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Don’t Hire Mike Shanahan (An Open Letter to Clark Hunt)
Posted By ChiefsWarpath.com On January 1, 2009 @ 12:17 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
You’re forty-three years old. Forty-three is a difficult age in a young man’s life. Your body is growing. You’re getting hair in places you never thought you would. Your hormones are changing. You’ve probably noticed that young women are starting to look at you differently too. It’s all pretty confusing, isn’t it? It’s okay, because we’re here for you if you need to talk. But even if you don’t want to talk about it, more than anything else we just want to make sure that you’re making smart, rational decisions. You’ve got a lot of options open to you that weren’t there before, and your mother and I want to make sure you do the right thing. And just in case you’re not sure what that is, I’ll tell you: Don’t Hire Mike Shanahan.
Mike Shanahan probably looks like exactly the kind of guy you need in your life right now. He’s got all that flashy jewelry. He vacations in Aspen. He doesn’t have a job, so he has a lot of free time. But trust me when I tell you this: he’s bad news. Here are six reasons why:
Reason #1: Mike Shanahan is nothing without John Elway.
It stands to reason that any head coach separated from a Hall Of Fame quarterback with ten Pro Bowl appearances will likely field a less winning team. We’re seeing that principle in action in Green Bay this season: a 13-3 team last season with Brett Favre at the helm is a 6-10 team with Aaron Rodgers, despite the fact that Rodgers is himself a fine quarterback. The team should improve with Rodgers next year and the year after, but the degree to which they improve will depend largely on Mike McCarthy’s coaching.
So let’s compare apples to apples. Shanahan lost Elway to retirement at the end of the 1998 season. Mike Holmgren lost Brett Favre when he took over in Seattle at the end of the 1998 season. Each has ten seasons now without their Hall Of Fame, Super Bowl-winning quarterback. In that span Shanahan has 91 regular season wins. Holmgren has 86. Advantage: Shanahan, right?
Not really. Holmgren inherited a franchise that was mired in a culture of losing. Prior to his arrival their last winning season was 1990. That’s eight straight years of .500 or worse football. Denver, on the other hand, had five winning seasons in the same time frame. Moreover, to find eight seasons of .500 or worse football in Denver (counting back from 1998), one would have to go all the way back to 1975. Shanahan needed only maintain status quo. Holmgren had to change a mindset. The Seahawks came into the league in 1977. Prior to Holmgren’s arrival the franchise had only eight winning seasons. In one decade he added another seven.
Reason #2: Mike Shanahan is nothing without John Elway, especially in the playoffs.
In the past ten years Shanahan’s Broncos have posted six winning seasons and made four playoff appearances. Particularly after this past season, most Chiefs fans would mortgage their souls for six winning seasons and four playoff appearances in the course of a decade. That makes Shanahan a good fit, right?
Wrong. With Elway, Shanahan is 7-1 in postseason action. Without him he’s 1-4. If the Chiefs are content with one playoff win per decade, they’re better off sticking with Herm Edwards–in five years with the Jets his playoff record was 2-3.
Reason #3: Without John Elway, Mike Shanahan probably won’t even get you to the playoffs.
With Elway, Shanahan’s mean average season record was 12-4. Sans Elway it’s 9-7. I’d rather have a coach that charged full steam into the postseason rather than unceremoniously backing into it.
Reason #4: Finally winning again in Denver isn’t a logical argument.
So it’s been a little while since the Chiefs have won in Denver; nine seasons, to be exact. It was Gunther Cunningham’s 2000 team–the same one that gave that 1-15 San Diego team its only victory–that won last at Invesco High. But hey, Mike Shanahan has been winning there for 14 years (or longer, if you count his tenure as Elway’s personal assistant in the mid-’80s). He could probably help us win there again too, right?
Well yeah, probably. But the flip side of that argument is this: Shanahan has four wins at Arrowhead. Fifteen attempts. Four wins. I know four wins sounds like a lot after this season, but it’s not. If the basis of the argument is a coach’s ability to win in one stadium versus another, give me Frank Gansz. He hasn’t lost in either city in over twenty years.
Reason #5: Mike Shanahan can’t draft.
Pop Quiz: How many players drafted by Mike Shanahan in this decade have been to a Pro Bowl?
Answer: Three. Clinton Portis, Deltha O’Neal, and Ian Gold.
Pop Quiz: How many of those players still play in Denver?
Fortune Cookie Says: Catch and release good for fishing, but not good for building franchise. If the team’s goal is to build through the draft rather than free agency, bringing in a FA-oriented guy like Shanahan would be counterproductive. Shanahan is a poor evaluator of talent, and the occasional talent he finds he tends to squander (remember O’Neal at wide receiver?). He hasn’t shown any great propensity for developing young talent either. He is what he is: a decent manager of veteran players. We’re not a veteran team. Let him go to one of the league’s retirement homes…. I’ll bet he’d fit in real nice with the Jets.
Reason #6: Capitalism.
Arrowhead used to be famous for its Sea of Red. Lately it’s becoming infamous for its Seats of Red. I know the team is $30 million under the cap. That’s probably a good thing, given how much revenue is lost when those seats go empty more often than not. Consider the general disgust presently pervading the Chiefs fan base. Now consider the current condition of the economy. Now consider how many more seats might go empty if you brought aboard the most hated man in the AFC West. In the Chiefs Nation, Carl Peterson has a higher approval rating than Mike Shanahan. Hell, Scott Peterson has a higher approval rating than Mike Shanahan.
I don’t doubt that on some level you love the game, though I doubt you love it the way your dearly departed father loved it. At heart your true passion is business. Strictly as a business decision, don’t bring in the guy your customers hate the most.
So there it is: don’t hire Mike Shanahan. Denver is his Moby Dick, and I’d rather the Chiefs not be the vessel whose crew he’ll sacrifice in the name of his frenzied one-legged vengeance. Let the Rat crawl in some other hole. Maybe he can go to Detroit and feast on cheese twice a year.
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