John Elway, Broncos to make same mistake with offensive coach as with Josh McDaniels?

At this writing, John Elway is reportedly on the job as executive veep of football operations for your Denver Broncos, and he'll presumably have a big say about who becomes the next head coach. But there's a problem -- the same one the team's braintrust failed to address when hiring certifiable disaster Josh McDaniels two years back. Too much focus on O, not enough on D.

As a reminder to those with short memories, the Broncos defense was awful at the time Mike Shanahan was fired -- and plenty of us hoped the next coach would specialize in that aspect of the game. Instead, the Broncos hired McDaniels, a hot property thanks to his work with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots offense.

In "Offensive expert Josh McDaniels as new Broncos coach? WTF?," published on January 12, 2009, we addressed this seeming contradiction:

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.

During his first comments after being named head coach, McDaniels promised that defense would be a priority for him, despite his interest in quarterbacking and so on. Yet he used most of his top draft picks on defensive players while trying to patch together a credible defense using aging free agents and other castoffs.

The result? A defense that got even worse during McDaniels's almost two years on the job.

Of course, the same can be said of the offense -- and given that Tim Tebow is now the Broncos' QB of the future, it's important that he evolve into a first-rate NFL player. But does that mean the head man has to have an offensive background? Hardly. A strong offensive coordinator and quarterback coach can focus all their energy on his development. And if the defense improves, the pressure on Tebow decreases, since he'll know the offense won't have to put up thirty points a game to give the Broncos a chance at victory.

Not that Elway and company appear to be leaning in that direction. The prospects that have surfaced over the past few weeks, including Gary Kubiak (off the table), Jim Harbaugh (a long shot) and, now, Atlanta assistant Mike Mularkey, are all offensive guys. And if Denver does indeed cast its lot with O, not D, we could be in for a particularly unpleasant case of déjà vu.

More from our Sports archive: "Sources: Pat Bowlen no longer Broncos' major decision maker amid "memory loss" questions."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts