he compiled a 24-40 record from 2010-2013. What people don't mention is that the Redskins were a mess when he took over, coming off three straight double-digit losing seasons. By the end of Shanahan's third year, they were the NFC East Division Champions.
In Shanahan's last season, though, the rails fell off the track with a 3-13 record, tying their worst record in franchise history since 1961. Even worse, they were outscored by 140 points, which was also the worst in franchise history since 1961.
Heading into that last season in 2013, disaster was inevitable. Let's rewind to 2012 when the Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III, who many believed was forced upon Shanahan. According to Dan Graziano from ESPN, that set a firestorm in which Shanahan and Snyder's relationship quickly began to deteriorate.
In fact, the relationship was so bad, Shanahan cleaned out his office before the wild-card playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks in January 2013. Graziano says the following in his article:
The source said Shanahan had grown tired of the way Snyder empowered Griffin and openly esteemed him above all other players. Shanahan didn't blame Griffin but did blame Snyder for creating an atmosphere that Shanahan did not believe was conducive to winning. Shanahan privately told people close to him that he felt Snyder's behavior with regard to Griffin was a "complete farce."
Shanahan was also upset with Snyder that he showed preferential treatment to Griffin. As an example, Graziano points to the time where Kirk Cousins had led the Redskins to a 38-21 victory but after the game, Snyder talked to Griffin at his locker and didn't even acknowledge Cousins.
In Shanahan's mind, he was out the door at the end of the season, regardless of how they finished. However, that changed when Griffin was injured in the playoff game. Shanahan knew he couldn't leave the Redskins in that manner because he didn't want people to think he was abandoning the team and running away because of Griffin's injury. So, he took everything out of the packed boxes and put his office back together.
People will point to his losing record in Washington. However, no matter which way you spin it, Washington is a tough place to win. Shanahan compiled a .375 winning percentage, the same as Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn. Marty Schottenheimer and Norv Turner were both fired from Washington, even when they were successful. In fact, Turner is the only coach with a winning record during Snyder's regime, which has seen eight head coaches, including current coach Jay Gruden. Even better, Turner was inherited by Snyder when he bought the team.
A Mixed Bag of Personnel Decisions
Shanahan has required full personnel control in every one of his NFL stops, with the exception of the Los Angeles Raiders. The results of that have been mixed. We'll start with the Broncos.
He has made some good decisions such as drafting Terrell Davis, Brandon Marshall, Olandis Gary, Deltha O'Neal, Mike Anderson, Jay Cutler and Elvis Dumervil. However, he has also made some bad and highly questionable decisions.
In 2005, he drafted running back Maurice Clarett in the third round. In 2007, he selected Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder and spent millions on Travis Henry. In 2008, he signed Boss Bailey, Niko Koutouvides, and Dewayne Robertson. None of them worked out. He let go of John Lynch and brought in Marquand Manuel and Marlon McCree and neither of them worked out either.
In Washington, Shanahan had the foresight to select Cousins in the same draft where the Redskins selected Griffin. In fact, Shanahan saw much more promise in Cousins than he did with Griffin and said that Griffin was someone who could one day be a franchise quarterback. Fast-forward from then until now and Cousins has the Redskins in the playoffs while Griffin is standing on the sidelines in street clothes.
He also selected Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, Alfred Morris and Jordan Reed. Of course, you have your busts such as David Amerson, Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo and more.
When Shanahan was fired in 2008, he did receive support from defensive lineman Ebenezer Ekuban, who said that the Broncos roster was extremely talented.
"Whoever comes in is going to have a well-stocked team that should be ready to go," said Ekuban. "As any year, some things are going to change. But I wouldn't touch that offense ... They did a tremendous job. Wish we could've helped."
While we can go through every team in the NFL and point out the best and worst picks, it is worth noting that Shanahan had full control over all roster decisions, including the draft. If he is a serious candidate in Miami, it is something to watch as his overall track record with personnel - most notably on the defensive side of the ball - hasn't been very good.
