Open Mike


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Jan 22, 2006
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Open Mike
Starting his 12th year as Broncos coach, Shanahan talks about remarkable run
By Thomas George
Denver Post Staff Columnist

In Mike Shanahan's view, he has become a part of us. We have become a part of him.

Broncos players report for Shanahan's 12th training camp as head coach here today. Twelve seasons as head coach is perpetuity in the NFL. Look around and see the churning change at the position that colors NFL camps.

We have ridden him, jabbed at him, taken him for granted more than we have applauded him. The guy has absorbed serious heat.

But Shanahan, in quieter moments, understands.

In essence, we do to him what he does to his players. To his coaches.

"It's true," Shanahan said. "I am constantly telling them, 'That's not good enough.' I'm always telling them 'This or that is not the mandate.' I am always pushing them to believe. To do something special.

"When you add my time as an

assistant coach, I've been in this community for 17 years. I understand these fans love the Broncos. Not just local, but across the state and beyond. I can't say for some it is life or death to them - but it's close. You realize how tough it is when you lose."

Like in the last AFC championship game.

Shanahan has studied the film at least 25 times, he said. His team was outplayed, he said. He was outcoached, he said. Give Pittsburgh credit, he said, but ...

"I study so much," he said. "I've got to be able to look into the mirror and like myself. And it's not that I do all of the time. But sometimes you have to be hard on yourself. And in the end, I'm thinking, 'We just blew an opportunity to be world champions."'

Tough stuff. But he is back for another crack. And Shanahan knows the difference between a playoff-caliber team and a Super Bowl-caliber one. Those two playoff teams that were blown out by Indianapolis? They were what they were.

A season ago? Super Bowl-caliber and a lost chance.

This edition?

"Basically, we've got the same team back with some excellent additions," Shanahan said. "Why can't we win it?"

Do something special.

Eleven seasons with this coach. And no NFL coach during that span compares with him in points, total yards, rushing yards, regular-season victories and total victories. He is tops in every category.

Flip to defense, however, and his ranking during the same span is 12th in points, seventh in yards, fifth in rushing yards and 13th in passing yards.

Little wonder that in recent offseasons Shanahan has been looking in that mirror and thinking defense. More defense.

He keeps building it, just like he has a winning environment and culture among the Broncos.

This coach for 10-plus years has taped every single coaching session by his assistants. That way, when a new coach arrives, he can flip on the tape and see what Shanahan wants and how he wants it. His detail on what works and what does not in the NFL is astounding. He keeps a book filled with pages of analysis on the league, on his team, on himself, on his desk.

People in the Broncos building refer to it as "The Bible."

But Shanahan has learned to condense its core to three elements:

How many points are you scoring?

How many points are you giving up?

What is your turnover differential?

He can prove it. Nearly every Super Bowl participant and champion excelled in these three areas.

So, this training camp and preseason will emphasize more detail, more of what it takes to master those elements.

He turns 54 on Aug. 24.

What keeps him going?

There are no higher highs than game days, than running an NFL team, he said. The pressure used to burn him when he was much younger. Not now. He can stand in a storm and keep his wits. He has been doing that for some time now. Right here.

Across the NFL, I do not hear people talk about any coach in the way they do Shanahan. He is beyond highly regarded. He would not last a second as a free agent.

Here, he is more common.

And Shanahan understands that, too.

He has three seasons left on his contract.

"But I'm going to coach at least another 10 years," Shana-

han said. "That is my wish. But I know how quickly it can turn. Your career, your stay, is based on your winning."

He will not coach this season to stay. He will coach to win.

One complements the other.

He appreciates the past. He has vision for the future. But he is in the now, in the moment.

And this time, this year, he thinks something special can happen.

Just like you.
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