When Josh McDaniels returns to the New England Patriots as an offensive assistant this weekend, he won't only provide insight about a Broncos team he coached just last year. He'll also complete an improbable circle in his career. Next year, McDaniels will take over as Patriots offensive coordinator, which is the post he held before he took over the Broncos sideline in 2009. That's a fortunate turn of events for him, considering he's been almost exclusively incompetent in the three years since he left the New England.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's decision to rehire McDaniels indicates that Belichick really likes McDaniels, and that he recognizes it doesn't much matter who the offensive coordinator is as long as Tom Brady is the quarterback. McDaniels was the offensive coordinator of the 2007 Patriots team that set NFL records for touchdowns and points, and Brady and Belichick are enthused to have his familiar mug back. But McDaniels has done little in the past three years to earn such a position. Let's examine.
I'm going to do terrible things to you.
January 12, 2009: Broncos introduce McDaniels as head coach.
The then 32-year-old McDaniels had three Super Bowl titles to his name, but no head coaching experience. The offensive guru was taking over a team that ranked second in overall offense the year before and was headed by Jay Cutler, who made the Pro Bowl the previous season.
McDaniels quickly gutted the offensive staff, keeping only running backs coach Bobby Turner and offensive line coach Rick Dennison. The firing of quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates particularly angered Cutler.
Quote that's hilarious and sad in retrospect:
During his introductory press conference McDaniels was asked his involvement in and opinion on the New England Spygate controversy:
"I don't think it is good. To have that kind of attention was a distraction and I think that is how we all treated it. We tried to do the best we could to limit those distractions every week and it will be no different here. Certainly we are never looking to do anything that is not within the rules established by the National Football League. They determined the punishment on that and it was what it was and we moved on."
So, uh, I'm leaving.
March 17, 2009: Broncos have horrific meeting with Jay Cutler.
McDaniels reportedly tried to trade Cutler for Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel, which Cutler didn't think was the coolest thing in the world. To attempt to mend the fences, Cutler and his agent, Bus Cook, met with McDaniels. The meeting was about as productive as an intervention at a bar.
Among other things, Cutler told ESPN McDaniels was antagonizing and admitted he wanted Cassel because McDaniels had brought Cassel up. Cutler said the meeting lasted less than twenty minutes, but that's all it took for him to realize McDaniels had little use for him. Following the meeting, Cutler formally requested a trade from the Broncos.
Quote that's just sad in retrospect:
"I thought he was antagonizing me and that was disappointing because I was ready to move on, committed as a Bronco," said Cutler. "Really, I figured we'd hash things out, shake hands, laugh a little and move forward. What happened [Saturday] was the last thing I expected. If I didn't think it could be fixed, I never would have come back to Denver. It was painfully obvious to me and Bus [Cook, his agent] it's not something they want to fix."
It was fun. Sort of.
April 2, 2009: Broncos trade Jay Cutler to Chicago.
In return for their angered quarterback and a fifth-round draft pick, the Broncos received quarterback Kyle Orton and his neck beard, two first-round picks and a third-round pick. Orton, you will remember from his 12-20 record as starting quarterback for the Broncos and his release late this season that netted the Broncos free oxygen.
The draft picks the Broncos received from Chicago have been a mixed-bag. With Chicago's 2009 first-round pick, the Broncos grabbed defensive end Robert Ayers, who in three seasons has 4.5 sacks, which is not a historically excellent pace, in case you were wondering.
The Broncos traded Chicago's third-rounder along with another pick and turned them into people called Richard Quinn and Seth Olsen -- neither are currently on the team. A lone bright spot for McDaniels is the magic he pulled with Chicago's 2010 first-round pick. Through several trades and re-packaging, that pick is at least partially responsible for the drafting of Sunday's hero, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and, you guessed it, Tim "Jesus in a Broncos Helmet" Tebow.
Never mind that Thomas has only 834 receiving yards and six touchdowns in two seasons or that McDaniels could have picked Tebow up in the second or third round rather than using a first-round pick. That's a good haul, assuming Tebow is not actually the awful quarterback he's been at times. Because that would mean Cutler was essentially traded for a bad defensive end and two marginal receivers.
Note that's depressing in retrospect or otherwise:
Cutler has thrown for 9,259 yards as a Bear and took the team to the NFC Championship game last year.
This overtime victory over his former employer pushed McDaniels' record to 5-0 and a week later the Broncos would take down the San Diego Chargers. This would be the height of the McDaniels Era.
