Top 20 Josh McDaniels disasters: Anatomy of a Denver Broncos coaching failure
The speed with which Josh McDaniels's Denver Broncos career went south was absolutely stunning -- and we documented every misstep. Below, we've linked to and excerpted from twenty posts over twenty months that tell the tale, from personnel mistakes involving the likes of Jay Cutler and questionable on-the-field decisions to Spygate II and the series of losses that sealed his doom. Page down to check out the whole ugly chronicle.
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. (January 12, 2009)
In the January 22 blog, "Could a Bromance Be in Jay Cutler's Future?," I wrote about an apparent bromance between Cutler and his old quarterbacks coach, Jeremy Bates -- and even though Bates left, he might be able to develop a bromantic relationship with the team's new on-field boss, Josh McDaniels. But love isn't in the air. Today, everybody hates everybody. (March 2, 2009)
Last night, former Denver Post scribe Bill Williamson, who now writes for ESPN.com, revealed that Cutler had participated in a conference call with Broncos brass, including McDaniels, on Monday -- but the QB hung up feeling pissed, apparently because McDaniels would neither confirm nor deny that he'd initiated trade talks with the intent of swapping Cutler for ex-Pat Matt Cassel. Such caginess is straight out of Bill Belichick's School of Management (by way of the Nixon administration), but it didn't sit well with JC, who's now uncertain whether he'll bother showing up for off-season conditioning that starts next Monday. (March 11, 2009)
he was taken 11th overall...if he was worth it 3 years ago out of fucking vanderbilt, he worth it now as one of the best young QBs in the league....
wow im just so glad that we wont have to see this fucking asshole twice a year anymore and it makes the division alot easier for us too.
Pat, you did not seemed worried when you fired your Star Head Coach. Things not shaking out right now. Sleepless Nights are a Bitch. (April 1, 2009)
The major themes of the Broncos mini-camp this past weekend? Moving forward with two new quarterbacks, hard-partying Kyle Orton and Chris Simms, and putting the turmoil of Jay Cutler's trade to the Chicago Bears in the rearview mirror. But some fans aren't ready to forget -- among them YouTuber GaryHoosier, whose angry clip above underscores images of team owner Pat Bowlen, new coach Josh McDaniels and Bus Cook, Cutler's agent, with an old Three Dog Night song called "Liar." Somehow, the video-maker also works in the famous photo of Harry Truman holding up a newspaper declaring his defeat in the 1948 presidential election to Thomas Dewey, as well as Bill Clinton. Who also lied, from what I understand.
Check out his rage by clicking the player above. (April 22, 2009)
Watching the NFL draft during the Mike Shanahan era was consistently frustrating, since the team regularly made odd personnel choices, far too many of which didn't work out (Maurice Clarett, anyone?). For that reason, a lot of us were looking forward to the first draft since the arrival of a regime fronted by coach Josh McDaniels, in the hope that the new guys would have a keener eye for talent. And while it's too soon to render judgment, the earliest sign -- the number twelve pick -- doesn't bode well. Everyone knows the Broncos desperately need defensive help, and stud Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo was still available. So what did the Josh crew do? Snatched up Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno, who many draft prognosticators saw going in the first round's twenty-to-thirty range -- and the Broncos had the number eighteen pick, too. (April 29, 2009)
Since coming back, Marshall has worked hard to get himself in playing shape, and to learn McDaniels' offense. And instead of celebrating ultra-satisfying wins against the Cowboys and the Patriots by reverting to petulant diva status, he's actually appeared to have learned his lessons.
