ENGLEWOOD, COLO. — ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- They held a funeral for Dan Reeve yesterday. And everybody had a chance to interview the corpse.
Reeves presided over his own beheading as coach of the Denver Broncos in a way that has happened only once before in Denver pro sports history. The Denver Nuggets did the same thing when they fired Doug Moe, by having Moe himself present to answer all questions.
And the only major differences between the two scenes was that Moe's wife, Jane, showed up with a bottle of champagne and asked, "Do we pick up the check or will you send it to us?"
Only coaching institutions in Denver like Reeves and Moe are allowed to utter the last words over the end of their own coaching careers.
The normal procedure is to usher the fired coach out a side door under cover of darkness. Did anybody hear from Paul Westhead when he got fired by the Nuggets? Has anybody heard from him since?
So Reeves, in front of seven minicams and two dozen reporters in the Broncos headquarters' main auditorium, was accorded the special privilege of announcing his own coaching demise. The Reeves news conference was delayed almost 30 minutes to allow sports and news reporters to scramble for seats. In the parking lot, the vans and trucks from television and radio stations with antennae and dishes out-numbered the normal cars.
Reeves seemed as relaxed and casual for his last news conference as his attire. No three-piece suit or other sideline coaching uniform of impeccable fashion for Reeves. He showed up in a dark blue shirt open at the collar, dark pants and a non-combative attitude.
He did not take questioners to task for the insinuation or stupidity of their questions. He even found a few spots for light-hearted comments that drew laughs.
Q. Would you like to get in another line of work?
"I thought about being a reporter but the pay isn't any good."
Q. What will you do now?
DTC "I guess I have to go out and get a real job now. I've gotta do something to go out and buy all the beautiful clothes my wife [Pam] wears."
Q. Is there any organization that would not appeal to you for a head coaching job?
"Not now," he said.
But while Reeves kept saying over and over how he understood why Pat Bowlen did not renew his contract, the now ex-Broncos coach belabored the fact that while he respected John Elway, Reeves was not sure if the quarterback returned the respect.
If Reeves was not sure about what his QB was thinking -- and he certainly had an opportunity to ask in the last year or two -- that indicates obvious Reeves-Elway problems. All the denials of a rift between the two seem kind of shallow.
Reeves said he talked to Bowlen "constantly, almost every day." Too bad the coach and the quarterback did not have that type of contact.
From Bowlen's news conference the message was: Instead of it being the Broncos coached by Reeves and oh, by the way, owned by Bowlen, this will be Bowlen's Broncos coached by whoever-will-be-named.
It's a huge difference. Instead of a Clint Murchison far in the background, letting Tom Landry coach the Dallas Cowboys, Bowlen thinks he has grown enough in nine years to be like a Jerry Jones of the current Cowboys, front and center in the team's profile, sitting in the war room during draft day with coach Jimmy Johnson and linked inexorably to the success or failure of the team the rest of the 1990s.
When he was asked what kind of owner he wanted to be yesterday, Bowlen picked Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bowlen may want to emulate a member of a patriarch family of the National Football League.
But he would have a tough time convincing anyone who knows the patience Rooney showed before easing Chuck Noll out as coach after Noll's last dozen mediocre seasons.
The results of firing coaching institutions like Moe or Reeves is that the team goes through tough times. Even Dallas suffered for a time. The Cowboys housecleaning was almost total and the team needed a ton of Minnesota Vikings draft picks before the rebuilding started.
"I've been around for nine years and learned from Dan," Bowlen said. "Maybe I haven't learned as much as I think I have. I'll find that out, sooner than I think possible."
Bowlen did not mention the possibility of the Broncos suffering. Owners who assume control rarely do.