Mile High mistake: What went wrong for the Broncos and Josh McDaniels

Josh McDaniels at the 2009 Denver Broncos Fan Fair

Image via Wikipedia

Football Relativity is almost two years old, and if you had to identify the single person in the NFL who we have criticized more strongly than any other, it’s been Josh McDaniels. Before he helmed his first NFL game, we criticized the know-it-all approach McDaniels took in the Jay Cutler trade, and McDaniels’ actions led us to forecast failure because he was following the faulty footsteps of other Bill Belichick disciples.

Monday, McDaniels’ mistakes cost him his job. And we’re not surprised.

As we were putting together links to our past comments about McDaniels, we found this from the 2009 season preview. We’re not right about everything, but we feel like this described what eventually happened to McDaniels to a T. Josh McDaniels is a good offensive mind, but so far he’s shown he doesn’t have the skills to be a head coach. He doesn’t deal with his players well, and he doesn’t seem to have the willingness and/or the ability to adjust his precious “system” to the realities of his roster. … McDaniels’ people skills, not his football skills, will be tested severely, and we’ll have to see how he responds to a test it appears he didn’t expect when he took the job.

The details —  Spygate 2 or the Mike Nolan departure or the Peyton Hillis and Alphonso Smith trade fiascos, to name just a few — aren’t in that post, but the reasons behind all of it is. Josh McDaniels thought he was smarter than everyone. When it came to Xs and Os, he’s right. He’s among the league’s best at schemes. But like other Belichick disciples and other guys (Mike Martz comes to mind), McDaniels was so sold on his way of doing things that he completely abused his coworkers and employees to get his way. And if you do that, you’d better win. Instead, McDaniels lost 17 of 22 games after starting his career 6-0.

This isn’t the end for McDaniels. He’ll be a coup for an NFL team as an offensive coordinator next year, and if he learns from his mistakes (as Eric Mangini seems to be doing), he could be successful in his second head coaching stop. At age 34, he has plenty of time to get a second chance and make the most of it. But he must learn to relate to people – and to reality – far better than he did in his year and three quarters in Denver.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are left with a mess of a roster, thanks to poor drafting and even worse trading. Some of McDaniels’ additions – Knowshon Moreno, Brandon Lloyd, Kyle Orton – have turned into winning players, but the defense is just as bad as it was under Mike Shanahan, and the offense will fall off without McDaniels’ play-calling skills. And the fact that the Broncos have to pay off big contracts for both Shanahan (through 2011) and McDaniels (through 2012) has to be galling to owner Pat Bowlen, who has to cut the checks.

But this move had to be made, given the miles of mistakes McDaniels made.

Other McDaniels takes over the last two years:

*Laurence Maroney trade
*2010 season preview and the Broncos’ clear-cut roster (go to 4 level)
*The Tim Tebow pick (go to 6 level)
*The Brandon Marshall trade
*What if the Broncos had lost in 2009 Week 1?
*2009 season preview and why we thought McDaniels would fail (go to 2 level)
*McDaniels as a prima donna
*2009 draft-day arrogance
*The McDaniels/Cutler fiasco
*McDaniels’ hiring

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6 Comments

Filed under Football Relativity, NFL coaches

6 responses to “Mile High mistake: What went wrong for the Broncos and Josh McDaniels

  1. Kam

    McDaniels would be a better sky box offensive coordinator. I think the Cutler trade was a good move overall–Cutler has all of Favre’s worst gunslinger traits and not enough W’s in the right column. And I think you may be wrong about the Tebow deal. Winning attitude, gumption, NFL size and toughness Tebow has a-plenty. With a re-couped throwing motion he could be the next Phillip Rivers (the latter of whom had one of the most awkward college throwing motions if I remember correctly). That is, if someone gives Tebow the chance and doesn’t run him into early retirement in red zone option formations.

  2. rn575

    I wasn’t bullish on Tebow, but he may be one of the first of the next evolution of massive QBs who can run and throw. I think Cam Newton is a better prospect, as is Roethlisberger, but Tebow could turn into something. The question is how long that style of QB can last before he gets beaten to a pulp. To me, that’s as big of a question on Tebow as his throwing motions.
    You’re right on McDaniels as a play-caller. I bet he’s great at Madden.

  3. Kam

    OK–I’m ready for a Relativity Post entitled, “Worst Throwing Motions to Make it in the NFL.” My top four: Bernie Kosar, Vince Young, Phillip Rivers and, yes, Bret Favre (especially when he bobs his head backwards on anything 50+ yards).

  4. rn575

    Kerry Collins would be on it as well. Major hitch in that delivery

  5. Kam

    Well, there’s a reason Steve Young only played ten seasons. I think Jeff Garcia and Drew Brees have learned the hard way (perhaps even Vick once he truly loses his first quick step and a couple more ribs) that quarterback speed (especially for QBs under 200 lbs) is no match against defensive end/linebacker/safety speed. All it takes is one hit. The dilemma with Tebow is that he needs the double threat to be an effective pocket passer. Cam Newton has more potential to succeed as a pure pocket QB when his quickness gives out. Newton could be what everyone thought Donovan McNabb/Vince Young should be.

  6. Pingback: MVN » Mile High mistake: What went wrong for the Broncos and Josh McDaniels

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