For that, McDaniels deserves credit for getting tough with Marshall instead of taking the easier tack and shipping him out of town. And Marshall? As long as he follows the righteous path he finally, finally, finally seems to be on, he deserves a new contract with some extra zeros in it. (October 14, 2009)
Is coach Josh McDaniels offense simply too rudimentary to break through against an elite defense like Baltimore's? And could quarterback Kyle Orton do more if given the chance? Or is the scheme so simple because McDaniels knows Orton doesn't have the skill level to handle anything more challenging, thereby dooming Denver whenever an opponent builds up a sizable lead? We won't have to wait long for more evidence. (November 2, 2009)
Virtually everybody involved with the Broncos organization had their worst game, with Josh McDaniels leading the pack. Argue if you'd like about whether McD should have gone with Simms out of the gate -- but he clearly pulled the plug on the spleen-challenged one too early, putting a clearly hampered Orton in what was literally a no-win situation. The result was a demoralizing performance that gut-shoots team morale going into a nationally televised Thanksgiving matchup against the Giants. Stupid -- but not quite as moronic as the coach getting sucked into trash-talking with the Chargers. (November 23, 2009)
ESPN's Rick Kurtzman sees a pattern in the recent departures, whether forced or not, and asks, "Is McDaniels really so arrogant and egocentric that he would rather lord over the Broncos' organization than work with talented parts to create a competitive whole? Or, was the football field greener on the other side for those men?"
Good questions. Obviously, McDaniels doesn't want for confidence. But his my-way-or-the-highway shtick will become counterproductive if the Broncos go from a franchise where people want to play and work to one they can't wait to flee. (January 19, 2010)
Although Hillis showed significant potential during Mike Shanahan's last season at the helm, Joshie McD took an inexplicable dislike to PH, never truly giving him an opportunity to show what he could do. He had no future with the Broncos and likely wouldn't have gotten on the field in 2010 in anything other than a special teams role. And that conditional pick is probably based on Quinn's productivity, or lack of same. (March 15, 2010)
But during his time in Denver, McDaniels' my-way-or-the-highway act has created issues of its own. His behavior during the Jay Cutler debacle was often as childish as Sweet Baby Jay's. And while JC's talent may never translate to victories and championships in the way a lot of us figured, the manner of his departure was needlessly drawn-out and divisive...
This state of affairs puts enormous pressure on McDaniels to pull off a great draft, and there's plenty of doubt he'll be able to do so. Two words: Knowshon Moreno.
McDaniels must also prove that he's not the reason for the drama that's arisen around the Broncos over the past year-plus. With the two main prima donnas gone, the conflict should disappear as well. Unless, that is, McDaniels is the disease instead of the cure. (April 15, 2010)
Yeah, we knew Scheffler was on Josh McDaniels' shit list -- hence his suspension during the final game of last season. But if sending Scheffler to Detroit is unmistakable punishment, the Broncos are unlikely to be better after the trade unless they're somehow able to find a gem deep in the fifth round -- which seems unlikely given their middling draft performance last year.
McDaniels' my-way-or-the-highway shtick would be fine if the team was improving. But with both Marshall and Scheffler gone, there's no sign of that so far. Addition by subtraction only works if the minuses aren't overwhelming. Back to math class, Josh. (April 19, 2010)
How could McDaniels have been so wrong? Does he automatically assume that anyone who once wore a New England Patriots uni, as Green did, has got to be better than ballers already on the Broncos' squad? Or was he was he under the illusion that past reputation alone would upgrade the team's admittedly anemic pass rush and run defense?
Whatever the case, the person who outperformed Green for the job, Ryan McBean, is no one's idea of a future Pro Bowler -- at least not based on his play to date. And even if McBean makes all of us forget that Elvis has left the building for 2010, the millions flushed down the toilet thanks to the Green deal would still constitute a tremendous waste. (September 7, 2010)
The root of the problem is Coach Josh McDaniels's decision to ditch Denver's zone-blocking scheme, which served the team well for many years. Even if the mostly revamped offensive line gels, players like Zane Beadles, Ryan Harris and Chris Kuper have shown little ability to overpower opponents, as McDaniels' current approach requires. Whether that's because they aren't being put in a position to excel or due to a talent deficit hardly matters at this point. They haven't gotten the job done week after week after week -- and because of their inability to open holes in rival defenses, every team left on the Broncos' schedule will be able to do as the Ravens did -- essentially disregard the run...
