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Will Denver's fast start reflect poorly on Shanahan?

Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson

I still believe Mike Shanahan will be one of the most sought-after coaches once the hiring season begins in less than three months. I think Washington will make a run at Shanahan.

Still, I wonder if Shanahan’s attractiveness as a coaching candidate is being affected by Denver’s 5-0 start. I talked to several people around the league Monday about that possibility. Many thought Denver’s resurgence after Shanahan’s departure could be perceived as a negative mark on him.

Shanahan was fired after 14 seasons in Denver, where he won Super Bowls after the 1997 and ’98 seasons. The Broncos went 8-8 last season and suffered the biggest division collapse in NFL history by losing a three-game lead with three games to go.

Shanahan was fired because ownership thought the team needed new blood. New coach Josh McDaniels, who was wisely chosen by owner Pat Bowlen, has filled that role wonderfully. He is an early coach of the year candidate.

The Broncos, who beat New England in overtime on Sunday, are far exceeding expectations.

The biggest difference for Denver from last season is its defense. The defense has had an instant turnaround under McDaniels and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

If there was a phase of the game that got Shanahan fired in Denver it was his defense. During the three-game collapse to end last season, Denver allowed 112 points. In the first five games of this season, Denver has surrendered an NFL-low 43 points.

I could see some NFL owners wondering how Shanahan’s problem area could be resolved so quickly after his departure. The Broncos had a bad defense for the last two-plus seasons of Shanahan’s tenure. He had three different defensive coordinators in his final three seasons in Denver.

There is no questioning Shanahan’s ability as a CEO-type leader of a franchise and his offensive knowledge, but the Denver turnaround could make some potential employers nervous.

Shanahan is a proven winner in the NFL and he will garner interest, but the 2009 Denver Broncos are playing very well without the man who was the face of the organization for more than a decade.