The Bad Side of Shanahan
According to Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post, Shanahan has a reputation for being slick and nasty when things go bad. When the Redskins lost to the Vikings in somewhat embarrassing fashion in 2013, he began to use the "fire me" playbook. Some accuse him of trying to manipulate things when it's going bad so his reputation isn't tarnished and blame isn't put on him for the direction of the franchise.
Shanahan is also accused of being negligent with Griffin's health. Some say he left Griffin in too long in the wild-card loss, where he eventually tore his ACL in ugly fashion. Then, some say he rushed Griffin back to start the 2013 season. These whispers and rumblings grew louder when Griffin simply wasn't the same quarterback. Eventually, Griffin was benched with three games remaining in the 2013 season, which Shanahan cited as safety reasons for his health.
It is also well documented what happened with defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth was a big-time free agent in 2009. He was highly sought after, with the Titans, Redskins, and Buccaneers all in the hunt. Despite the Buccaneers offering him $135 million, he chose the Redskins because he thought he was going to thrive there. However, he realized that maybe he had made the wrong decision after he was struggling with the defense during OTAs his first season in Washington.
"Albert, we just want you to eat up space. All we want you to do is grab the center and let the linebackers run free...Albert, if you have more than one sack this season, I'm going to be pissed."
Haynesworth goes on to say that he was in total disbelief that Shanahan was paying him $100 million dollars to simply grab the center. In fact, Haynesworth told Shanahan that he could simply pay someone $300,000 dollars to do that.
From that point on, Haynesworth, who was an attacking defensive tackle, lost passion for football and never got it back. Some may look at Ndamukong Suh and wonder if the same thing would happen to him. You would have to think that this will be a big question during the interview process and Shanahan's answer to the question could make or break his candidacy for the head coach position.
Support from Players
As I just noted, Shanahan has had his ups and downs with players he has coached. However, when he was fired from the Broncos, he received immediate support from numerous players. Then rookie Spencer Larsen said he was shocked and that nobody saw it coming. Quarterback Jay Cutler said that he was also shocked and thought it was the wrong move.
Bill Romanowski, the infamous linebacker who played for Shanahan during their record-setting seasons, had the most praise for a guy who had just been shown the door.
"I don't know if necessarily they'll find a better football coach," Romanowski told ESPN in 2008. "Mike is an outstanding football coach, one of the better coaches I had, if not the best. But players start to get tired of the same routines, the same kind of play calling. A new fresh coat of paint sometimes does a whole lot of good."
There are also rumors that Elway and Shanahan didn't get along in Denver, which is a bit odd considering they were so close in Shanahan's first time around with the Broncos under Reeves. Many point to Shanahan's micromanagement and personnel control, which Elway wasn't a huge fan of. Some say it reached a boiling point because Elway didn't give Shanahan enough notice regarding his retirement. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, with two powerful egos butting heads.
The fact is though that Shanahan has butted heads with just about every quarterback he has coached - Elway, Griffin, and Donovan McNabb, to name a few. Would he butt heads with Ryan Tannehill or has he learned from his mistakes over the years?
The Book is Still Out on Shanahan
Shanahan is considered an offensive genius and is well-known for creating mismatches on the field by confusing defenses by using different personnel groupings to run the same set of plays, series after series and game after game. There is no doubt he has made his mark on some of the best offenses in NFL history.
The downside of Shanahan is his defense. In his last two years in Denver, they allowed over 400 points. During his time in Denver, he went through numerous coordinators - Greg Robinson, Ray Rhodes, Larry Coyer, Jim Bates and Bob Slowik. The defense was the reason for the Broncos' collapse in his final few seasons and he was never able to properly identify defensive talent.
Through it all, the book is still out on Shanahan. There is no doubt he wants to erase the stigma of his time with the Redskins. He hopes to get another chance and perhaps it will be with the Dolphins. Would he be a better fit than someone like Adam Gase, the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears? Or does Miami need someone with experience who knows how to run a program and command a team? Yes, he is 63-years-old but so is Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals and no one is complaining about that.
Time will tell but this gives you an in-depth background of Shanahan and everything the Dolphins will and won't be getting if they decide to make him the next head coach.
This column was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter! Follow @FinsInsider