Former Denver Broncos’ coaches Dan Reeves and Mike Shanahan today could advance to the next stage in the voting process for the 2023 Hall of Fame class.
In late July, the contributor’s committee reduced the list of 29 semifinalists to 12, which included Reeves and Shanahan plus other greats like Tom Coughlin, Mike Holmgren and Marty Schottenheimer among them.
The committee will meet today to select one coach or contributor to go on the ballot. That choice must then receive 80 percent approval from the full body of selectors in January to be enshrined in Canton.
Current Broncos coach Sean Payton believes both Broncos’ Ring-of-Fame coaches have the HOF credentials and deserve the Canton honor.
But he admitted to being a little biased toward Shanahan since they both played quarterback (a decade apart) at Eastern Illinois University.
“I know Mike more. Dan had a fantastic career. They both have the credentials to be in the hall,” Payton said. “Mike is someone who has won two Super Bowls. The body of work for Mike is super impressive.”
In fact, Payton joked that he thought the only reason Shanahan wasn’t in the Hall of Fame already was because his five-year clock hadn't started yet.
“I thought he wasn’t eligible because he was still helping his son (laughs). I thought his five-year clock didn’t start,” Payton joked. “That’s what I thought the holdup was.”
Among the reasons Shanahan is so deserving, Payton acknowledged, is his offensive success every place he’s been as well as his disciples.
“We studied seven teams or six teams and Mike’s teams were always one of them,” Payton said. “There are just so many things that he has done from an innovative standpoint. The Super Bowl [play] where John Elway runs the deep boot and Rod Smith runs the comeback post. We had never seen that route before, and it was like, ‘Ah!’ We were all putting that in. Tupelo—we gave it a name. Mike invented that and he was a part of that. To hear that it was a sideline adjustment [was incredible]. ...He’s really smart, and really detailed.”
Payton acknowledged that he and many other NFL coaches still take many of Shanahan’s ideas to incorporate into their offensive schemes.
“When you are doing something that is good, people study the tape and [ask themselves], ‘Does it fit what we are doing?’” Payton said, adding that Shanahan has always been one of the few coaches ahead of the curve and his stuff has been worth taking.
“Absolutely we do. We stole a number of things that we pretend we invented. He just did so many different things that helped the quarterback play better,” Payton added, particularly highlighting Elway’s knowledge of this fact as well as the importance of the running game to help the quarterback. “Mike always valued the running game.”
Payton talked about when he brought in Shanahan’s former offensive line coach Alex Gibbs to visit the Saints once a month during the season and again in the postseason.
“For two years, he was with us, working on the wide zone, the running game, protections, and boots,” Payton said, adding that Shanahan always had a good staff of coaches working with him. “I think [Shanahan] had a keen eye on what he was looking for in teachers, and he knew personnel. He knew what he wanted to get out of each player. The career he had is unbelievable.”
Payton added that as an Eastern Illinois QB in the early 80s, he and his team all knew about Shanahan, and it was pretty cool to know an alum quarterback was already coaching in the NFL 10 years later.
“That was something, and to now know him and kind have known him for quite a while,” Payton recalled. “We had some tough games against him when he was still coaching. Offensively, just all of it, he is one of those guys—play caller, quarterback, offensive scheme and then the results.”
Payton again added both deserve the HOF designation.
“I’m happy for both of those guys,” he said. “It’s always difficult.”
There was only one point of contention for Payton...
“Man, it’s really hard,” he said of having continued success on offense year after year. “What’s even harder is to look as young as he looked when he was finished. He always looked rested and tanned (laughs). I’m always jealous.”