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Which head coach candidate can be the next Mike Shanahan?

Steve Atwater spoke on Broncos Country Tonight about why Shanahan was the ultimate leader - he knew football, and he got results.

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Denver Broncos vs Oakland Raiders - November 12, 2006 Photo by Robert B. Stanton/NFLPhotoLibrary

One down, nine to go in the Broncos’ head coaching search.

Whew, that’s a lot.

But George Paton likes due diligence and having choices.

He met Thursday with Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn in his first of many interviews for the top job. Paton and his search committee will then make their way to Green Bay for interviews with Packers’ passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy today and Packers’ offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett tomorrow.

But while Paton and the Broncos sift through a multitude of resumes, weighing opinions on the various coaches, their styles, the philosophies, Broncos Country will undoubtedly offer its two cents on all sorts of reasons Coach X is better than Coach Y or Z or Q or M but not as good as Coach B or R or S or N, etc.

Heck, even Broncos PR was curious which coach the Denver media thought would be the most likely to be standing on the sidelines with a headset on next season (hint: if you’re curious, the front-runner for the reporters still seems to be Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, but many consider Packers’ OC Hackett as a highly likely option).

What kind of head coach does Denver need?

But let’s talk about what this franchise needs most from the new guy in charge rather than who that guy in charge might be.

Paton mentioned in his presser following the purge among the Broncos coaching ranks that leadership would be the No. 1 priority.

“We’re looking for someone to lead this entire organization, to lead this community, and to lead our players. That’s the No. 1 trait we’re looking for. Obviously, we want the best football coach. I’m not worried about what side of the ball, and I’m not worried about a play caller. We want leadership. That’s our No. 1 priority.”

Earlier this week, Steve Atwater talked with Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright on Broncos Country Tonight about what kind of coach he would like the Broncos to bring in.

Atwater agreed that a coach who can lead both sides of the ball is crucial, but he added an extra layer - a guy who knows both sides of the ball well.

That may seem like a no-brainer trait, but Broncos fans should know it is not given that two of the last three head coaches here definitely did not know both sides of the ball wall. they knew defense really well but were fairly useless when it came to helping the offense improve/perform/thrive...pick your verb.

But Atwater has a blueprint - Mike Shanahan.

“In my opinion, he was the best head coach I ever had. He was the best because he was a not only was a great offensive mind but because he really understood defense,” Atwater said. “We’d be lined up in practice, and he’d say, ‘No, no, no, no. If you line up there, you’re giving it away to the offense.’ So he knew both sides. He understood both sides. And I think it’s vitally important that the head coach understands intricately what both sides of the ball are trying to do.”

Atwater also would prefer the next head coach not be the one calling plays for whatever side of the ball he favors.

“I don’t want him calling plays. I prefer that we have an offensive coordinator that has a great relationships with the head coach, they’re on the same page and the offensive coordinator is executing what the head coach wants,” Atwater said. “When things do not go well on offense, you don’t want the head coach to be so in tuned to the offense that he can’t coach the defense as well. You want a coach who can be there for both sides of the ball.”

Atwater was quick to say he wasn’t necessarily looking for the coach to be “the polar opposite” of Vic Fangio, just that he would prefer a non-play caller as the head.

But Allbright pointed out that the list of candidates already suggested Paton is looking for a different kind of head coach than Fangio - high energy, able to connect with players, emotional-type guys.

“They are going opposite but in a way you are not suggesting,” Allbright said, adding that age and side of the ball are not really major considerations. Instead there seems to be a consistent theme - high energy coaches.

“Whatever you think of Vic Fangio, love his defensive mind, he’s kind of an academic,” Allbright said. “Nobody ever saw Vic Fangio out there as a rah-rah guy, and I think a lot of these guys are. I think they are looking for people who will connect with players on an emotional level.”

All about results

In the end, though, Atwater settled on the fact that the head coach just absolutely has to get results.

“Results is what builds your players’ confidence in you as a coach,” he noted. “Sometimes the guys are going to question ‘how good are we really?’ And then they go out on the field and execute the play and see, ‘Oh, wow, dang, this works, that was a great play call right there!’ And defensively as well. That builds confidence in coaches by players.”

And player buy-in to the coach can go a long way - not to say that players didn’t have that for Fangio because the defense certainly did, but he needed that buy-in from all the guys and on the field, not just the locker room.

“I’m just thinking back to my experience of playing in NFL and how it felt when you had a leader who knew football,” Atwater said, alluding to Shanahan the Senior again. “Mike’s knowledge of football was just on another level, and we really respected that. He was just a super guy to be around. He made it fun for us, and it was just the ultimate environment to be in.”

So there you have it. According to our Hall of Fame safety, the next coach for Denver just needs to be able to really know both sides of the ball and most importantly, be able to get results from both sides.

So who’s the next Mike Shanahan?

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