Shanahan's his man as Bowlen discusses reasons for GM's firing

DENVER -- In the week since firing longtime general manager Ted Sundquist, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has been criticized as not holding himself accountable enough for Denver's 7-9 season.

When Sundquist's dismissal was announced last Wednesday, Shanahan offered nothing more than a brief statement reflecting on the GM's contributions to the franchise. "I am grateful to Ted for all his hard work and efforts on behalf of the Broncos for the past 16 years," the statement read.

But in an interview with The Denver Post, team owner Pat Bowlen cited a poor relationship between GM and coach that led to Sundquist's ouster.

"There was in my mind a dysfunctional relationship between the head coach and the general manager," Bowlen told the newspaper for Tuesday's editions. "Not that they didn't like each other. It just didn't seem the proper chemistry was there. I'm not blaming either party.

"Ted was an important part of the equation, but there had to be a good communication there or else it wasn't going to be satisfactory to me."

Bowlen also said that while Shanahan is expected to make such personnel decisions in his dual role as executive vice president of football operations, the call wasn't the coach's alone.

"The changes you see are changes that I told Mike he's got to make," Bowlen told The Post. "I wasn't specific with him. I didn't say, 'Mike, you've got to fire your defensive coordinator.' I'm not going to start making those kinds of calls.

"But we both agreed we needed to make significant changes across the board, including in the locker room. So we've been going through that process and I'm comfortable with where we're at."

The Broncos missed the playoffs for a second straight year, released receiver Javon Walker and linebacker Ian Gold in the offseason, and experienced turnover at both coordinator positions for the third year in a row.

" ... We had a bad season, a 7-9 season in a relatively
dysfunctional locker room and a coaching staff that I think everybody would agree was not in sync," Bowlen said, according to The Post.

"When the season was over, Mike and I had a number of discussions of how we were going to right the ship. It went from players to coaches to football personnel. That's just part of what you do, because I'm not in this business to have seasons like we did last season."

Sundquist, 45, became general manager in 2002 after 10 years in a player personnel role for the team. As GM, he supervised pro and college scouting and was responsible for salary cap and contract analysis.

Denver reached the playoffs three times under Sundquist's watch, including an appearance in the AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh following the 2005 season, when the Broncos won 13 games.

Bowlen reiterated his belief that Shanahan, who's coached the Broncos since 1995, can be effective both on the field and in the front office.

"He's here and he's going to stay here," Bowlen told The Post. "Nobody, I can tell you nobody in this building, myself included, is more concerned and more attentive to what the heck's happened here and how we get back on top than Mike Shanahan."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.