By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 6, 2010;
Mike Shanahan is an offensive coach. He made his mark as an offensive assistant under Dan Reeves with the Broncos, became the head coach of the Los Angeles Raiders because of his offensive acumen, worked with some of the greats in the game as the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers under George Seifert, and then, back with the Broncos, excelled with Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.
Elway, of course, is the defining player of Shanahan's 14-year career with the Broncos. But a quick look at the statistics -- and a jog of the memory banks -- serves as a reminder that Shanahan's Broncos were actually defined by the running game. There was a time when Terrell Davis was the best back in the game. The 1998 season is remembered for Elway winning his second straight Super Bowl title -- in his last season before retirement -- but the Broncos really moved that year behind Davis's 2008 yards.
Davis's career lasted from 1995 to 2001 -- all under Shanahan, and the last three years were injury riddled. Still, he is the leading rusher in Broncos history with 7,607 yards and, more importantly, a career average of 4.6 yards per carry.
All that seems obvious to folks who watched the Broncos in those days, Davis running behind that cohesive offensive line -- not a huge unit, but one that moved well and opened huge holes. But the more remarkable part of Shanahan's offensive record in Denver is what came after Davis, and how seamlessly the running game went from back to back to back. Four of the top 10 running backs in Broncos history -- Davis, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis and Tatum Bell -- played exclusively under Shanahan.
And check out the Broncos' offensive rankings during Shanahan's 14-year tenure. Nine times, the Broncos ranked in the top five in the NFL in rushing yards. Never did they rank lower than 12th. Seven times they ranked in the top three in total offense, and another two times they were fifth.
The list is below.NFL rankings
Want a comparison? Here, then, are the Washington Redskins' rankings in total offense from 2009 back to 1995, going backwards: 22, 19, 15, 13, 11, 30, 23, 20, 28, 11, 2, 15, 16, 9, 18.
That's right. In the time Shanahan's Broncos finished in the top five in the league nine times, the Redskins did so exactly once.They were 15th or worse 10 times in those 15 seasons. Wow.
Change is on the way in Washington.