ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos' two most legendary coaches will not be moving on for final consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2023.
On Wednesday, the Hall of Fame announced that its Coach/Contributor Committee picked former Chargers coach Don Coryell to be the category's lone finalist for the Class of 2023 when the full Selection Committee meets in early 2023. That means that Broncos Ring of Fame head coaches Dan Reeves and Mike Shanahan, who were two of the 12 finalists for this honor, will have to wait at least another year for a chance to be honored in Canton, Ohio.
Reeves, who passed away on Jan. 1, 2022, helped usher in one of the most successful periods in franchise history after he was hired in 1981. Over the next 12 seasons, the Broncos only twice had a losing record and made the playoffs six times. Within five years, he became the organization's winningest head coach.
Coupled with a franchise quarterback in John Elway, Reeves also marshaled the Broncos to an unprecedented run in the 1980s, as the team won three conference title games in four seasons. In that decade, only Hall of Fame coaches Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs matched that success.
"Dan was a winner," Elway said in 2022 after Reeves' passing. "I owe a lot to him — he was instrumental in my career and growth as a quarterback. We were able to win a lot of football games together, going to three Super Bowls and competing every single year at a high level.
"With Dan, you knew you were going to be in every game. You always had a chance with him on your sideline. As the head coach, Dan was tough but fair. I respected him for that. We may not have always seen eye to eye, but the bottom line is we won a lot of games together. Looking back, what I appreciate about Dan is how he gradually brought me along to help me reach my potential.
"When you look at all Dan did in this league with all the success, all the Super Bowls and all the wins, I don't think there is any question he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What he's been able to do — taking two different teams to four Super Bowls and going to nine Super Bowls overall — is incredible. That speaks for just how far-reaching his impact was throughout this league not only as a coach but also what he did as a player."
Shanahan, who was hired by Reeves in 1984, would follow in his footsteps in coaching the Broncos starting in 1995. Like Reeves had done, Shanahan elevated the Broncos' reputation as a winning organization and led the team to new heights.
Under Shanahan, the Broncos went to Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, winning back-to-back championships in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII. By the time his tenure ended in 2008, he had become Denver's all-time winningest coach, with 146 overall wins (138 regular-season and 8 postseason).
"Mike Shanahan belongs in the Hall of Fame," Hall of Fame coach Bill Cowher said in 2020. "I've said if there's two people I had a hard time – the two toughest coaches I had the hardest time to prepare against, Bill Belichick and Mike Shanahan. …
"[Y]ou could never predict what he was going to call. He could open up the game with four straight passes, four straight runs. One time he opened up the game with four straight screens. So you never knew what to do. It was the package of the week, it was the philosophy of the week. He made you stay on your toes when you were trying to game plan against him."
As a football mind, Shanahan's also left his mark on the NFL writ large, as his outside-zone scheme has become an ever-growing system within the league, from his son Kyle with the 49ers to Super Bowl LVI-winning head coach Sean McVay.
"The fact that this guy is not in the Hall of Fame is a travesty," former Broncos guard Mark Schlereth said in 2021. "He needs to go directly to the Hall of Fame. … There are a ton of teams running a variation of what Mike Shanahan created. And Mike Shanahan, really, he was the first."
The Hall of Fame's selection committee will nominate two more Coach/Contributor finalists across the next two years, which means Shanahan and Reeves will soon have another chance at election.