On the Warpath: The Genius that is Mike Shanahan

In my first installment, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the one, the only, The Almighty: Mike Shanahan. Of course, why waste the time typing out his full name when I can just call Shanahan by his other name: Genius.



You all remember Genius back when he was winning back-to-back Super Bowl with the Broncos in the late-90s. Back when he had one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game in John Elway. Back when he had the best running back in the NFL at the time in Terrell Davis. Back when he had the best offensive line in the league. Yep, things were really going well for Genius back then. He was sitting on top of the world.

A funny thing happened on the way to Genius winning 10 straight Super Bowls and the NFL waiving the five-year wait period for induction into the Hall of Fame in his honor. John Elway retired and Terrell Davis' career was cut short due to injuries. That wouldn't be a problem for Genius though. He is smarter than the rest of us. Surely the Broncos wouldn't miss a beat with The Great Mike Shanahan at the helm.

Well, seven years after winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles, the Broncos have gone to the playoffs three times, losing all three games to the Ravens and Colts twice by double-digits. The so-called ‘Quarterback Guru' has gone through three heir apparents to Elway. You mean you don't remember Jeff Lewis? The quarterback originally groomed by Genius to replace Elway. Don't worry, neither does anyone else. You should Google the former Northern Arizona gunslinger to see what he looks like. Lewis could be bagging your groceries at the local Price Chopper.

Genius' next great quarterback was Brian Griese. To be fair, Griese did have one really good season in Denver but he was probably too drunk to remember it. Three years later, Griese and his bottle of Wild Turkey would be out the door. Shanahan was currently 0-2 in his search for the next great Broncos' quarterback so Mike did what any genius would do. He had to show everyone how smart he is. He went out and signed maybe the stupidest starting quarterback of our generation (no offense to Aaron Brooks) in Jerk Plummer.

Now Broncos' fans are going to try and tell you that Jerk had a good season last year because he threw for 4,089 yards and 27 touchdowns. What they forget to tell you is that Jerk through 20 interceptions, completed only 46 percent of his passes in the red zone and continued to play poorly on the road. For his career, Plummer has thrown 55 touchdowns and 77 interceptions in road games. That's the kind of guy you want leading your team under pressure in the playoffs. Of course, none of us are geniuses like

Mike Shanahan is so it's not our place to consider things like that. So I ask you, what quarterbacks has Shanahan developed? Elway? I think we would all agree that John was already pretty good when Genius arrived in Denver. So let's all tip our hats to the great Quarterback Guru Mike Shanahan. He made Jerk Plummer slightly better than he was in Arizona. Good work Mike.

After getting smoked by the Colts two consecutive years in the playoffs, Shanahan decided to spend the offseason re-building his defense. How did he do this you ask? Like any genius would. He went and signed the entire defensive line of from the Cleveland Browns. The same Cleveland Browns that finished 32nd against the run in 2004. In case your math isn't very good, that's dead last in the NFL. Romeo Crennel, who knows a thing or two about defense, couldn't wait to get rid of these stiffs once he took over in Cleveland.

So Shanahan traded for, or signed, Michael Myers, Courtney Brown, Ebenezer Ekuban and Gerard Warren from the Browns, a team that went 4-12 last season. Shanahan has even gone so far as to say that Warren will make the Pro Bowl this year. Sure thing Mike, you are the genius around here. Genius also said that IF Brown can stay healthy he could put the Broncos' defense over the top. That is the equivalent to me saying that if Ryan Leaf was more mature and could read defenses, he would be a Pro Bowl quarterback. Then again, I'm not a genius.

After deciding to rename his team the Denver Browns, Genius had one more trick up his sleeve to prove to us how smart he is. He drafted weeble-wobble Maurice Clarett in the third round of the NFL Draft. People only need to know one thing about Clarett. Both he and Mike Williams had to sit out a year before they could enter the NFL Draft. While Williams was running, working out and catching 1,000 balls a day, Clarett was seeing how many Twinkies he could fit into his mouth at one time. Think about it, the guy had a full year to prepare for one day and he still showed up at the NFL Combine out of shape.

Apparently, geniuses can see past that because they know all. I was really shocked to hear that the poster boy for Ho Ho's was cut by the Broncos. No one saw that coming. It's too bad too because the combination of Clarett and Ron Dayne would have given the Broncos the best competitive eating team in the NFL. Genius should be blasted for drafting that dough boy in the third round. Instead, analysts on ESPN give Shanahan "Kudos" and "Credit" for admitting he made a mistake and not letting his pride get in the way of making a good football decision. As usual, The Great One can do no wrong.

I always thought it was funny how the media throws the term "genius" around so freely. Mike Shanahan is a genius, but only if John Elway is the quarterback. Mike Holmgren is a genius, but only if the Dallas Cowboys get beat in the playoffs, allowing the Packers to finally get to the Super Bowl. Bill Parcells is a genius, but only if Bill Belichick is his defensive coordinator. Without Belichick, Parcells has a losing record. Mike Martz is a genius, but only if Dick Vermeil is the head coach and Martz can sit back and take all the credit for winning the Super Bowl. Seriously, Martz has taken so much credit for that win I bet a good number of people have completely forgot that it was Vermeil, not Martz, who was the head coach of the Rams that year.

In my eyes, a genius is someone who changes the game of football. Guys like Paul Brown, Hank Stram, Sid Gillman, Don Coryell, Buddy Ryan (Yes, Buddy did change the way defense was played in the NFL) and Bill Walsh just to name a few. These guys just didn't have a couple of good seasons or win a world championship; they helped to improve the game of football with their innovations. Those are the people worthy of the title genius. Hell, Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl title and not even his own kids would call him a genius.

So the next time someone like Phil Simms is gushing over The Great Mike Shanahan and telling you what a mastermind he is, remind them that Shanahan's record is 54-45 since John Elway retired and the Broncos have yet to win a playoff game over that span. Since Elway left Denver, the Broncos are the only team in the division not to win the AFC West at least once. Those facts certainly don't make Shanahan a genius.

They make him an average coach and a terrible GM who is running the Denver Broncos into the ground. If that's the new criteria for being a genius, then someone in Cleveland call Butch Davis because he is missing out on his just due.

Want to comment on Tom's column? Have an idea for a future installment of ‘On the Warpath?' Send your questions and comments to tom@gridirongrumblings.com.

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