Let’s give the Pat Bowlen era the Hollywood ending it deserves

Jan 9, 2022, 6:00 PM | Updated: Jan 10, 2022, 9:57 am
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 31: Former Head Coach for the Denver Broncos Mike Shanahan stands on the field...
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

This … is going to sound a little nutty. And will it ever be meaningfully considered? No, probably not.

But, if you come at it with an open mind, Broncos Country, this might not sound so crazy.

(And, to be honest, it might make a pretty uplifting sports comedy.)

Mike “Silver Fox” Shanahan, fresh off his induction into the Ring of Fame, should come out of retirement to help right a Denver Broncos ship that’s so far gone astray it should call its home Des Moines.

(Nothing against Des Moines. It’s just pretty far off the path from Denver, and, you know, it also starts with a “D.” And Detroit already has a football team. Delaware is sort of really far off the path. That’s two time zones. … and I’ve lost you.)

Hear me out.

Denver had little choice in whether to move on from head coach Vic Fangio. On Sunday, as most of the NFL finished up the first ever Week 18, they did.

“Obviously, a tough day here,” said Broncos general manager George Paton. “You all know the respect I have for Vic Fangio. I just want to thank Vic for his service the past three years, and, specifically, the past year. Me working hand-in-hand with Vic, we had a great partnership and a great working relationship and a great friendship.

“So obviously, this is very tough.”

And the respect seemed mutual. In a statement, Fangio thanked president and CEO Joe Ellis and president of football operations John Elway, and he was quite effusive of his general manager, Paton.

“The foundation is in place for this team to accomplish great things,” Fangio said. “The future is bright for the Denver Broncos, and I wish the organization nothing but the best.”

And to be honest, Fangio’s right. There’s a renewed hope within Broncos Country.

Denver has a strong, young core of players; Javonte Williams, Pat Surtain II, Caden Sterns, Jerry Jeudy, Albert Okwuegbunam, Lloyd Cushenberry III, Noah Fant, Jonathon Cooper and Baron Browning are all younger than 25.

Not to mention, the Broncos have a key group of leaders entering the prime of their career: Bradley Chubb, Justin Simmons, Malik Reed, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and so on.

All they need is a sage veteran of a head coach — Shanahan (played by a Gene Hackman type in the movie) — and maybe some of his assistants. I’m thinking Gary Kubiak (played by Bill Paxton from “Apollo 13”) and Wade Phillips (obviously played by himself because he could pull it off).

Don’t forget the charismatic quarterback (read: Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson) who wants to go for it all on one last ride for a few championships.

(If you’re reading this, Ciara or Shailene Woodley, please help get this movie made.)

I’d watch that movie.

(I’d watch the crap out of it.)

But realistically, it could work. It’s not like it’s unprecedented.

After the Florida Marlins got off to a 16-22 start to the 2003 season, a 72-year-old Jack McKeon came out of retirement to take over as manager.

He went on to win National League Manager of the Year after helping lead the Marlins to a World Series victory over the New York Yankees — literally the team of the late ‘90s/early 2000s.

How about a football example? Dick Vermeil, after a 15-year hiatus from coaching, returned to take over the St. Louis Rams in 1997.

Vermeil’s first two seasons were abysmal, but then the charismatic quarterback (see: Kurt Warner) showed up and helped lead the Rams to their only Super Bowl in franchise history.

Maybe it’s not Shanahan and Kubiak and Phillips, running it back for a few more years with a defense that’s quite strong and a star (cough … Rodgers … Wilson … cough) quarterback with an arsenal of weapons.

But with ownership still up in the air, why saddle whoever takes over the team with a head coach they might not love (and will likely soon fire)?

Instead, bring on a “bridge head coach” to usher in a new era of Broncos football — one worthy of the previous era’s excellence and impact — while whoever becomes the owner gets their bearings.

Then, after three or four straight championships with the Wilson/Rodgers led Broncos, the organization can rebuild with the new ownership’s vision in mind.

It’s pretty pie-in-the-sky, yes, but I think Broncos Country could use a little hope right now.

It’s been so dreary over the past half decade.


(Graphic by Johnny Hart/Bonneville Denver)...
James Merilatt

State of the Broncos: Can a talented wide receiver corps blossom in ’22?

A disappointing 2021 season can be blamed on bad QB play and a conservative offense, but the Broncos "big four" wideouts share some blame
16 hours ago
DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 12: Javonte Williams #33 of the Denver Broncos is congratulated on his ...
104.3 The Fan

State of the Broncos: Breaking down the running back position

As the Broncos continue with their offseason,'s Rachel Vigil and James Merilatt examine Denver's running backs
16 hours ago
Kevin O'Connell...
Cecil Lammey

Don’t sleep on Kevin O’Connell as future head coach of the Broncos

The former quarterback has risen up the NFL ranks quickly, becoming a trusted part of Sean McVay's staff in LA, making him a serious candidate
16 hours ago
Drop the Mike...
Mike Evans

There were a lot of Broncos takeaways from Super Wild Card Weekend

Watching the Cowboys lose to the 49ers brought up some angst about Dan Quinn, but not in the way that most of Broncos Country might think
16 hours ago
TAMPA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 09: Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn of the Dallas Cowboys looks on befor...
James Merilatt

The Broncos will have competition if they want to hire Dan Quinn

With five interviews currently scheduled, the Cowboys defensive coordinator is going to be in high demand, by some teams with more to offer
2 days ago
DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 28: Denver Broncos general manager George Paton walks out on the field ...
John Clayton

Clayton: The Broncos have an advantage over other teams in HC search

With so many of the other teams looking for a new head coach still in need of a general manager, Denver might be able to make an offer earlier
2 days ago
Let’s give the Pat Bowlen era the Hollywood ending it deserves