What are people saying about the Broncos' new coach? Well ...
Terrell Davis, the former Bronco and current NFL Network analyst, thinks McDaniels, at 32, is too young. The Mile High Report thinks he's too much like Belichick. Our own Michael Roberts thinks he's too offensive-minded. The Rocky's Dave Krieger thinks Pat Bowlen is trying to "recapture his glory days" by hiring an up-and-coming offensive coach like Mike Shanahan. ESPN's Skip Bayless -- a fucking cancer on sports journalism who I watch sometimes in the morning because I'm sick and like to emotionally abuse myself -- thinks Bowlen hired McDaniels because (he actually said this) he wants someone to "socialize" with, and McDaniels will do well at cocktail parties. And Woody Paige thinks ... honestly, as usual, I have no idea what hell Woody's talking about. But he sure liked Steve Spagnuolo.
The point is, everyone seems to hate, or at least fear, this hire. And while I won't flat-out say they're all wrong -- that would be the Bayless Approach, irrationally contrarian for the sake of being so -- I do disagree with the two main arguments against McDaniels: that's he too young and doesn't know enough about defense.
He is freaky young. Just two years older than me, and that's depressing as shit when you're 30 and you can't even do the dishes in your Colfax studio. But it's no reason not to hire him.
I've heard him talk for about fourteen seconds, and it's already clear he'll command more respect than Wade Phillips or Norv Turner, with both the information he imparts and the authority with which he imparts it. He may look like video intern, but he talks like a head coach.
Bowlen obviously thinks that McDaniels has a plan, a vision for the franchise that can keep him around for as long as Shanahan. Call it the Rooney approach: Like Bowlen, Steelers' owner Art Rooney obviously likes continuity. He hired Bill Cowher when Cowher was just 34, and the two didn't part ways until 15 years (and one Super Bowl) later. And when Rooney went looking for a new coach, who did he hire? Mike Tomlin, a 34-year-old, experience-light coach who looked like a graduate assistant but talked like a CEO.
Two years later, Vegas likes Tomlin to win the Super Bowl in a couple weeks. You might say it worked out.
The other popular argument against McDaniels is that he coached offense in New England, not defense. The offense was great last year! Broncos fans spew onto message boards and over radio airwaves. It was the defense that needs overhauling, so why not get a defensive coach?
It's great logic -- if you're hiring a coach for one year. But if you're hiring a coach for ten -- a guy who will shape your franchise for years to come -- you hire the best guy, regardless of which side of the ball he happens to have coached most recently. Imagine Bowlen instead hired Spagnuolo, the Giants' defensive guru. Now imagine if three seasons from now the defense was dominant and the offense was sputtering. What then? The media would be calling for Spagnuolo's head. And they'd be urging Bowlen to hire an offensive-minded head coach. Someone, no doubt, "like that McDaniels kid in St. Louis."
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The point is, when you're promoting a coordinator to head coach, you look for the guy who has the most potential to build and grow and teach and lead all three units, not just one. You look for a guy who can gain the trust of and get the most from his assistants, can build a culture of toughness and selflessness, and can keep the trust of his owner. Bowlen obviously believes he found that guy in McDaniels. To hire anyone else because they happened to coach defense would have been foolish.
You don't turn a $78 million investment into a $1.1 billion business by ignoring your instincts.
Lots of fans and lots of writers are concerned with lots of other things, including, but not limited to, McDaniels' fondness for hoodies. And they may well be right. He may fail. But if he does -- and I hope he doesn't -- it won't be because of his age or some one-track obsession with offense. It will be because he failed to execute his vision. And that's something lots of coaches, young and old, offensive and defensive, have done.