ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In honor of former head coach Mike Shanahan's election to the Broncos' Ring of Fame, we're counting down the best moments of his 14-year head coaching career in Denver.
When someone wins as often as Shanahan did in Denver — 146 total wins, the highest total in franchise history — it can be difficult to narrow down a list of moments to just 10.
We've certainly left a few memorable games and moments off this list, but as we look back on Shanahan's illustrious career in Denver, these moments lead the way.
10. Week 7, 1995: First win over the Raiders
Before Shanahan's highly successful career in Denver, he spent 20 games as the Los Angeles Raiders' head coach. It was a tumultuous time, and Shanahan was let go by Al Davis just four games into his second season. In Week 7 of that season, the Broncos hosted the 5-1 Raiders on "Monday Night Football" and earned a 27-0 win. "To be honest with you, this is a little special considering my situation with the Raiders before," Shanahan said after the game. After the win, John Elway handed a game ball to Shanahan.
9. 1997 Divisional Round win over Kansas City
In what remains the only postseason matchup between the Broncos and Chiefs, Shanahan led Denver to a 14-10 win at Arrowhead Stadium in the Divisional Round of the 1997 playoffs. The Chiefs were the top seed in the AFC after they finished 13-3 to the Broncos' 12-4. Denver made the playoffs as a wild-card team, but Kansas City's home win in November essentially earned them the division title. In that game, the Chiefs made a 54-yard field goal as time expired to earn the win. That made the Broncos' playoff win even sweeter, as Terrell Davis scored a touchdown to push the Broncos ahead 14-10 in the fourth quarter. Elvis Grbac's fourth-down pass from the Broncos' 20-line fell incomplete with just seconds remaining, and Denver advanced to the AFC Championship.
8. Week 17, 1998: Sets single-season win mark in win over Seattle, Davis reaches 2,000 yards
In 1996, Shanahan and the Broncos matched the team's single-season wins record as they totaled 13 victories. The 1984 iteration of the Broncos also posted that many wins, but it had been 12 years since Denver had enjoyed that much regular-season success. In 1998, though, Shanahan and the Broncos did one better. Powered by their potent rushing offense, the Broncos earned their 14th win of the season in the regular season finale against the Seahawks. In the win, Davis crossed the 2,000-yard rushing mark. He became just the fourth player in NFL history to cross the barrier, and with 21 touchdowns that season, he was the clear NFL MVP.
7. Executes trade for CB Champ Bailey
In perhaps the biggest player-for-player trade in NFL history, Shanahan made waves in March of 2004 when he traded running back Clinton Portis to Washington for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick. Portis, who had just finished his second season in Denver, already had a Pro Bowl selection to his name, rushed for more than 1,500 yards in each of his two seasons and rushed for a combined 29 touchdowns. Still, Shanahan unquestionably made the right choice. Bailey, who had already made four Pro Bowls at the time of the trade, earned first-team All-Pro nods in each of his first three seasons in Denver and made eight Pro Bowls with the Broncos. Bailey made a memorable play in the 2005 Divisional Round win over the Patriots (more on that in a moment), but his best season came in 2006 when he had 10 interceptions. Bailey was chosen in 2019 as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
6. Week 1, 1995: Earns first career win as Broncos head coach
The Broncos would have bigger wins during Shanahan's head coaching career, but that 22-7 win over the Bills to begin the 1995 season is memorable in retrospect. Who would've guessed then that Shanahan would go on to win 145 more total games, earn two Super Bowl titles and help the Broncos to seven postseason appearances and nine winning seasons? This was the start of unparalleled run of success in the franchise's history. And, after an uncertain start to his head-coaching career during his 20 games with the Raiders, this win was a good omen for what would come next.
5. 1997 Wild Card win over Jaguars
The Broncos posted a 13-3 record in 1996 — Shanahan's second season with the team — but they suffered a painful home loss to the expansion Jaguars in the Wild Card round of the 1996 playoffs. A season later, the Broncos again found themselves matched up against the Jaguars in the Wild Card round. This time, Denver had no such problems, as they dominated in a 42-17 win. The victory was Shanahan's first postseason win as a head coach, and it kicked off the team's "Revenge Tour." Shanahan earned eight postseason wins during his 14 years in Denver.
4. 2005 Divisional Round win over Patriots
The Broncos made the playoffs four times following Elway's retirement after the 1998 season, but they earned just one postseason win. That memorable victory came in the Divisional Round against the New England Patriots, as the Broncos knocked off the back-to-back defending Super Bowl champions to earn a spot in the AFC Championship. The game turned at the end of the third quarter. Trailing 10-6, New England faced a third-and-goal from the Denver 5-yard line. Bailey ensured the Patriots wouldn't close the gap or take the lead, as he jumped Brady's pass and returned it 100 yards to the New England 1-yard line. The Broncos scored on the next play to take a double-digit lead. For a slew of talented players like Jake Plummer and Al Wilson, this game was their only postseason win in Denver. For Shanahan, it was the final postseason victory of his illustrious career.
3. Week 14, 2005: Becomes team's all-time winningest coach
After a decade of sustained success, Shanahan officially took his place as the Broncos' all-time winningest coach with a 10-3 home win over the Baltimore Ravens. It was fitting that Shanahan achieved the record at home, as the Broncos posted the best home record in the NFL during Shanahan's 14 seasons. The win — No. 111 — moved him past fellow Ring of Famer Dan Reeves for first place in regular-season wins. Shanahan's 136 career regular-season wins and 146 total wins remain unparalleled in Broncos history.
2. Super Bowl XXXIII
A season after the Broncos' first Super Bowl win, Denver was dominant in its march to back-to-back titles. The Broncos started 13-0, posted the league's second-ranked scoring offense and won their three playoff games by an average of 21 points. In the 34-19 Super Bowl win over the Falcons, the Broncos gained their edge on a 80-yard touchdown pass from Elway to Rod Smith. Shanahan was mic'd up for the game, and before the play he muttered, "It's going to be wide open." Smith, indeed, was quite open. Shanahan joined an elite club with his second Super Bowl win; only 13 coaches in NFL history have won at least two Super Bowls.
1. Super Bowl XXXII
It was impossible to put any moment ahead of the Broncos' 31-24 win over the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. After decades of close calls, the Broncos finally got over the hump to win their first championship. In Shanahan's third season in Denver, the Broncos snagged the elusive Lombardi Trophy. Shanahan's patented run-heavy offense was on full display, as Davis carried the ball 30 times for 157 yards and three touchdowns and took home MVP honors.