Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

A New Era in Broncoland

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 13, 2009

So the Broncos haven’t taken very long to move on from the Mike Shanahan era.  In less than two weeks, the Broncos have found his replacement: Josh McDaniels, previously offensive coordinator for the Patriots.  McDaniels had to be impressive in his interview considering the Broncos talked to seven guys, most of them with background on the defensive side of the ball.  I was of the thought that a defensive guy would probably make the most sense to replace Shanahan, considering that was the area where the Broncos have clearly fallen to the bottom of the league and needs the most attention.  Considering that Jay Cutler had specifically requested to keep the offensive assistants, specifically play caller Jeremy Bates, I thought for sure owner Pat Bowlen would get Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator of the Giants, or one of the other defensive assistants he interviewed.  I was particularly excited about what I was hearing in regards to Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Buccanneers defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.  In the end though it is McDaniels.  I have to admit I am more encouraged about the hire after seeing the introductory press conference today.  McDaniels clearly handles himself well, and exudes a confidence that you expect out a head coach.  

McDaniels is only 32, which makes him easily the youngest coach in the NFL, so that alone gives some pause.  It is however interesting to note that Don Shula was only 32 when he was hired to coach the Baltimore Colts, and he’s one of the best coaches in NFL history, so it is not unprecedented for a young coach to take over a team.  John Madden was also head coach of the Raiders when he was 32 years old.  In fact, McDaniels started as an assistant on the Patriots when he was just 24, and quickly ascended the ranks on Bill Belichick’s staff.  Belichick wouldn’t allow just anyone to rise through the ranks on his staff that quickly without merit, so it is clear that McDaniels is bringing something to the table.  McDaniels also does have experience on both sides of the ball, for he was actually a defensive assistant with the Patriots during his initial time there.  That is very encouraging considering the Broncos will need help everywhere.  The word is also that McDaniels will bring in former 49ers coach Mike Nolan to be his defensive coordinator and may also bring along Dom Capers in some capacity.  Nolan and Capers are both really good defensive coaches and I will be very pleased if they end up in Denver on McDaniels’ staff.  

Perhaps the biggest plus McDaniels will bring to the table is his ability to work with quarterbacks, and that could provide a tremendous boost in the development and maturity of Jay Cutler.  It will be interesting to see how Cutler responds to McDaniels considering the young quarterback wanted the previous offensive staff retained, but once any initial tension is gone, I expect Cutler to really benefit from the relationship.  McDaniels of course worked with Tom Brady in New England, and also helped Matt Cassel lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record this season, even though Cassel hadn’t started a game since high school.  Cutler clearly needs some help in a lot of areas, for he is talented, and has a great arm, but has yet to take the next step in his game to become a great leader.  Cutler still tends to force the ball a lot, especially when things aren’t going well, and sometimes his attitude does not reflect what you would want from a team leader.  It remains to be seen whether McDaniels will accommodate Cutler’s request of keeping Bates and whether the new coach and Cutler’s favorite play caller could even coexist, but either way Cutler should benefit.  McDaniels has clearly shown an ability to work with quarterbacks, and perhaps the biggest reason he was hired to help Cutler hone his game and become the team leader he needs to be.  It is interesting to note that offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, who himself was a finalist for the head coach position, interviewed today with San Francisco to replace Mike Martz as their offensive coordinator, so it is definitely not a given that Cutler will get his wish about McDaniels keeping his favorite assistants.  

Obviously the success or failure of this hire cannot be judged immediately.  I believe it will take a minimum of three seasons before we see the true impact of this move on the organization.  I’m still not convinced that firing Shanahan was the right move, but McDaniels is in charge now.  I think a lot of times a change of scenery can be a positive, and hopefully that will be the case here for the Broncos.  Regardless of who the coach is, you cannot win in the NFL without good players, and it is clear Denver is lacking in defensive talent.  It is imperative that the Broncos have a good draft in April, and that they acquire defensive talent.  Offensively, the Broncos must build on a unit that finished second in yards but only in the 20s in points scored.  Having healthy running backs will help, and McDaniels’ track record indicates that he has a good chance to help straighten out the team’s red zone inefficiency and inopportune turnovers.  The hope is that McDaniels follows in the wake of John Harbaugh, Tony Sparano and Mike Smith, all first year coaches whose teams made the playoffs this year.

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One Response to “A New Era in Broncoland”

  1. Doug Baker said

    Our coaches seem to get poached every year!! Ahh well, I guess that goes with consistent success. I think McDaniels will do well in Denver.

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