Doug Williams and Mike Shanahan, Friends Again


Good to know that Mike Shanahan doesn’t hold grudges. The Washington Post reported that former Washington Redskins quarterback and Super Bowl 22 hero Doug Williams would announce the team’s second-round draft pick April 28 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Former NFL players will announce each team’s second-round selection. Williams will be in New York on Draft Day while Shanahan will operate out of Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia. Still, it’s the closest the two have been in a football setting since Jack Murphy Stadium, January 31, 1988.

On that memorable day, Washington spottted Denver 10 points before Williams blew up the Broncos’ defense with four touchdown passes in the second quarter. Unheralded rookie running back Timmy Smith padded the score with a 58 yard touchdown run to give the ‘Skins an insurmountable 35-10 lead at the half.

The Broncos were three point favorites, thanks to quarterback John Elway who was considered to be the edge over Williams. Mike Shanahan was Denver offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. Blame the loss on the Denver defense that could not cope with Washington’s onslaught. Nor could Shanahan’s offense keep pace.

That was the second consecutive Super Bowl loss by Elway and Shanahan. Denver would lose the next Super Bowl after Shanahan moved on to coach the Oakland Raiders. Shanahan-doubters overlook that with the canard that he never won a Super Bowl without Elway. Elway had a hard time winning a Super Bowl with and without Shanahan. Neither won without running back Terrell Davis.

The truth? The NFC dominated the 1980s (good times) when Super Bowls were won by the San Francisco 49ers and whoever won The Beast. The ’85 Chicago Bears and the ’96 Green Bay Packers made solo appearances. The ’83 Los Angeles Raiders were the sole AFC super Bowl winner between 1982 and 1997. We don’t discuss that around here. You’ll have to read about it elsewhere.

Shanahan and Denver led the AFC Renaissance in Super Bowls 32 and 33 when the Broncos found a powerful running attack. Why could Shanahan not repeat the feat? He blew it with his next Terrell Davis.

Consider this. The 2005 Broncos finished the season 13-3. They lost the conference championship game to the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-17 when Broncos rushers Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell garnered no more than 67 yards and a score in a game where the Broncos played from behind from the start.

Clinton Portis finished the ’05 season as the fourth-leading rusher with 1516 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Redskins. Portis carried Washington to the playoffs. He might have swept Denver to the Super Bowl if Shanahan were prescient enough to pair him with Mike Anderson instead of throwing Anderson and Bell at the Steelers. I’ll leave that for another day.

Williams is remembered as the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl. I’m more impressed that he was the first African-American quarterback to be selected in the NFL Draft first round (1978, 17th overall pick), by a Deep South team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Joe Gibbs, offensive coordinator). Such things just didn’t happen then.

The saying is it’s a small world and a round one. If Williams and Shanahan can cross paths under friendly circumstances, so might Shanny and Clinton Portis…or Albert Haynesworth.

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