THE END OF THE SHANAHAN ERA

Few coaches — even successful ones — last as long as Mike Shanahan did in Denver.

But after a three-game losing streak to knock the Broncos out of the playoffs for a third consecutive year, the sand in Shanahan’s hourglass finally ran out.

The dismissal followed an 8-8 season that saw an elite offense negated by a defense that was 29th in yardage allowed per game, 31st in yardage allowed per play and surrendered more points than any Broncos team since 1963.

Jay Cutler set a then-Broncos record with 4,526 passing yards, and Brandon Marshall and rookie Eddie Royal finished the year with 104 and 91 receptions, respectively. And amazingly, the Broncos finished third in average per rush despite being forced to cycle through six different starting running backs — Selvin Young, Michael Pittman, Ryan Torain, Peyton Hillis, Tatum Bell and P.J. Pope.

But the defense gave up 30 or more points nine times, including three in a row to close the season when the Broncos needed to win just one game to claim the AFC West crown. Instead, they fell 30-10 at Carolina, 30-23 to a Buffalo team that had lost seven of its last eight games, and finally 52-21 at San Diego to send the Chargers to the playoffs and the Broncos home for the winter.

Two days later, Owner Pat Bowlen called Shanahan into his office and dismissed the Broncos’ winningest head coach.

“I just felt that it was time for change,” Bowlen explained a day after the decision. “Twenty-one years of being at one organization and fourteen years as head coach is about long enough.”

Weeks later, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was introduced as the Broncos’ next head coach.

2008 schedule

Date Opponent Score
9/8 at Oakland Raiders 41-14
9/14 san diego chargers 39-38
9/21 new orleans saints 34-22
9/28 at kansas city chiefs 19-33
10/5 tampa bay buccaneers 16-13
10/12 jacksonville jaguars 17-24
10/20 at new england patriots 7-41
11/2 miami dolphins 17-26
11/6 at cleveland browns 34-30
11/16 at atlanta falcons 24-20
11/23 oakland raiders 10-31
11/30 at new york jets 34-17
12/7 kansas city chiefs 24-17
12/14 at carolina panthers 10-30
12/21 buffalo bills 23-30
12/28 at san diego chargers 21-52
 

2008 offense

Pos Player Starts
qb jay cutler 16
rb tatum bell 3
rb michael pittman 3
rb p.j. pope 1
rb ryan torain 1
rb selvin young 5
fb/rb peyton hillis 6
fb spencer larsen 1
wr darrell jackson 2
wr brandon marshall 15
wr eddie royal 15
wr brandon stokely 2
te daniel graham 16
te nate jackson 3
te tony scheffler 7
c casey wiegmann 16
t ryan clady 16
t ryan harris 16
g ben hamilton 16
g chris kuper 16

2008 defense

Pos Player Starts
de elvis dumervil 15
de ebenezer ekuban 10
de john engelberger 6
dt kenny peterson 1
dt dewayne robertson 15
dt marcus thomas 16
lb boss bailey 6
lb spencer larsen 3
lb nate webster 13
lb d.j. williams 11
lb jamie winborn 11
lb wesley woodyard 6
cb champ bailey 9
cb joshua bailey 5
cb dré bly 16
cb karl paymah 2
s josh barrett 3
s vernon fox 3
s calvin lowry 3
s marquand manuel 14
s marlon mccree 7
s roderick rogers 1

Record: 8-8
Second place, AFC West