Stat that makes the above video seem even more ridiculous:
McDaniels went 6-17 as Broncos coach after that victory.
Jamal Charles ran for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
January 3, 2010: Broncos lose 44-24 to Kansas City Chiefs, ending season.
Needing a win to keep their playoff chances alive, the Broncos lost to a Chiefs team that came into the game with a 3-12 record. Orton threw two touchdown passes to Derrick Johnson, who plays for the Chiefs.
Before the game, McDaniels benched wide receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Tony Scheffler with little explanation. The Broncos became one of only three teams in NFL history to miss the playoffs after starting the season 6-0.
Look! I'm good now.
March 14, 2010: Broncos trade Peyton Hillis to Cleveland.
Hillis was infrequently used in Denver and at the time of the trade, no one was up in arms about shipping him to Cleveland for a total hunk of a backup quarterback (Brady Quinn). Then the 2010 season came, and given a starting position, Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and eleven touchdowns.
Depressing stat given Hillis' success:
Regular season passes attempted by Brady Quinn: 0.
If you're talented, you're not welcome on the Broncos.
April 14, 2010: Broncos trade Brandon Marshall to Miami.
Unhappy about his contract and feeling the Broncos' medical staff had misdiagnosed a hip injury that required surgery, Marshall was ready to leave Denver. And although Marshall amassed 327 receptions for 4,019 yards and 25 touchdowns in four seasons in Denver, the team was weary of his domestic violence issues and general mental instability.
So the Broncos shipped him to Miami for two second-round picks. If you're keeping score at home, that's three former or future Pro-Bowl players Josh McDaniels traded.
Obligatory depressing stat:
October 24, 2010: Broncos suffer one of the worst losses in franchise history at hands of Raiders, 59-14.
The Raiders didn't even need the fourth quarter to amass 59 points, which set a franchise record. The Broncos committed six turnovers and gave up 328 yards on the ground. Raiders running back Darren McFadden had four touchdowns by himself.
Mind-blowingly depressing stat:
The Broncos were down 21-0 after just two offensive snaps.
Smile, you're on hidden camera.
November 28, 2010: Broncos and Josh McDaniels fined $50,000 for filming San Francisco 49ers practice.
Taking a page out of the Patriots playbook, the Broncos video operations director, Steve Scarnecchia, videotaped six minutes of the 49ers' walkthrough when the teams played in London earlier that season. He reportedly gave the video to McDaniels, who declined to view it, but failed to report it to league authorities.
McDaniels and the team were fined for not reporting the incident until two weeks after Scarnecchia filmed the practice. No useful information was gathered by this costly mistake, as the Broncos lost to a bad 49ers team.
McDaniels throwing Scarnecchia under the bus:
"I apologize for not promptly reporting the improper conduct of our video director before our game against the 49ers in London. The actions of this individual are in no way representative of the values and integrity held by myself, our players and coaches, and the entire Denver Broncos organization."
I can work for you when I get fired, right?
December 6, 2010: Broncos fire Josh McDaniels.
If it wasn't the embarrassing losses, it was the egotistical way he ran star players out of town, and if it wasn't that, it was the poor returns he got for shipping those players out of town. And if it wasn't all those things it was the video scandal. And if it was none of the above, it was the douchey fist-pumping after the win over the Patriots.
Owner Pat Bowlen's firing of McDaniels was the only measure universally approved by fans in McD's tenure. After Mike Shanahan provided stability for fourteen years as Denver's head coach, McDaniels lasted less than two.
Entire 2011 NFL Season: McDaniels sucks as offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams.
Despite trying his best to prove he's a bad coach while in Denver, McDaniels didn't lose the offensive guru title, and the St. Louis Rams hired him as their offensive coordinator before this season. Granted, quarterback Sam Bradford played in only ten games for St. Louis, but the Rams were second to last in the league in total yards and yards per game, and dead last in points per game.
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It seems McDaniels is less and less of a genius with every step he takes away from Tom Brady, which is why he surely jumped at the opportunity to return to New England.
Ironically, McDaniels now has to help stop Tim Tebow, which could certainly be his crowning achievement as Broncos coach. On Saturday night, McDaniels will either be wrong in his assessment of how to stop Tebow and the Broncos or proved somewhat wrong in his assessment that Tebow as an NFL quarterback. Either way, Broncos fans should be a little happy.
More from our Sports archive: "Tim Tebow can't wear 3:16 eye black, so he throws for 316 in win."