Most people get to view sports from one perspective. They’re players, or they’re fans, or they’re media. A lucky few get to experience two of these, although very rarely at the same time — guys will go from coaching to the media, or (in a few cases) from the media to the front office. But there aren’t many people on the planet who get to experience all three pretty much simultaneously.
Stefan Fatsis is one of those few. During the 2006 season, Fatsis — who contributes to the Wall Street Journal, Slate, NPR, and a whole ton of other things — was given permission to participate in the Denver Broncos training camp as a kicker, an experience that eventually became the excellent book A Few Seconds Of Panic.
As the coach of the Broncos at the time was one Mike Shanahan — and since Fatsis has lived in D.C. for the last seven years — he seemed like he could offer not just one but two separate and unique perspectives on what people could expect from Mike Shanahan. So I spoke to him after yesterday’s press conference, which he seemed to have attended partially for potential writing purposes and partially because it was nearby.
WHAT THE FANS CAN EXPECT FROM SHANAHAN
“Mike is not a guy, I think fans will discover, who wears his emotions on his sleeve,” Fatsis said. “He is a steady personality. He does not rise and fall with each victory or defeat. He has seen everything because he has been coaching for so long; nothing fazes him. The fans are the ones that go up and down and go crazy about wins and losses. Coaches need to be on a much more level plane. Mike understands that. His whole thing is organization, punctuality, professionalism, resources, discipline, and maturity.
“Those, I think, are — off the top of my head — sort of the key characteristics that he looks for in an organization. That was what he was able to create in Denver. He had a really unique relationship with Pat Bowlen. As I wrote about in the book, Bowlen described it as a marriage. They could sort of complete each others sentences. He trusted Mike implicitly with the operation of the entire franchise and I think Mike was being modest when he said, ‘I never had to exercise final say.’ Because he did exercise final say. He ran the place.”
Fatsis seemed unsure if that marriage relationship could be recreated with a new owner. “I think that sort of relationship builds over time,” he said. “Mike started in Denver when he was an assistant coach; Pat was a new owner when he took over the team. Mike was there, I think, the year Pat took over. So he was there from the very beginning when Mike wasn’t the head coach. They kind of grew up together in a way; Pat, as an owner and someone who became more and more influential within the league’s ownership circle and Mike, as an assistant coach who left and then came back to become head coach in Denver. So they kind of grew up together. That’s impossible to replicate. Mike is 57 going on 58 now. He’s not a 35 year old head coach.”
Which begs the question: can Shanahan’s way work in the absence of that relationship?
“I think that’s to be determined,” Fatsis said. “I think he’s at the point in his career where he’s so secure in what he does and his systems and his operations and his way of doing business, that he believes he can succeed anywhere. That he can graft his principles onto any organization — as long as the organization, that means from ownership down, is willing to accept what his way of doing business is. That’s not to say that Mike is inflexible, but he does demand a level of allegiance to his way of operating and his style. And it can be difficult for people that are underneath him inasmuch as they have to do it the Shanahan way.”
But the net result of that system, if followed, is worth the effort, Fatsis was quick to note. Read more »
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Some quality work from Comcast SportsNet here: Chick Hernandez watches the press conference introducing Mike Shanahan with Jason Campbell and Rock Cartwright, two of the six captains of the 2009 team. I find watching these guys watch this press conference interesting for two reasons, and they rarely overlap:
Reason 1: It affects them very directly. As fans, we watch because we want the team to improve. We want to hear that this new coach is going to clear out the guys we want gone and bring in guys we think are better. We want to hear that he’s going to institute some discipline and really make the players work. As players, they have to worry about being gone, about being subject to that discipline, and about undergoing a grueling new training camp.
Reason 2: And yet they sound just like us. There are plenty of times during this video where you could replace Rock Cartwright or Jason Campbell with Random Guy From The Barstool Next To You and not notice the difference.
The video starts with a bunch of Reason 2 stuff as the press conference begins on the TV in front of the guys.
Rock Cartwright: “What d’you think Jerry Jones think about that?”
Jason Campbell: “How many guys you think he’ll actually keep? How many coaches you think he’ll keep?”
RC: “I don’t know, man. I don’t know. That’s gonna be tough to figure out.”
[Onscreen, Mike Shanahan is asked about his immediate to-do list.]
RC: “I can’t even imagine coming in, man. You got so much stuff you gotta do.”
JC: “You got a TON of stuff. You probably already been looking at some stuff, though. You been looking at some stuff about a month and half, two months now. Ever since after the Detroit game.”
RC: “He’s probably been watching the games and everything, too. You know that.”
I’ve lumped the above exchange under Reason 2 because — you’ll notice — it doesn’t actually sound like the two guys actually have any particular reason to believe that Shanahan’s been making plans since the Detroit game. It’s just that they, like so many fans, assume that it’s true.
Then we get some examples of Reason 1 as onscreen Shanahan is asked about Jason Campbell and mentions in his response that he’s going to go over every play of Campbell’s career.
Tags: chick hernandez, ChickHernandez, comcast sportsnet, ComcastSportsnet, Jason Campbell, JasonCampbell, kelli johnson, KelliJohnson, Media, Rock Cartwright, RockCartwright
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While Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder wasn’t next to the podium at yesterday’s press conference introducing new head coach Mike Shanahan, it’s not because he’s lacking in enthusiasm for the hire. And he demonstrated this fairly clearly on last night’s Redskins Nation.
“I think that when you look at Mike and his background,” Snyder said, “his success, his teams have been so competitive. He’s won Super Bowls, championships, even as offensive coordinator he’s been to the Super Bowl and won the championship. And he is just a winner. We’re excited to have him.”
He continued, “[Shanahan has] not only the credentials, but the discipline, the competitive drive, the leadership skills … he’s a man that needs no introduction.” Read more »
Tags: Daniel Snyder, DanielSnyder
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