Monday, February 7, 2011

Sharpe can in part thank Wade Phillips for the HOF

Congrats to Shannon Sharpe for his Hall of Fame induction notice over the weekend. One key head coach in Sharpe's NFL career may come as a surprise: Wade Phillips.

Wade had an uneventful two years as Bronco head coach in 1993 and 1994, and he didn't do well as the Cowboys head coach either (fired midseason in 2010). The one thing Wade did do as Broncos head coach was recognize the unique talent he had in Sharpe. Phillips featured Sharpe prominently in the Denver offense; Shannon's 81 receptions in 1993 and 87 receptions in 1994 on Wade's Bronco teams were the highest single season totals of his whole career. Compare that to Sharpe's 7 catches in his rookie season and 22 catches in his second season under Dan Reeves. In Sharpe's 3rd year under Reeves he did better (53 receptions and 2 td's) but hardly the Hall of Fame type of numbers he put up under Phillips and later in his career.

Sharpe was a 7th round draft choice by Reeves and I think for a couple of seasons Dan didn't know what to do with him. Too slow to be a wide receiver and too small to be a tight end. Wade Phillips recognized Sharpe as a unique hybrid type of player, and featured Sharpe prominently in 1993 and 1994. John Elway, when commented about Sharpe over the weekend, said Shannon gave defenses matchup problems. Sharpe was too big to be covered by the typical cornerback, and too fast to be covered by a linebacker.

I wonder what current Bronco player can blossom under new coach John Fox's direction, just like Sharpe did under Wade Phillips. My early vote goes to Robert Ayers. Ayers had a good start to his 2nd season before breaking a foot. Entering his third season, I think Ayers will be more at home in Fox's planned 4-3 defense as a defensive end, rather than the linebacker Josh McDaniels tried to make him to be.

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