Local media outlets are reporting that Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has selected New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to replace Mike Shanahan, who was fired on December 30 after fourteen years as the team's head coach. Moreover, multiple sources add that former Broncos assistant Mike Nolan, who most recently helmed the San Francisco 49ers, will be named defensive coordinator.
Terrible decisions? Or the most terrible decisions imaginable? You be the judge.
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Anyone who's watched ten minutes of a Broncos game over the past three seasons understands that the squad's lingering mediocrity is almost entirely attributable to a way-below-par defense. In particular, the Denver D has not been able to generate a consistent or credible pass rush, thereby allowing opposing signal callers of all talent levels to pitch a tent in the pocket and methodically complete passes all over the field. Shanahan's inability to improve this situation despite shuffling through a slew of defensive coaches over the years was presumably the largest reason why he was sent packing (along with his dubious player-personnel performance as the Broncos' general manager). And fans were reassured that Bowlen would finally address this issue when his list of potential Shanahan replacements was dominated by folks like the New York Giants' Steve Spagnuolo -- a defensive coordinator who seemed to have precisely the skill set the Broncos needed.
So why McDaniels? Rocky Mountain News columnist Dave Krieger suggests that Bowlen is trying to recapture the glory days by annointing the 2009 equivalent of Shanahan, which is as good a theory as any. And during an appearance on KOA this morning, the NFL Network's Adam Schefter pointed out that McDaniels is among the hottest coaching prospects in the league right now, due largely to his ability to keep the Patriots' offense chugging along despite the absence of future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady, who was injured in game one of the 2008-2009 campaign.
Even so, former Broncos running back turned TV sportscaster Reggie Rivers admitted during his Sunday evening slot on Channel 4 to being shocked that the team didn't go with a defensive head coach -- and I suspect most Broncos boosters are right there with him. Rather than addressing a crying need head on, Bowlen decided to shore up the part of the team in the best shape. And Nolan hardly seems to be the answer to D-town's defensive woes. After all, the 49ers couldn't be confused with the Monsters of the Midway when he was at the helm. The team went 18-37 under his leadership -- and when he was replaced in the middle of the 2008 season, the person chosen to take his place, ex-Bears standout Mike Singletary, was brought aboard mainly to toughen up (yes, you guessed it) the defense.
Can't wait to hear Bowlen explain his reasoning during the impending news conferences to introduce McDaniels and Nolan. Because at first blush, it seems mighty unreasonable. -- Michael Roberts