Is it fair to blame Coach Josh McDaniels for the Broncos' humiliating 59-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders yesterday? In a word: yes. McDaniels was brought to Denver to revitalize a once-proud franchise. Instead, he's steadily undermined the squad with stupid decisions, poor management and inconsistency so consistent that Sunday's debacle wasn't even all that surprising. Here's our breakdown of his worst ten gaffes.
10. The Jay Cutler mess. Anyone who saw him toss pick after pick after pick in the Chicago Bears' loss to the Mike Shanahan-coached Washington Redskins yesterday can attest, Cutler is looking more like Jeff George than John Elway these days. But even if Sweet Baby Jay wasn't the long-term solution at QB many Broncos fans thought he would be, the manner in which he exited from Denver got the McDaniels era off to an unnecessarily bad start -- and the way Coach McD handled the situation regularly made things worse. He often seemed as immature as Cutler did, exhibiting all the gravitas of Justin Bieber with a buzz cut.
9. The Brandon Marshall mess. Given all of Brandon Marshall's off-the-field problems, McDaniels can't be blamed for balking at giving the receiver a rich contract extension. But instead of dealing with the controversy quickly and cleanly, McDaniels allowed it to drag on and on and on, extending the agony and amplifying the distraction even longer than he did in Cutler's case. You'd think McDaniels would have learned from the JC catastrophe and made the cut clean and quick. You'd think wrong.
8. Drafting Knowshon Moreno instead of Brian Orakpo. When McDaniels was hired, we were aghast, since McD had a reputation -- one that now doesn't seem well-deserved -- as an offensive expert, and everyone with functioning corneas realized that the Broncos' most glaring weaknesses were on the defensive side of the ball. McDaniels tried to defuse such criticism by talking up the need to fix the D -- but then he spent the top pick in his first Broncos draft on a running back, Knowshon Moreno, passing up stud defender Brian Orakpo along the way. Since then, Moreno has underperformed, while Orakpo is in the midst of blossoming into the sort of force capable of boosting the Redskins -- yep, coached by Mike Shanahan -- for years to come. Nice move, McD.
7. Not getting the most out of those Jay Cutler draft picks. The aforementioned Jay Cutler trade brought the Broncos Kyle Orton, who's probably at least as good as Cutler, and certainly less irritating, plus a bunch of draft picks. Among the players McDaniels obtained thanks to the Bears' beneficence was tight end Richard Quinn, a baller who was on few other teams' radar. But by last September, he certainly got the attention of the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, which booked Quinn for domestic violence and other alleged offenses. That's a nice payoff.
6. Obtaining Brady Quinn. No denying that Brady Quinn can take a pretty picture. But the former Notre Dame hurler proved during his years with the Cleveland Browns that he's a much better male model than he is an NFL quarterback -- with one of Quinn's most mediocre performances coming against the Broncos last year. In short, there was no good reason for McDaniels to trade for this epic flop in the making -- but he did so anyhow.
5. Practically giving away Peyton Hillis. As part of the deal to obtain Brady Quinn, McDaniels tossed in running back Peyton Hillis, who he treated like a red-headed stepchild caught having impure relations with the family golden retriever ever since arriving, for reasons that were obvious to no one. Since then, the Broncos' running game has become a complete joke, with injuries to Moreno and others creating even more problems. Hillis, meanwhile, has become the backbone of the Browns' ground attack, helping the Clevelanders claw back to respectability. On a day when the Raiders crushed the Broncos, the Browns beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
4. Changing the blocking schemes. The trademark of the Broncos over recent decades has been zone blocking, which has helped a slew of backs wearing blue and orange go over the 1,000 yard mark. McDaniels decided to do away with all that. The result? As of earlier this month -- and despite the presence of Ryan Clady, an undeniable stud -- the Broncos' offensive line was ranked the second-worst in the NFL, behind only the Detroit Lions. Nice!
3. Failing to improve the pass rush. In his first year as coach, McDaniels didn't put much of a focus on the defensive line, even though the absence of a pass rush had a lot to do with the Broncos' late season swoon, following a pleasantly shocking 6-0 start. In year two, he acquired Jarvis Green, Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams, declaring that they'd prove to be the solution. Wrong again. Green was released a couple of months back, making the acquisition worse than useless, and neither Bannan nor Williams have managed to improve the rush, making the likes of Jason Campbell look like future Hall of Famers along the way.
2. Drafting Tim Tebow -- and then not utilizing him well. McDaniels certainly made a big splash by drafting Tim Tebow -- but it appears that McD has no idea what to do with him. For much of the season, he's sat on the bench -- and when he's gotten into games, he's either run the ball or handed off to someone else. He's yet to throw a regular season pass, decreasing his effectiveness in direct proportion to the play-calling predictability. He got a lot of face time yesterday, but only because the CBS broadcast kept showing shots of him on the sideline. But Orton never got the hook -- and Tebow never got the chance to show that he can be more than a novelty act.
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1. Losing the respect of players and fans. As time goes on, the gulf between McDaniels and his players seems to have grown wider. Note that during yesterday's game, KOA color commentator Brian Griese noted that McD wasn't saying anything to anyone. Instead of getting in his players' faces as the contest went from bad to worse, he seemed to go into a private shell of misery -- precisely the wrong thing to do under the circumstances. Most of us thought McDaniels would have at least three years to show what he can do at the Broncos' helm. But after yesterday, that estimate may prove to be a year too optimistic.
More from our Sports archive: "Josh McDaniels: Broncos coach goes from f-bombs to silent surrender vs. Raiders (video)."