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Shanahan reflects on Bowlen, Broncos, and what’s next

Mike Shanahan isn’t ready to put down the clipboard and headset for retirement. The former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins head coach will take a year off, then will reevaluate the head-coaching scene around the NFL. “If I get back into coaching, it would have to be a situation where there was a realistic opportunity to win a Super Bowl,” the 61-year-old Shanahan said.

While Robert Griffin III opened Washington’s training camp this week with hopes to further distance himself from his disastrous 2013 season, the former head coach he battled with is itching to get back into the game.

Mike Shanahan, dumped in January as Washington’s coach after four seasons, told USA TODAY Sports he hardly is resigned to hanging up the clipboard. He wants to ultimately land another NFL head coaching job – if the conditions are right.

“If I get back into coaching, it would have to be a situation where there was a realistic opportunity to win a Super Bowl,” the 61-year-old Shanahan said.

In other words, he’s not interested in taking on the type of massive rebuilding job that he couldn’t pull off in Washington. Shanahan posted a 24-40 regular-season mark in Washington (0-1 in the playoffs), including the 3-13 free-fall last season that was marked by his benching of Griffin for the final three games. Although Shanahan called it an injury prevention measure, nearly a year after Griffin suffered his controversial knee injury, the shutdown late last season underscored the fractured relationship with his quarterback.

Asked about Griffin, Shanahan said: “I’m not going down that road. I’m going to let that play itself out. We’ll see as time goes on.”

Shanahan, living in Denver, said that beyond taking over a team with talent in key positions, there are at least a couple of other factors that he would desire as a coach to make a Super Bowl mission realistic. One would be salary cap room that would allow him to compete in free agency.

Of course, in Washington, he inherited an older roster and was saddled by a $30-million cap hit over two seasons as the team’s penalty for violating the spirit of the uncapped season in 2010.

The other essential element?

“It would have to be with the right ownership,” Shanahan said.

He didn’t mention Dan Snyder by name, but he didn’t have to.

This week, with the news that Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has relinquished control of the franchise while suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Shanahan has reflected much on their years together and the impact of ownership. Shanahan spent 21 years with the Broncos, winning two Super Bowls during his 14 years as head coach.

“He let you do your job,” Shanahan said. “Every resource that he had, he’d give it to you.”

Although Bowlen fired him after the 2008 season, Shanahan said there was so much that eclipses the turbulence that marked his departure from the Broncos.

“All of the good times prevails over everything,” he said.

Shanahan lives close to Bowlen. After hearing the news Wednesday, he stopped by the Bowlen residence and spent time with the owner’s wife, Annabel, and other family members.

Bowlen, he recalled, had a constant presence at the Broncos headquarters and developed tight relationships with players. The impact that he had on Shanahan was illustrated during the 1990s when the coach offered a lucrative new contract to underpaid star running back Terrell Davis.

Shanahan remembers taking the contract to Bowlen, seeking his review and approval.

Bowlen never even looked at the contract.

Shanahan said Bowlen told him, “That’s what I hired you for. I don’t need to look at the contract.”

“That gave me confidence,” Shanahan said. “He made you want to do well for him. You didn’t want to let him down.”

Perhaps Shanahan will get another shot to run an NFL team. At the moment, though, he will monitor the league from a distance. The last few months, Shanahan and his wife, Peggy, have traveled extensively.

He turned down an opportunity to join FOX, which would have kept him closer to the game.

Now, he’s feeling a bit out of place to not be in an NFL training camp right now.

Said Shanahan, “It’s always a little bit weird anytime you aren’t headed to camp this time of year, especially when you’ve done something for 40 years.”

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