NFL.com put together a fantastic video of Mike Shanahan's life (in his own words) spanning his playing career at Eastern Illinois, two near death experiences, his quick and early rise to Offensive Coordinator, how much he learned from his time on the 49ers coaching staff, getting fired by Al Davis after improving his second year as head coach, and his Super Bowl success through Denver.
Four things stand out to me:
1.) Full Control. Even early in Coach Shanahan's coaching career, including the time Mike landed the head coaching job with Denver in 1995, he has demanded full control. Broncos' owner, Pat Bowlen, said as much in his intro speech and gave it to him. Who thinks Dan Snyder is still running the show now? It's safe to say what's going on at Redskins Park.
2.) Taping Meetings. In Denver, Shanahan monitored every aspect of the football operations by having every meeting live on circuit TV and taped. This allowed him to see, for example, how the defensive meetings went which he couldn't make. This is invaluable as a teaching tool, which he learned from his days at San Francisco.
3.) How well Shanahan works the referees. Great audio/video on arguing calls yet showing enough respect to keep the lines of communication open.
4.) "If you don't believe you can get there, then the players won't either and you have no chance." That explains why the Redskins aren't "re-building" and "the future is now."