Thursday, January 1, 2009

As a leader, if you don't like tough decisions, it won't be long until you're very average

If you missed Mike Shanahan's press conference yesterday after he was fired, you can read the full transcript here. It's worth taking 5-10 minutes reading through it.

Coach Shanahan thanked members of the Denver front office and a number of his former players and assistants. He also thanked various members of the Denver media and the fans.

Here are a few highlights from Coach Shanahan's comments:

The one thing that was really exciting to me is the football team we have and the character of this team. I think the things we were able to do this year, when you leave a football team and you leave a team that has the utmost character then you feel good about it.

I feel good about the job I have done. The thing is, you have to make some tough decisions when you run an organization. You have to do things that are in the best interest of the organization, and I felt that that was right and I understand the direction he went. I have no problem with it because he is the best owner in sports.

I have been here for 14 years, I had 14 great years and it has been fun. It has been a great ride. Twenty-one years all-in-all, when you go back to those experiences I don’t give anything up.

Do you deserve it? We didn’t win for the last three years. We were 8-8, heck we were a .500 team. You get judged by performance, and I didn’t get the job done, that is the bottom line. Your job is to win and to win championships and we have not won a championship in awhile. The next place I go to, that will be the one thing that I am thinking about—What gives me the best chance to win a championship?

I think what you do is reflect through your relationships and what you are able to accomplish. I think we have done a lot. This is the best organization in sports. Pat Bowlen does unbelievable job of giving the best chance to be successful. When you look at everything, you say, ‘Hey, it has been fun.’ We will always be friends; we will always be best friends and appreciate people having to make tough decisions. It is not easy, but you have to do what you think is in the best interest of the organization.

When [I was fired] the first time with the Raiders, it was very tough, the first time you are fired. All of a sudden you start getting used to getting fired and it is not quite as bad because you understand sometimes people have to make some tough decisions.

On the serious side, it is always tough when you put your heart and soul into something and you are let go. That is all you care about is winning, and that is the bottom line. When you are not able to do that, it is hard especially when you think that you are not too far off.

The bottom line is you understand people have to make decisions that they feel gives this organization the best chance to win. Those decisions for me over the years have been very tough. I have loved a lot of these guys that you have to let go, but you do things that you think are going to give you the best chance to win.

Those are tough decisions, the toughest there are. That is what leaders do. You have to look at something and say, ‘Hey I made a mistake or I think it is the best interest of this organization to go in a different direction’.

Sometimes you have to do that with coaches and you have to do it with support staff. But you better be on the cutting edge because if not, it is going to pass you by. The executives will tell you if you don’t like those tough decisions, it won’t be long until you are very average.

It does. It does hurt, but tough times don’t last, tough people do. That is life. You regroup and you go find another job. My goal has always been to win a Super Bowl. My next job that I go to will be based on one thing: It gives you the best chance to win because this thing is about winning, all the time you put in.

The thing that people don’t understand very often is that [job] titles really don’t mean anything. What matters is people making decisions. What you want is competent people to run different parts of your organization and that is what I have always wanted.

If I got a general manager that is taking care of personnel, they may give me the final say but how often do I have the final say? What I want is advice. I want the guy that is coaching those quarterbacks or the offensive line to coach it better than me. I know they are putting all their time into it.

I want the GM that is a lot more qualified than I am in the personnel because he is doing it 24 hours a day to tell me who to sign. That is how you develop a strong organization; you want to find people that are stronger that you in certain areas that have a chance to be successful and I have always tried to do that.

Every assistant that I have hired knows that position better than me or else I could coach that position. That is not my specialty. That is what I think they try to do in every organization, try to get the best. If a certain position needs help then it is my job to go and help that certain position whatever it may be. That is why you are the head coach, that is why you are put in those situations.

We are all judged by what you get done and the expectations are very high and they should be. The bottom line is that it came back to me. I didn’t get it done. It doesn’t matter if it is what happened relative to anything. The bottom line is that it comes back to me.

[On what he is looking for in his next job.] Everything… and players. (Whatever) gives you the best chance to win. A person (owner) that wants to compete, a person that wants to win the championship as badly as you do. That would be No. 1. Ownership that wants to win just like you do and is willing to go to extremes to get that done.

It depends on ownership and people willing to compete. Do they want it as badly as you do?

[On telling his assistants that he's been fired.] That’s the toughest thing there is about being fired as a head coach. You let a lot of people down and a lot of families down—people that you believe in, people that you are for—and you are not able to take care of those families. So that’s the toughest part about it, by far.

[On what he'll miss most.] I think relationships with the people that you work with any day. Anytime you work 100-hour weeks and you’re busting your rear end to make things happen, that’s where football is—that’s what the family is about. Just working your tail off and trying to make it happen, trying to win a Super Bowl. And that’s what I’ll miss because I think we had a lot of things in place going in the right direction.

I’m going to be coaching. I can’t give you a time frame. I’m going to look at my options, see what options are out there.

All I can say is in my experiences here, it was just off the charts. You know, how you develop the friendships, how you develop relationships is going through those experiences together—going through the tough times, going through the good times.

And I’ve had a lot of those experiences with the Denver Broncos as an assistant coach and as a head coach. And that’s why I appreciate everybody in this room, because you don’t make it happen—one person doesn’t make it happen. Everybody makes it happen.

You have to have an owner that gives you the ability to go out there and get the best people and keep the best people. You get the best players and you get the best coaches because all I am is one of many. To win a Super Bowl and separate yourself you have to be the best at every area.