Thom Loverro: Coaches' second act will determine their legacy

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Thom Loverro

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid have a shared background.

The friends, who will face each other Sunday at FedEx Field, both come from the Bill Walsh coaching tree.

"We have had a couple of beers together," Shanahan told reporters. "We have talked, and we are friends. But it is not one of those situations where we hung out or were assistant coaches growing up, even though we both coached in San Francisco."

They may want to have a few beers together after Sunday because they share something else as well -- a long-time coaching career with one franchise that has run its course.

No matter how good a coach, at some point -- unless you're winning titles regularly -- familiarity breeds contempt.

Shanahan spent 14 seasons as the Denver Broncos coach, with an impressive record of 138-86. But he failed to repeat the success of his 1997 and 1998 Super Bowl championship season, and at some point being good was just not good enough. People get tired of seeing your face every week trying to explain what went wrong, and the message starts falling on deaf ears.

The Don Shulas of the NFL -- 26 years with the Miami Dolphins, 11 after his last Super Bowl appearance -- are few and far in between.

Jeff Fisher spent 17 seasons with the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans before he wore out his welcome and is now on his second act with the St. Louis Rams.

Shanahan is in year three of his second act here in Washington, and it has hardly been a success so far, with a 14-27 record. If he gets win No. 15 on Sunday against Philadelphia, it may close the book on Reid, who is in his 14th season in Philadelphia.

The legacies of three coaches -- widely respected as three of the best of their time with a combined 45 seasons in one place -- will likely hinge on their second acts.

Fisher has one AFC championship on his resume, and unless he has better success with the Rams, his resume will be short of a Super Bowl title. Same with Reid, who if fired in Philadelphia should have no problem finding work again some place else. He made the Eagles a perennial playoff team but has just one NFC championship to show for it. Reid will have to do better at his next stop.

Shanahan, though, is the most interesting of the three. He has two Super Bowl championships, but history has tied those championships to quarterback John Elway. The second act here in Washington will determine Shanahan's legacy. His message may already be falling on deaf ears, and soon Shanahan and Reid may be sharing a beer together, talking about what could have been.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Thom Loverro

Sports columnist
The Washington Examiner