By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
Mike Shanahan won two Super Bowls in his first four years as head coach of the Broncos. After that second championship, the consensus was that Shanahan was a strong favorite for eventual enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But since then things have not gone quite as well. In the 13 seasons he has coached since then, his teams have not been back to the Super Bowl. In fact, Shanahan has won just one playoff game in six tries. What have the years since he last raised the Lombardi done for his Hall of Fame chances? Is he still a lock? Or does he have more work to do? Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir debate in this week’s edition of Point-Counterpoint.
Rich Tandler: While Shanahan would not get a bust in Canton if he announced his retirement tomorrow, he has a very good shot with even modest success in the next few years. He is currently 15th on the all-time regular-season wins list with 165. Let’s say he can ride RG3 to an average of 10 wins per season over the next two years. That would push him past Bill Parcells and into the top 10. The only coach currently in the top 10 with at least one NFL championship who isn’t in the Hall is Bill Belichick and we know he’s a mortal lock. Shanahan’s detractors say that he never won a Super Bowl without Hall of Fame QB John Elway. Besides the fact that Chuck Noll never won one without Terry Bradshaw and Vince Lombardi never won one without Bart Starr, consider this—Elway never won a title before Mike Shanahan became his head coach.
Tarik El-Bashir: The short answer: Not yet. John Elway’s brilliance – and back-to-back Super Bowl titles 15 years ago – thrust Shanahan into the conversation. But it will be Robert Griffin III who’ll open the door in Canton – or leave him on the doorstep. Shanahan risked everything when he dealt a king’s ransom for the right to pick RG3 in 2012. His legacy. The Redskins’ future over the next several seasons. His Hall aspirations. After one year, the risky move appears to have been the right one. But, like Rich said, one NFC East Division title (and his first double-digit win campaign in seven seasons) won’t be enough. It’s about what happens next. The pieces are in place. Shanahan has a top quarterback and an innovative scheme that, so far, has flummoxed defensive coordinators. He’s got a premier running back. And, most important, he’s changed the culture of mediocrity that had enveloped a once proud franchise. A couple more 10-win seasons and a trip to The Big Game would likely be enough. Hoisting the Lombardi Trophy a third time, of course, would seal Shanahan’s enshrinement.