All-time best coaches: Shanahan No. 19

May, 24, 2013
5/24/13
2:00
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As part of our series on the greatest coaches in NFL history, we are counting down the top 20, one per day, as voted on by our panel. And as revealed earlier today on our site, the man who came in at No. 19 in that poll is current Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. These are the words of John Elway, the quarterback who helped Shanahan win two Super Bowl titles as coach of the Denver Broncos:
"There's one thing to me that was a great thing about Mike: He did not treat the playoffs any differently than he treated the regular season.

"You can see him make a comment during [the final minute of] Super Bowl XXXII. It was fourth-and-6 when John Mobley knocked the ball down. They had Mike on highlight. He said, 'Play the defense you would've played normally in the regular season. Don't change the play because it's the Super Bowl. Call the defense you did during the season.' That's why we had success. The postseason wasn't treated any differently, so we didn't feel the pressure. His mindset was the same whether it was the first game of the year or the Super Bowl. That was a great quality that he still has.

"The other thing is he was very, very aggressive, and he wanted to win on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. A lot of coaches tried to sit back and win on defense. As a quarterback, why I liked Mike was he wanted to win it on the offensive side. If we needed a first down late in the game, we were going to be aggressive offensively rather than punting and putting the game in the defense's hands. That's something I admired about Mike, and it led to a lot of success when I played with him."

Shanahan was the fifth coach to win back-to-back Super Bowls. His teams have consistently ranked among the league leaders on offense, and he's credited with the development of the zone-blocking run schemes that he's now using in Washington, where the Redskins last year led the league in rushing yards.

Over the years, the knock on Shanahan has become, "Well, he never won the Super Bowl without Elway." And while that is true, he did win it twice, and it seems unfair to try and separate the greatness of Elway from the guy who was coaching him and calling the plays. It's also worth noting that Shanahan completely overhauled the Redskins' roster and built them into a division champion in three years in Washington. And as great as quarterback Robert Griffin III appears to be, if Shanahan wins a Super Bowl with the Redskins, nobody's going to be saying, "Well, he never won without Elway or RG III." They're going to be planning his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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