Point blank, yesterday's miseries are on McDaniels -- and if he doesn't swallow his pride and start tinkering with an offensive line approach that's not working in the slightest, he'll deserve a lot more blame as the season moves forward. (October 11, 2010)
In yesterday's list of the top ten ways Josh McDaniels has destroyed the Denver Broncos, our number-one choice noted that rather than confronting players over the team's 59-14 pasting by the hated Raiders, he went into "a private shell of misery -- precisely the wrong thing to do under the circumstances." Far preferable would have been for him to repeat last year's f-bomb performance than to meekly accept defeat...
In stark contrast to the passion he displayed last year, he seemed like a robot wiped clean of all emotion by the pounding delivered by the Raiders -- and his lack of interest sends a message to the rest of the team that they don't need to care, either. No wonder so many fans fear that Sunday's debacle will set the tenor for the rest of the season. (October 26, 2010)
During the first half of the game in particular, the Broncos' play-calling was as creative as a photocopy of a blank page. The result: One stalled drive after another and a goose egg on the scoreboard. And while McDaniels loosened the shackles on signal-caller Kyle Orton to some degree after the break, he continues to make poor use of Tim Tebow, who nearly half of America would like to see as the Broncos' starting QB. Yes, he did score one of the outfit's two touchdowns -- but he did it running, as usual. Who does Tebow have to blow to be permitted to throw an actual pass? (November 1, 2010)
Why didn't McDaniels and company throw alleged video rogue Scarnecchia under the team bus right away, instead of waiting well over a week to self-report? Hard to say at this point. But McDaniels should have known better, having personally witnessed the bad publicity garnered by the New England Patriots -- his former team, and Scarnecchia's -- after personnel improperly videoed New York Jets signals back in 2007.
The bad PR from this incident remains the worst blemish on Bill Belichick's New England coaching career. So of course, McDaniels, who continues to blatantly mimic Big Bill, has found a way to imitate this disaster, too, but in even more mortifying fashion.
Locals who continue to insist that McDaniels deserves at least one more year to show what he can do at the Broncos' helm will have an even harder time making that argument now. He's managed to turn a much-lauded franchise into a league-wide joke faster than anyone could have calculated. Should he be allowed to compound the misery? Let's look at the videotape... (November 28, 2010)
During CBS' pregame show yesterday, former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher and onetime Bengals great Boomer Esiason debated the fines imposed on McDaniels and the Broncos over the video incident, with both drawing a bead on McD. Cowher seemed legitimately angry -- he declared that the penalties were too mild and argued for Denver to lose draft picks -- while Esiason said the combination of the latest scandal with the loss of Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler and Peyton Hillis (who scored another three touchdowns yesterday) show some serious flaws in McDaniels' decision-making.
Damn straight. Mike Shanahan was fired mainly because of a lousy defense and poor personnel choices. And McDaniels? His talent evaluation is even worse than his predecessor's, the defense is still ultra-mediocre, and if the offense is now at about the level it was when he took over the team, he fixed what wasn't broken, leading to unnecessary turmoil and a whole lot of losses.
Why is this man still the Broncos' coach? Expect to hear that question frequently for the remainder of the season. (November 29, 2010)
Fortunately, the decision to bring the hammer down now rather than wait until season's end for appearance's sake was the right one. Over the course of a month, even observers who'd been certain McD would be given a third season to prove himself were backtracking -- so why wait to do the deed?
Now, fans have a reason to pay attention to the rest of a lost season, not to mention some hope for the future. (December 6, 2010)
More from our Media archive -- the January 13, 2009 post "The Josh McDaniels coverage thus far: fawning, with a dash of worshipfulness."
Get the Weekly Newsletter