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Broncos need to channel Shanahan’s ‘beat Raiders at all costs’ mentality

The Broncos’ all-time winningest head coach also had an enviable 21-7 record against the Raiders - a team he hated and loved to beat. This team needs that passion on Sunday.

FBN SUPERBOWL-ELWAY AND COACH Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images

Broncos all-time winningest head coach Mike Shanahan will be inducted into the Ring of Fame on Sunday, the day the Broncos host the Raiders.

His Ring of Fame honor comes with tons of accolades, including his 156-91 record (including playoffs), back-to-back Super Bowl championships, and finally helping Hall-of-Fame QB John Elway get the Super Bowl ring and NFL legacy he deserved.

But for long-time Broncos fans, one of the greatest attributes of Shanahan’s coaching career in Denver was his pure hatred of the Raiders - which stemmed from his anger over a short stint coaching the Raiders that ended in being fired.

Jim Saccomano recently recalled how Shanahan, who had been offensive coordinator for the Broncos at the time, ended up with Raiders.

Al Davis was very unhappy to see the Broncos on equal footing with the Raiders in the 1980s and I can remember my good friend Mike Ornstein of his team asking me what was making the difference, besides Elway of course.

“A new guy on our staff,” I replied. “Mike Shanahan.”

We were set to play in Super Bowl XXI in Los Angeles and I was in Dan’s suite the week of the game when he took a call from George Karras, who had been a personnel man for us and then was with the Raiders.

“Al would like permission to interview Mike Shanahan when the Super Bowl is over,” George asked.

A young Shanahan was hired as head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 1988 and lasted just one season and four games, getting fired after clashing repeatedly with Al Davis and going 1-3 to start his second season.

So there was no love lost between Shanahan and the Raiders.

But there was an intense hate that fueled an already passionate rivalry on the field between the two AFC West teams - and it was felt by every player and coach during Shanahan’s tenure.

And it was glorious. As Ryan Koenigsburg noted, Shanahan “owned” the Raiders when it came to that matchup.

Shanahan’s time in Denver didn’t end on the best of terms initially.

After Elway’s retirement and Davis’ career-ending injuries, the brilliant offensive mind went six years without a playoff win (including three seasons when the Broncos failed to qualify for the postseason. That drought ended during the 2005–06 postseason when the Broncos defeated the two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC divisional playoff at Mile High.

Pat Bowlen fired Shanahan after the 2008 season when the Broncos failed to make the playoffs for a third consecutive year.

But nothing heals wounds like time, and during Elway’s years as GM, the relationship between Shanahan and the Broncos began to mend. The culmination of that healing - and the recognition of how much Shanahan contributed to the dominance the Broncos held during the 80s and 90s - will happen at halftime when Broncos Country gets to honor their winningest head coach and officially induct him into the Ring of Fame.

And the fact that it will be during the game against the Raiders is just sweet irony.

Hopefully the current team can channel some of Shanahan’s passion for beating the Raiders because it will be a must-win game for the Broncos.

Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, who was defensive backs coach under Shanahan in Denver from 1995-1998, noted that Shanahan actually kept his personal feelings for the Raiders to himself but everyone knew how he felt about it.

“I think that will always be big in this organization, the rivalry [with] the Raiders,” Donatell said. “There’s no question about it but, but Mike kept that to himself. It was just really a credit to what the team thought about it. Mike made no special things about the Raiders, but you saw how well the team went out and played for him. That’s just a credit to how they wanted to support the coach.”

The current team and coach need to channel some of that “beat the Raiders” mentality this weekend. At least for Shanahan’s sake.

Shanahan News

Way Back When: The intertwined history of the Broncos, Raiders and Mike Shanahan
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Denver Broncos Dominate Mike Shanahan's Coaching All-Star Team - Sports Illustrated Mile High Huddle: Denver Broncos News, Analysis and More
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Mike Shanahan was a head coach in the NFL for a couple of decades and led the Broncos to back-to-back World Championships. If you were to compile an All-Shanahan team of players whom he coached, who would make it? Football Outsiders did just that.

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Before he was winning titles with Denver, Mike Shanahan was working for Al Davis - for a little bit.

Photos: All of the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame inductees
Take a look back at all 35 members of the Broncos Ring of Fame.