Broncos’ All-Time Winningest Coach Looking to Stick it to Raiders 1 Last Time

Getty Former Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan returns to the Mile High City a conquering hero, as he's being inducted into the franchise's Ring of Fame -- appropriately against the Las Vegas Raiders, October 17.

When the Las Vegas Raiders invade Empower Field at Mile High Stadium to face their arch-rivals, the Denver Broncos, on October 17, it’ll be an emotionally charged afternoon for many reasons.

Sure, there’s the swarming controversy involving recently deposed head coach Jon Gruden, but for Broncos Country, there’s a bigger and better reason to want to ruin the visitor’s weekend.

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The Mastermind Gets Honored

The Broncos have finally come around to honor former head coach Mike Shanahan, who just happens to be the franchise’s all-time winningest head coach, with 138 of his 170 career victories coming as the lead man in Denver. Overall, Shanahan coached 20 seasons, including 14 in Denver, and had a 55% winning mark over his illustrious career — but made his bones with the Broncos, as they won 61% of the games he coached.

The man nicknamed “The Mastermind” during his tenure in Denver, Shanahan will be 34th member of the organization to be inducted into the franchise’s Ring of Fame, during halftime of the Raiders’ game. And if people who aren’t familiar with the history of Shanahan and the Raiders don’t understand the magnitude of such a ‘coincidence,’ the long-time leading man had a chuckle at such fortuity, when he sat down with Denver 9News’ Mike Klis.

Dissed and Dismissed

Shanahan was once employed by the then-Los Angeles Raiders for just 20 games that spanned 1988-89. He was a young budding assistant, who was a proud hire of Raiders’ founding father Al Davis. And at the time, it was thought to be a coup for L.A., as Shanahan was the 36-year old hot-shot assistant who had success in Denver prior as the receivers coach in 1984, later being promoted to offensive coordinator (1985-87), where he and franchise star quarterback John Elway formed a bond on and off the field.

The duo later won back-to-back Super Bowl titles (1997-98) when Shanahan’s Broncos had a mini-dynasty in the latter portion of the decade. Shanahan is one of only six head coaches in NFL history to win the Super Bowl in successive seasons.

And probably almost as important to the ball coach, Ryan Koenigsberg of the DNVR Podcast tweeted the Broncos had a 21-7 mark against the Raiders during Shanahan’s tenure.

The Raiders’ tenure, though, wasn’t Shanahan’s finest, as he went 8-12 before being unceremoniously fired by Davis. And making matters even worse for the embattled coach, he was stiffed hundreds of thousands of dollars that were remaining on his contract, per SF Gate in 1995.

According to past accounts from Shanahan, Davis, who passed away in 2011, never paid his fired coach, and there’s reportedly still an unpaid bill upwards of $250,000 to $300,000 from the three-year contract Shanahan signed in 1988.

Shanahan likes to tell the story of Davis telling his canned coach, back in 1989, that he would pay his full salary if he didn’t return to the Broncos. Shanahan, of course, immediately returned to the Mile High City — further straining the relationship of the two.

The back-pay issue eventually landed in the NFL’s office, where then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue ruled in 1991 that Davis had to pay Shanahan. Davis defied the ruling, literally until his very end, and Shanahan never bothered to take the case to court, so the matter died with the legendary owner.

Rivalries Never Die

When asked about the timing of his October 17 ceremony, Shanahan said it was a no-brainer.

“It’s funny. I kind of laughed at it when they said, ‘which week would you like to do it? Would you like to do it against the Raiders or do it against the Washington [Football Team],'” Shanahan said to Klis. “I said, ‘you don’t have to ask me that question. You can figure that one out.'”

It’s likely safe to say that the Raiders tilt is a must-win for the Broncos in so many ways.

Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8

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