My Tuesday column contains the following passage: “It’s hard to find any modern coach who, once he became successful, went through a period [of struggle] like the one [Mike] Shanahan is going through.” By that, of course, I mean five straight seasons in which his team missed the playoffs (2006-08 with the Broncos, ‘10-11 with the Redskins). I’m not exaggerating, either. Consider:
● Don Shula, who coached forever (1963-95) and won a record 347 games, was never out of the playoffs more than four consecutive years (1986-89). His Dolphins went 30-33 (.476) in that stretch.
● Tom Landry’s longest postseason absence was three seasons (1986-88). Those, by the way, were his last three seasons as the Cowboys’ (or anybody else’s) coach. Their record in those years: 17-30 (.362).
● Joe Gibbs’ worst dry spell was two seasons (1988-89), during which the Redskins still managed to post a 17-15 mark (.531).
● Tony Dungy missed the playoffs twice in 13 years – with the Bucs in ‘96 (6-10) and ‘98 (8-8) – but never back-to-back.
So, yeah, for Shanahan’s club to be excluded from the postseason five seasons in a row (record: 35-45, .438) is a fairly big deal.
The only “name” coaches to fall into as deep a rut as Shanahan has are Hall of Famer Hank Stram and, more recently, Jim Mora (the elder). The details:
● Stram had five straight teams finish out of the playoffs – the 1972-74 Chiefs and ‘76-77 Saints. (Combined record: 27-41-2, .400.) But only four clubs qualified from each conference in those days. If six did, as is the case now, Kansas City would have made it as a wild card in ‘72, so … .
● Mora’s Saints (1993-96) and Colts (‘98) teams also failed to reach the postseason five consecutive times (1993-96 Saints, ‘98 Colts, 27-45, .375). But let’s be honest here; Mora, who went 0-5 in the playoffs despite racking up 125 career victories, was never put on the pedestal Shanny was after the Broncos carted off back-to-back Lombardi Trophies in the ‘90s.
Some other coaches you could compare Shanahan to:
● Bill Parcells – Longest drought: two seasons (1987-88 Giants, 16-15, . 516; and 2004-05 Cowboys, 15-17, .469) . Tuna took every team he ever coached to the playoffs in either his first or second year with them (the Patriots and Jets were the others).
● Mike Holmgren – Longest drought: three seasons (2000-02 Seahawks, 22-26, .458). Holmgren led Seattle to the playoffs the next five years (2003-07) … and to the Super Bowl (‘05) once.
● Bill Cowher – Longest drought: three seasons (1998-2000 Steelers, 22-26, .458). Later beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
● Andy Reid – Longest drought: one season (1999, 2005, ‘07 and ‘11 Eagles). Two of those Philly clubs, by the way, finished 8-8.
● Tom Coughlin – Longest drought: four seasons (2000-02 Jaguars, ‘04 Giants, 25-39, .391). Went to the playoffs the next four years, winning the Super Bowl in 2007.
● Bill Belichick – Longest drought: one season (2002, ‘09 Patriots). (Remember, I’m talking about the longest drought since these coaches became successful – which for Belichick was 2001, when he guided the Pats to the first of three championships.) His ‘02 (9-7) and ‘08 (11-5) clubs missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
● Jeff Fisher – Longest drought: three seasons (2004-06 Titans, 17-31, .354). Two years later, his ‘08 Titans started 10-0 and posted the best regular-season record in the league, 13-3 (but, alas, were upset in the playoffs by the Ravens).
I could go on, but you get the point: Shanahan is in a serious slump. Unless, that is, it’s actually The Beginning of the End.