10:35 a.m. MST: The team meeting room is flooded with reporters and television cameras. I count 20 cameras, with plenty of photographers lined up across the front of the room.
The parking lot outside is flooded with satellite trucks — there are live radio shows happening as we speak here at Dove Valley. You can really get a feel how big this story is, not only in Broncos Country but across the nation.
10:45 a.m. MST: Vice President of Public Relations Jim Saccomano is addressing the crowd — he said the conference will begin at around 11:01 or 11:02, for television purposes.
10:53 a.m. MST: Broncos staff members are heading into the room — the room is pretty packed. People are standing along the sides of the room against the wall, as well. Quarterbacks Coach Jeremy Bates and Wide Receivers Coach Jedd Fisch just arrived and found seats.
10:58 a.m. MST: Assistant General Managers Brian Xanders and Jeff Goodman along with Vice President of Football Operations/Player Personnel Jim Goodman are standing along the wall. The room is silent as the crowd awaits the arrival of President and CEO Pat Bowlen.
11:03: a.m. MST: A number of assistant coaches have arrived now, including Tight Ends Coach Pat McPherson, Offensive Assistant Joe Baker and Running Backs Coach Bobby Turner. Jim Saccomano is headed to the podium to address the crowd.
11:04: a.m. MST: President and CEO Pat Bowlen has just stepped to the podium. “As everybody in the room is aware, I have decided to make a historic change in this organization. I have terminated Mike Shanahan as the head coach, and I wish him very well as he goes forward. I’m sure he will end up in another organization and be as great for that organization as he’s been for this organization.”
11:05: a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen: “Obviously he has Hall of Fame credentials, and I hope that I can replace him with somebody that can be on the same level that Mike was. That’s obviously going to be very hard to do. I decided to make this change for a number of reasons…I think it was time for the organization to move on and for Mike to move on. I have no regrets in making that decision. I have a great deal of respect for Mike, obviously, and will support him as much as I can in anything that he wants to do in the future.”
11:07: a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen: “I had been thinking about it for a while. Obviously this season didn’t go as well as I would have wanted it to go — I’m not laying the blame on the coach for that, we just didn’t get it done…That’s not the primary reason I’m here today. It was one of the reasons.”
“I think that at this point in time, after 14 years as a head coach, it was time for us to go in a different direction. I think that Mike still wants to coach, and I think he’ll probably be more comfortable coaching in a different organization. I think it’s a good decision for both of us.”
11:08: a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen: “Unfortunately I’ve never believed in a coach for life. I’ve had to fire other coaches — this is the third one — and they’ve gone onto successful careers in other organizations. That’s just the business.”
11:09: a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen: “Mike and I have always had a close relationship. Obviously it’s going to be a little strained at this point, but I think as we go down the road we’ll continue to respect and appreciate each other, and we’ll continue to be friends.”
“I just felt that it was time for a change. I think 21 years with one organization, 14 years as a head coach, is about long enough. I think we want to go in a different direction.”
11:10: a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen on Shanahan as Head Coach/G.M.: “I felt that Mike was doing both those jobs and was doing them well. I don’t anticipate that the next head coach will have both jobs.”
11:11: a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen on bringing up the decision with Shanahan: “Yesterday was the first time it ever came up. (The conversation) went very well — as well as a conversation of that nature can go. I don’t think there was any animoscity at all. I think he was shocked, I think he was surprised, but I didn’t feel that there was a lot of negative vibes in that room. I think he knows how I feel about him and I think he feels the same way about me.”
11:13: a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen on what he would say to the fans: “We’re going to try to get a great coach to come in here. I think we’ve got a great personnel staff upstairs…This job in Denver is a very attractive one and I think we’ll get a great coach.”
11:14: a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen: “At some point in time you reach a decision in your own mind. I haven’t been thinking about this the whole season…I think that as we got through the last game and I looked back at the season and looked back on our relationship and looked back on a lot of things, I thought it was time to move on. I have no doubts in my mind that Mike will go out and get another job with another organization and be very successful. But I thought that broadly if we look back at it a month from now that he’s going to agree that it was the right decision.”
“I guess nothing’s forever.”
11:16: a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen tears up a little when asked what was the toughest part about the meeting with Shanahan yesterday: “I guess the emotion. The friendship. When you’re with somebody for 21 years and you’ve got to let him go, it’s a tough decision.”
