View Full Version : McDaniels a quick learner...

10-06-2009, 10:33 PM
Maybe a repost, merge if so...

Nice article from one of the writers who was actually sensible enough in the preseason to actually allow the guy's plan a little time to play out before deeming him a failure.


Many people saw the New England Patriots-Denver Broncos game this week as a curious matchup between mentor and student -- Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels. After Denver traded Jay Cutler, it was easy to dismiss Denver. Then when trouble arose with Brandon Marshall in training camp, many thought that new head coach McDaniels had lost control of the team, and the season was going to be a disaster.

I did not hold that view for a number of reasons. When I visited Denver this summer and talked to the players, they were listening to McDaniels. They were buying his philosophies, and the players felt they were being treated fairly.

After a rough offseason, Brandon Marshall is pumped to be a Bronco. (Getty Images) Marshall seemed to be the exception, but we must remember Marshall had issues in the past with the Broncos so you could not use his behavior as a gauge for whether the team was listening to McDaniels. We also have to remember that what was probably at the root of Marshall's unhappiness had nothing to do with McDaniels, but more with him not getting a contract extension.

The next point I thought people had lost sight of was the schedule. The Broncos opened with Cincinnati, Cleveland and Oakland. Three winnable games. If they started at 3-0 it would be logical that they would enter the Dallas game with some momentum at home. Momentum can be a great advantage for a team. It does not take the place of talent, but confidence can be a great advantage, and that is what Denver has right now -- confidence.

People should also have known that this was a team that had the potential to have a pretty good offense. Last year, despite having a number of injuries at running back and a weak defense, the Broncos went into the final week of the season in first place. So this was not a total rebuilding job.

On offense they have two good offensive linemen in right tackle Ryan Harris and one of the better left tackles in Ryan Clady. When you have two good tackles it allows you a lot of flexibility in your play calling, especially when you have a top pass protector as your left tackle. At running back the pick of Knowshon Moreno was questioned, because of the needs on defense.

But in a draft you need to pick the best player on the board and not reach for need. The key is who is playing for you in three years. Pick the most sure thing on the board so at least you have guys playing for you in three years, not wasted draft picks. Moreno was viewed by many as the top back in the draft.

What Denver did by taking him was strengthen a part of its team that takes some pressure off the defense. I agreed with the pick at the time because like Denver, I did not see a player to be picked at that point on defense that would help them.

The receiver group was talented, but I thought the signing of Jabar Gaffney was important to the Broncos because he is a very versatile receiver. He can play each of the three receiver positions and gives the Broncos terrific flexibility if they have injuries. Gaffney could teach the passing game to the other receivers. Gaffney has very good hands and runs excellent routes. McDaniels had him in New England and knew how valuable he was and how he would help Denver. You can see New England misses him this year.

That brings us to quarterback. If I were picking between Jay Cutler and Kyle Orton, I would take Cutler like the vast majority of people. But Orton does have some very real positives.

He is smart, accurate and a good leader -- three characteristics that McDaniels valued highly at the position. Orton also has a winning record, something McDaniels valued too. What McDaniels saw in Orton was a quarterback who could run his offense and be disciplined in executing it. I would bet he felt that if he could get Matt Cassel to be as productive as he was last year, he could get the same results out of Orton.

With these parts in place, I felt the Broncos would be pretty good offensively, but the key was going to be their improvement on defense. When you are rebuilding a particular phase of the team, whether it be the offense or defense you can only do so many things in one year.

I thought what the Broncos did was smart. They took the best players they could get in free agency at the best rates. That translated into an improved secondary. Brian Dawkins is an older player but still an effective safety and an even more effective leader. He brings an attitude with him that has helped the defensive unit play with confidence.

Cornerback Andre Goodman and safety Renaldo Hill, though not household names, were upgrades for their secondary. Not to be ignored, and it showed up in a big way against Dallas, was the return of a healthy Champ Bailey. Bailey gives them a shut-down corner.

When you have that kind of player in the secondary, you can do a lot of things with your coverages and pressures to confuse the quarterback. A solid secondary also limits big plays. That factor will keep you in games. Even though people might be able to run the ball on you, what hurts you worse is when a team can score quickly.

Besides the good job McDaniels has done, you have to give credit to defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. He has implemented a new defense, the 3-4, and gotten the players to play hard in the first four games. Denver's schedule will get much tougher, but with the Chargers off to another slow start and the injuries they've sustained, Denver might hang around in this division race.