In the 2009 offseason, a couple of teams were interested in a young offensive coordinator of the Patriots by the name of Josh McDaniels, who had established a pretty solid resume leading the Patriots Super Bowl caliber offense. Among those teams were the Broncos and Redskins. Of course, the Broncos signed McDaniels to replace their two time Super Bowl winning coach Mike Shanahan, and the move seemed like a good one as the Broncos burst out of the gate at 6-0 to start the 2009 season. However, everything went downhill from there, and the Broncos limped to a 2-6 record down the stretch and yet another catastrophic end of season failure. As the situation began to deteriorate, the media, Broncos fans, and the pundits started to question the young coach’s mindset and decision making.
Why Has McDaniels Jettisoned so Many Quality Players?
Among the first moves made by McDaniels, was to trade Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears in exchange for Kyle Orton. The move was a good one, as Cutler faltered in Chicago and was among the league leaders in interceptions. While Cutler failed, Orton took off, leading the Broncos offense and developing a solid rapport with Pro-Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall. In fact, it was Marshall’s 2009 numbers of 101 receptions for 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns that became an issue for the young coach. McDaniels didn’t question Marshall’s ability, but he did question the receivers heart and commitment, by benching the receiver in the last game of the season. The reason for the benching? McDaniels believed Marshall was exaggerating the injury and purposely missed an appointment with the team’s trainer. This raised eyebrows because it came immediately after Marshall had established an NFL record for receptions with 21 in a game that same week!
Upset with Marshall’s “lack of commitment”, McDaniels jettisoned Marshall to Miami, but didn’t stop there. The young coach also got rid of the Broncos tight-end Tony Scheffler, a quality tight end who had produced solid numbers in Denver. So, with these two questionable moves, McDaniels single handedly got rid of the two best receiving targets of quarterback Kyle Orton. Did the Broncos address this in their 2010 draft? They did with their first pick by grabbing a solid receiving prospect in Georgia Tech’s Demaryius Thomas, but it was their second first round pick that still has people shaking their heads. The Bronco coach shocked everyone by drafting Florida quarterback Tim Tebow with Denver’s first round pick, when many scouts and teams considered Tebow nothing more than a second or third round pick at best.
Why Didn’t Denver Draft a Defensive Tackle in the First Round?
Instead of addressing a porous defensive line, and taking any one of the defensive tackles available in the first round, McDaniels opted to sign a quarterback whose side-arm throwing motion simply won’t work in the NFL. What’s worse is that Denver had the chance to grab either Penn State Defensive Tackle Jared Ordick, or Tennessee Volunteer Defensive Tackle Dan Williams, with their second pick of the first round. These were two highly touted defensive linemen that would have immediately improved Denver’s run defense. McDaniels could have grabbed either one, and still taken Tebow with Denver’s second round pick. While Denver may try and fill holes through free agency, the Tebow pick was amateurish at best. If McDaniels was so high on Tebow, then the young coach could have adressed both needs, grabbed a future defensive linemen and taken Tebow in the second round.
Time will tell if McDaniels has made a serious error in judgement. Not only did the Denver coach jump too soon in grabbing Tebow, but he then went out and traded for Brown’s quarterback Brady Quinn, a former first round pick himself. Now, the Broncos have all these quarterbacks, and clearly haven’t done enough to solidify that defensive line. As for what this means for McDaniels future, well, we’ll have to wait and see.