“I know I have to make some decisions in this organization that I don’t like, and that was probably at the top of the list. But those are decisions you have to make when you own an organization.”
11:17: a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen on if it was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do: “Probably. In 25 years this is probably as tough as it gets.”
How close is this to a playoff team? “We’re not in the playoffs, so we’re a long way away. But that could change in a hurry,” Bowlen said.
11:18: a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen on what he wants from the next coach: “I want somebody to come in here and win a Super Bowl. That’s my number one goal. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I’m here for…So I hope I can pick the right coach and our personnel people can pick the right players and we can go on and win the next Super Bowl.”
On the current coaching staff: “I don’t anticipate that we’ll be keeping any members of the coaching staff. Nothing will change in the personnel department.”
On if he has talked with any players: “I have talked with Jay Cutler, and Jay understood the conversation. I talked to him this morning, I didn’t get any negative feedback. I think he understands enough about the business of football and the game of football.”
11:21 a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen on if he will have help in finding the next coach: “I don’t think that I would consider myself smart enough to do it all by myself. I think there’s a lot of talent in this building that can help me out, and I will rely on the advice of certain people in this building that I have respect for, and we will hopefully get a great new coach. By the way, this job here — and I don’t say this in any bragadocious way at all — but this is a very high-thought-of job.”
11:23 a.m. MST: Mr. Bowlen on his relationship with Shanahan: “I think we’ll have a relationship for life. You don’t do the things that we’ve done together and then just sort of move on and forget about it. That’s not the way this business works. So I know Mike’s very disappointed. I know I’m disappointed that I had to make this decision, but Mike will go on and he will be very successful. And I’ll be very happy for him, as long as he’s not beating us. (Smiles) I think the relationship will be, as we go forward, very strong.”
On the conversation yesterday: “Mike and I understand each other. It wasn’t a confrontational conversation, it was none of those things. It was just a conversation where I said, ‘I’ve got to move on,’ it was fully understood.”
On if Shanahan went to a division rival: “I wouldn’t be too happy if he went to Kansas City. (Laughs) Mike will have a lot of opportunities…and if I’m consulted by an owner of that team, I’ll give him the highest marks I can.”
11:25 a.m. MST: “Today we start the process of selecting a new head coach. I don’t know how long that will take, and I don’t even know who the candidates are at this time. But we will get a good head coach.”
Are you considering taking the G.M. job? “Hell no.”
11:26 a.m. MST: Bowlen walks out of the room and Mike Shanahan is stepping to the podium. “I’ve been here 21 years, so I’ve got a lot of people to thank, you’re going to have to bear with me.”
11:28 a.m. MST: Shanahan thanks his personal assistant Cindi Lowe, and says that she was really the head coach for the past 14 years. “So the bad plays were her fault,” he jokes.
“You’re not here for 21 years unless you’ve got the best people around you.”
11:31 a.m. MST: “One thing that is very exciting to me is the football team that we have — the character of this team. When you leave a football team and you leave a team that has the utmost character, you feel good about it. You feel like you’re leaving a team that has a chance to be a difference-maker.”
11:32 a.m. MST: Shanahan gets a little emotional and pauses at the podium. “Obviously Pat Bowlen — it’s tough, because he is a great friend and will always be a great friend. The best owner in sports. I appreciate every opportunity you gave me to be successful. I can go on and on, but you have to make tough decisions in any organization and Pat made a tough decision…I just thank him for giving me the opportunity to do the things that I’ve been able to do.”
11:35 a.m. MST: Shanahan: “It’s been fun. It’s been a great ride. … I wouldn’t give anything up. Do you deserve it? Hey, we didn’t win the past three years. … I didn’t get the job done and that’s the bottom line. Your job is to win championships and I haven’t won a championship in a while. The next place I go that will be the biggest thing I think about — what will give me the best chance to win a championship.”
On the decision: “It did catch me a bit by surprise, but I can understand the reasoning behind it.”
11:36 a.m. MST: Shanahan: “That’s what the Denver Broncos are…we want to win championships, and I think we will in the near future. I’ll always be a part of that.”
