It all comes down to the definition of 'great'. For the purpose of this list, greatness is defined by post-season success and championships alone. I'm sure many of you would rank past Broncos coaches differently than I have below, and I think that's great. How lucky are we as Broncos fans to have so many terrific coaches in our history to choose from?
#5 John Fox
John Fox was the fourth coach in Broncos history to take his team to the Super Bowl. From 2011-2014, his Broncos were 46-18 during the regular season and 3-4 in the postseason. The Broncos won the AFC West every year he was head coach. In 2013, Denver won the AFC Championship and went on to be utterly embarrassed by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.
#4 Red Miller
Red Miller was the first coach to take the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl. From 1977-1980, his Broncos were 40-22 in the regular season and 2-3 in the postseason. His teams won the AFC West twice. In 1977 Denver won the AFC Championship and got clobbered in Super Bowl XII by the Dallas Cowboys.
Red is slotted here because he was the first to do something never before seen in Denver, go to the Super Bowl. Before Red did it, the Broncos were a laughingstock group that many thought didn't deserve to be in the NFL.
#3 Dan Reeves
Dan Reeves was the second coach to take the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, and he did it three times. From 1981-1992, his Broncos were 110-73 in the regular season and 7-6 in the postseason. His teams won the AFC West five times. In 1986, 1987, and 1989, Denver won the AFC Championship and went on to get clobbered/embarrassed by the Giants, Redskins, and 49ers in their respective Super Bowls. Dan Reeves was inducted into the Broncos Ring-of-Fame in 2014.
Among Broncos coaches that never won the big game, he's the king. Say what you want about his failures and the feud with John Elway the player, but the culture of winning that Elway the GM talks about is the one Reeves started in his tenure as Denver's head coach.
#2 Gary Kubiak
Gary Kubiak is the most recent coach to take the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl. In his one year at the helm, his Broncos went 15-4, including playoffs. In 2015, he won the AFC West, the AFC Championship, and went on to claim a victory in Super Bowl 50.
Simply put, if you want to be one of the greatest coaches in a franchise's history, you got to win the big game. Kubiak did that. By virtue of winning the big one, he leapfrogs all those that didn't. If anyone takes issue with that, kindly direct them to Denver's trophy case.
#1 Mike Shanahan
Mike Shanahan was the first coach to take the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl and win it... and he did it twice, back-to-back. From 1995-2008, the Broncos went 138-86 and were 8-5 in the playoffs. He won the AFC West three times. In 1997 and 1998 the Broncos won the AFC Championship and went on to claim victories in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII.
Shanny was the first to get it done and he did it like few coaches have ever have. The culture of winning that Reeves started, Shanny continued. Granted, later in Shanahan's career things kind of went downhill, but there's just no arguing with two Super Bowl trophies.
Coaches Lou Saban and John Ralston were instrumental in putting the Broncos on the path to the success that's the standard in Denver. However, without even a sniff of a Super Bowl, they just can't be on this list.
Also, I'd like to mention that there are stadium hot dog vendors I'd consider before I'd ever rank Josh McDaniels on a list like this.
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