Animus: Revisiting the Shanahan Era

Written by Mario Tovar


In the aftermath of the Broncos spoiling Oakland’s hopes of winning the AFC West and amidst rumors John Elway might bring in Kyle Shanahan to coach Denver, it felt this should be an interesting time to revisit the Shanahan era with the Raiders. The history alone of the grudge match that was Al Davis versus Kyle’s father was ugly, but the possibility of a Shanahan coaching the Raider’s rival would undoubtedly revive some of that historic tension.


When Mike Shanahan was hired in 1988 he replaced one of the most popular head coaches in Raiders history, Tom Flores (only other coach loved as much was John Madden). From the outset Shanahan was seen as an outsider having been the first head coach hired outside of the organization in more than a generation, but it was Al Davis’ infamous micro-managing style that doomed Mike and sealed his fate before he ever got started. In Shanahan’s only full season he went a dismal 7-9. After starting 1-3 the following season he was quickly let go following a year of internal dissention which led various in-house fights between assistants which marred Shanahan’s tenure. Additionally, unproductive draft picks leading up to Coach Shanahan’s tenure left him without much talent to work with including a mess at the quarterback position.


After winning a Super Bowl with the 49ers in 1994 as offensive coordinator he was hired the following season as head coach of the Denver Broncos, which obviously infuriated Davis and further grew a grudge that would continue for more than a decade which saw Shanahan dominate the Silver and Black. The ultimate irony in the grudge match came when Mike led the Broncos to consecutive Super Bowl wins while dragging out the financial mess with Davis that was still unresolved from Mike’s original firing from the Raiders.


Kyle Shanahan has done a good job with the Redskins as offensive coordinator and obviously his last name carries weight in the NFL, more so with the Raiders and its fan base which for more than a generation have despised the name. The irony in all that drama is that it was, in fact, Davis who pulled the triggered when he fired him and never truly gave him a shot, consequently people look back and believe Al undermined Mike while many other observers believe it was Shanahan that undermined his own team –which has never made sense, why would a rookie head coach undermine his first job?-. With the current Denver Broncos; Kyle Shanahan could possibly inherit an elite defense, when healthy, but an offense that would need renovation despite already having a quarterback in Paxton Lynch that some believe could carry Denver for the next decade. If the Kyle hiring comes to bear fruit there is no doubt that it would fire up this intense rivalry if not for the teams but perhaps more so for Raider’s fans who are all too familiar with Kyle’s last name.


“It’s not important to be consistent, it’s important to be right.”

-Al Davis



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[…] some on the outside might not see this act as a big deal, Raider Nation’s very aware of the ugly history between these two […]