Mike Shanahan and Dan Reeves’ Hall of Fame wait will continue

Aug 24, 2022, 9:06 AM | Updated: 9:13 am
Dan Reeves and Mike Shanahan...
(Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

In the last three years, two coaches with two Super Bowl wins earned Hall of Fame induction. Two more with one Super Bowl triumph as a head coach also had their busts carved and displayed with the game’s immortals.

But Mike Shanahan and his two Super Bowl wins will continue to wait.

In the last three decades, two coaches with four conference championships and no Super Bowl wins joined the Hall of Fame. The Hall inducted Minnesota’s Bud Grant in 1994 and added Buffalo’s Marv Levy seven years later.

But Dan Reeves and his four Super Bowl appearances without a win will continue to wait.

So it goes for the two Ring of Fame coaches who spent a combined 26 seasons on Broncos sidelines.

Former San Diego Cardinals and St. Louis head coach Don Coryell got the nod as the coaches/contributors nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2023 on Wednesday morning.

For Coryell, the argument is different for other coaches. It’s an offense that is literally named after him: “Air Coryell.” Principles of it echo in schemes to this day.

When you see three-wide receiver formations and when you see tight ends in space running vertical routes down the seam, you’re witnessing elements popularized by the offense Coryell developed and refined from 1973-77 in St. Louis and from 1978-86 in San Diego.

For both franchises, Coryell’s work resulted in their best bursts of sustained success. The Cardinals and Chargers had three consecutive double-digit win seasons — 1974-76 and 1979-81 — under Coryell’s watch.

Neither club had done it before. Neither has done it since.

The scheme worked.

But the lack of postseason success in Coryell’s years — no Super Bowls and just three playoff wins during his 14 seasons as a head coach — means that his candidacy is clearly that of a “contributor,” not as a coach.

Because when it comes to coaching accomplishments, Coryell falls well short of Reeves and Shanahan.

Coryell’s teams won three playoff games and made six postseason appearances in his 14 years as a head coach.

Reeves’ teams won 11 playoff games in nine playoff appearances over 23 years. And like Coryell, Reeves took franchises to heights it had never before seen — three AFC titles in four years from 1986-89, and a pair of massive Falcons firsts — first year with at least 13 wins, first NFC title — in his Atlanta years.

As for Shanahan, he guided his clubs to eight playoff appearances, eight playoff wins and a pair of Lombardi Trophies in 20 seasons as a head coach.

Yes, Joe Gibbs took Coryell’s principles, modified them by emphasizing a second tight end/H-back and won three Super Bowls in Washington. What’s more, he did so with three different quarterbacks. In 1999, Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz used “Air Coryell” ideas to win a Super Bowl. And they did so with a previously unknown Kurt Warner flinging passes.

So, there is a Coryell coaching tree and a legacy.

But there is a bigger Mike Shanahan coaching tree, and it grows every year.

It’s not to say that Coryell isn’t deserving. When your name is on an offensive scheme, you have a Hall-of-Fame case.

But Shanahan and Reeves will wait another year, while people with similar accomplishment levels are already in.

It’s the same story as it has been for many Broncos candidates. Lather, rinse, repeat.



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Mike Shanahan and Dan Reeves’ Hall of Fame wait will continue