How tough was it to have someone tell you you’re being terminated? “I think when it happened to me the first time when I was with the Raiders it’s very tough. But all of a sudden you start getting used to getting fired — it’s not quite as tough. (Smiles) But on the serious side, it’s always tough when you put your heart into something and you get let go…The bottom line is you understand people have to make tough decisions that they think gives the organization the best chance to win.”
11:39 a.m. MST: On yesterday’s conversation: “I felt for Pat. I said, ‘Hey, I understand where you’re coming from.’ It was harder for him to tell me than it was for me to accept it. I’ve had to be in his shoes…It only lasted five minutes, because more than that I think we both would have broken down.”
Was it hard? “It hurts. But tough times don’t last — tough people do. That’s life.”
11:41 a.m. MST: Shanahan on if he will want the same dual title if he takes another coaching job: “The thing that people don’t understand I think very often is that titles don’t mean anything. What you want are confident people to run different parts of your organization. … What I want is great advice. I want the guy coaching that offensive line to coach it better than me. … That’s how you develop a strong organization, you hire people that are smarter than you in different areas.”
11:43 a.m. MST: Shanahan on if he had any inkling what he was walking into Bowlen’s office for yesterday: “No, I did not. I wasn’t really sure. Maybe lunch. (Laughs) My new restaurant that I’ve got to promote?”
11:46 a.m. MST: Shanahan on what he wants to say to the fans: “I say Denver fans are the best. We’ve got the best win-loss record at home and I attribute that to the fans. It’s a college atmosphere, and they deserve the best. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to do that the past couple years, but they’re behind you. I love them.”
11:48 a.m. MST: Shanahan on assistant coaches being let go as well: “That’s the hardest part about this job. Don’t feel bad for me. I’ve been lucky enough to last for this organization for 21 years. The people I have the most concern for are the assistant coaches, the support staff, people that have to move their families. That’s the toughest thing about being fired as head coach — you let a lot of people down.”
On if he would take a college job: “I think I’m an NFL guy. I’m not ruling anything out, because when you don’t have a job, beggars can’t be choosers.”
11:50 a.m. MST: Shanahan on what he will miss the most: “I think relationships with the people that you work with every day. Any time you work 100-hour weeks and you’re busting your rear end to make things happen, that’s what football’s about. It’s family. … That’s what I’ll miss, because I think we had a lot of things in place headed in the right direction, which is great for the Denver Broncos.”
11:51 a.m. MST: On if John Elway would be a valuable part of the organization: “If I was a free agent coming in and John Elway was there, I’d sign for no money. … I think John would be perfect for any organization, especially this one, if that’s what he wanted to do.”
11:53 a.m. MST: Shanahan on Bowlen’s decision: “It’s tough, but I’m a big boy, I can understand why he wants to go in that direction.”
11:54 a.m. MST: Shanahan: “I’m going to be coaching. I can’t give you a time frame. But I’m going to look at my options. … I love the NFL so I don’t see myself getting out of it.”
“All I can say is my experiences here were off the charts. How you develop relationships is going through those experiences together. … That’s why I appreciate everyone in this room, because one person doesn’t make it happen. Everybody together makes it happen. And you’ve got to have an owner that gives you the ability to go out and get the best people and keep the best people. … To win a Super Bowl, to separate yourself, you have to be the best in every area. And that’s what I’ll miss about here — Pat gives you the chance to do that.”
11:57 a.m. MST: Shanahan on Bowlen’s decision: “Sometimes you’ve got to go with your gut. Sometimes you’re at a place for 14 years and it’s the best thing for the organization. I’m not saying that, obviously (smiles), but I think this will always be one of the top places in the league because of leadership.”
11:58: a.m. MST: On what the past 15 hours have been like for him: “You sit down with your family, with the kids…” Shanahan pauses as he gets a little emotional.
“My son understands the business, he’s with the Texans, and my daughter’s in town, she’s getting married … they understand how tough it is to let someone go because they know how tough it was on me. So they can relate to what Pat had to do.”
12:00 p.m. MST: The press conference comes to a close.
“I appreciate everything,” Shanahan says as he shakes Vice President of Public Relations Jim Saccomano’s hand and heads out of the team meeting room.
DenverBroncos.com will have continuing coverage throughout the day, including an in-depth story, videos and photo galleries.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com