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DENVER — Mike Shanahan became the latest and most stunning victim of the NFL coaching purge, fired Tuesday by the Denver Broncos after a late-season collapse knocked the team out of the playoffs for the third straight year.
Shanahan joined Eric Mangini, Rod Marinelli and Romeo Crennel on the unemployment line after going 24-24 over the past three seasons, including three straight losses in 2008 that turned a three-game division lead to an 8-8 record.
Good Start, Rough Finish
In four years with John Elway, Mike Shanahan and the Broncos made the playoffs three times and won two Super Bowls. After Elway retired, the Broncos have no championships.
Despite that, and the 52-21 loss to the Chargers that ended Denver’s season Sunday, this was a shocker: the ouster of a 14-year coaching veteran who brought two Super Bowl titles to a city yearning for a championship and was considered by many in this town to be “coach for life.”
In a statement, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said: “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.”
Shanahan, 56, was 146-89, but the Broncos remained stuck at only one postseason victory since John Elway retired in 1999 after Denver’s second championship.
This season was especially ugly. It included a historic collapse that saw Denver become the first team since divisional play started in 1967 to blow a three-game lead with three games left.
The Broncos’ defense gave up 448 points, third worst in the NFL, including 112 during the three-game collapse at the end. It was ranked 29th in yards allowed and tied for last in the NFL with a minus-17 turnover margin.
In years past, Shanahan had relieved defensive coordinators — Greg Robinson, Ray Rhodes, Larry Coyer and Jim Bates — in almost revolving-door fashion.
This year, as the defense floundered, it became obvious it wasn’t just a coaching problem. It was an issue of talent on the field, and in Denver, Shanahan makes all the personnel decisions.
His top two draft picks in 2007, Jarvis Moss and Channing Crowder, were barely a factor this season. Two of Denver’s top veteran acquisitions from last year, Niko Koutouvides and Dewayne Robertson, also did very little.
Shanahan had three years left on his contract, worth about $20 million.
“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,” Bowlen said in the statement. “His contributions hold a special place in Broncos history.”
Bowlen said that the team will hold a news conference on Wednesday morning to make the announcement, and Shanahan will speak shortly thereafter.