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'He's the next guy who should go in': Pro Football Hall of Fame voters offer support for Mike Shanahan's HOF candidacy


Two-time Super Bowl champion and Ring of Fame Head Coach Mike Shanahan could soon earn pro football's highest honor.

Pro Football Hall of Fame voter and Coach/Contributor Selection Committee member Charean Williams said in late March she believes Shanahan is the next coach who should be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"To me, he's the next guy who should go in," Williams told at the NFL Annual Meeting in late March.

Williams is one of a dozen members of the Coach/Contributor Selection Committee who will nominate an individual as the finalist for the Class of 2025, and she said Shanahan's coaching success should earn him a spot in Canton, Ohio.

"I think he's probably the first coach I look at to say he needs to be the next one into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as [far as] coaches go," Williams said. "I just think when you look at his record, his number of wins — 170 wins — ranks right up there. Of the coaches who aren't in the Hall of Fame who are eligible, he's at the top of that list. And just the two Super Bowls and really what he did in his time in Denver I think was fantastic. [There are] a number of Hall of Famers that he coached and players that he developed. I just think he's a Hall of Fame coach."

The winningest coach in Broncos history, Shanahan is one of just seven coaches to win back-to-back titles. Four of the coaches to accomplish that feat have been elected to the Hall of Fame, while Andy Reid and Bill Belichick remained active coaches in 2023. Shanahan also oversaw one of the most successful periods in NFL history, as Denver won 46 games and two championships from 1996-98.

Following John Elway's retirement, Shanahan continued to find success as he helped the Broncos earn four more playoff appearances and advance to the 2005 AFC Championship.

"[The back-to-back Super Bowls are] definitely the highlight of his resume," Coach/Contributor Selection Committee member Jarrett Bell told "You can't ignore it. You talk about it, and then you go on and you talk about other things. Again, in my mind, you kind of put him on a lineup and you say, 'OK, here are the people that are in there.' I mean, there are coaches that are in there with zero Super Bowls, there's coaches in there with one Super Bowl victory. So two [wins] is definitely strong for his case."

Shanahan's legacy, though, is not limited to the stretch of on-field success the Broncos enjoyed during his head-coaching career. His influence on the coaching ranks — which includes working with Super Bowl-winning head coaches Gary Kubiak and Sean McVay — and his offensive principles continue to be felt.

"I think his [coaching] tree is huge, and I think that's a huge part that you consider when you talk about coaches," Williams said. "How did they produce assistant coaches? How did they change the game? And I think he did that with his tree, which has only extended through his son, Kyle Shanahan. You start connecting all of those different branches of the tree, and there's a ton of head coaches who have been in this league and are now in this league that really came from the Mike Shanahan tree. Even if they didn't start out under Mike, they've been a part of that branch that's come off of there. I just think he's had a huge impact in that way on the league, and that will continue for future years. I think it's the best thing you can say about a coach who's been retired … since after the 2013 season is that his legacy kind of continues on."

Added Bell: "At that time, he was dominant — … his Broncos team was dominant — but even moving forward from there, look at his coaching tree. Including his son, Kyle. There are definitely things that stand out about Mike, especially when you compare him to other coaches who have been in the Hall of Fame, who have been in the Hall of Fame conversation. He's right up there."

Williams said there is "no question" that Shanahan's momentum for the Hall of Fame has increased, and she said she believes Shanahan and Mike Holmgren will both be elected over the next two years.

"I think it's just a matter of which one goes in first," Williams said. "Some people have Mike Holmgren ahead of Mike Shanahan on the pecking order, so how many people are going to have Holmgren first and how many are going to have Shanahan first? I'd be willing to bet over the next two years, those are probably the two coaches that go into the Hall of Fame."

Bell also mentioned Belichick's potential candidacy in the near future as another variable, but he also acknowledged Shanahan's inclusion among the likely candidates.

"His momentum is still strong enough," Bell said. "It's kind of entrenched at this point when you talk about which coaches are like next in line. Especially when you think about in recent years, we've put Bill Cowher in, we've put Dick Vermeil in, we've put Don Coryell in. That's good for Shanahan's case, to tell you the truth."

Williams, though, believes Shanahan's back-to-back title wins puts him in a class where he deserves to be the next coach chosen for pro football's highest honor.

"[Shanahan] was able to do it two times and win back-to-back Super Bowls, which I think really kind of separates you," Williams said. "Those are the special teams, because there are only a handful of them that have done it in back-to-back years. He's one of those coaches that was able to do it in back-to-back years. To me, that sort of separates him and … one of the reasons I have him over Mike Holmgren. I think they're both Hall of Famers, but when you start doing the pecking order, to me, he's the next guy who should go in."

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