Now that Mike Shanahan has officially been named head coach and executive vice president of the Redskins, the city is abuzz with high expectations. A couple weeks ago, there was similar optimism in Cleveland when the Browns hired Mike Holmgren as president of football operations. Both men are Super Bowl winning coaches from the mid 90’s, however there is reason for concern.
Shanahan took over the Denver Broncos in ’95 and led them to back to back titles in ’97 and ’98 with Hall of Famers John Elway, Gary Zimmerman, and 8 other Pro Bowlers including MVP Terrell Davis. But after Elway retired, in the subsequent 10 seasons, Shanahan only produced a 55% winning percentage, one divisional title, four playoff appearances, and one close playoff win. At least he somehow maintained a tan in Colorado during those years.
Likewise in Green Bay, Holmgren joined the Packers and was very successful as a coach, with a Super Bowl title, six straight playoff appearances, and a 66% winning percentage. However, Ron Wolf, the general manager at the time, traded for Favre before Holmgren arrived, and signed Reggie White, the cornerstones of their Super Bowl run. Then Holmgren took over the head coaching and GM job in Seattle in ’99 with mixed results. While he drafted Shaun Alexander, Steve Hutchinson, and brought in Matt Hasslebeck the backbones of their later Super Bowl run, he also drafted Koren Robinson and Jerramy Stevens, who had run-ins with the law. After four seasons with both positions, a 47% winning percentage and only one playoff appearance, the Seahawks removed him from the GM position. Now as just the coach, Holmgren went on a five year playoff run including their Super Bowl appearance.
Whether Shanahan’s recent unsuccessful coaching record and lack of GM experience, and Holmgren’s mediocre seasons as a GM will help the Skins and Browns rise to prominence, is yet to be seen. One thing’s for sure, they will miss these two.