You won’t get many arguments that Josh McDaniels’ tenure in Denver was anything but an abysmal mess. But part of being a fan is having to look back and see the entire situation with clear eyes once the dust settles, and various other clichés.
Josh McDaniels dismantled a team thought by many to be “on the brink” of a breakout season, a playoff berth, and perhaps a run at the Super Bowl. He sent numerous starters packing, most notably Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Peyton Hillis and Tony Scheffler. In return for a lion’s share of draft picks, sufficient to rebuild any team, McDaniels piled on the Bronco faithful with horrific draft day decisions. Most asinine was his decision to trade his 2010 first round pick (which ultimately turned into the impact safety Earl Thomas) to the Seattle Seahawks to pick Alphonso Smith in the second round of the 2009 draft, who was then traded (after one season!) to the Detroit Lions for one Dan Gronkowski. Not to be confused with the other more successful Gronkowski (Rob) who just broke the receiving record for touchdowns by a tight end, Dan Gronkowski is unemployed right now. Knowshon Moreno is a complete bust, and the rest of the 2009 class (with the notable exception of defensive end Robert Ayers) doesn’t even play for the Broncos anymore.
Needless to say, McHoodie’s blunders were epic. Not 4-foot powder day epic mind you, but Bernie Bickerstaff epic.
As I sat watching the Broncos pull out yet another improbable victory and listened to the banal chorus of team unity yet again: “putting the whole before the individual”, “believing in one another”, etc., I couldn’t help but think back to McDaniels and the culture he publicly sought for the Denver Broncos. The talents of the four key players shipped off are immense, but so are the flaws:
Jay Cutler: a great talent who lacks true leadership intangibles. Look at the Super Bowl winners since year 2000. All but two — Baltimore and Tampa Bay — had a true leader at the quarterback position. It is an undeniable fact that the quarterback position is the most important on the team; without leadership, a team cannot thrive. Am I suggesting Jay Cutler will never win a Super Bowl? Of course not. But if he doesn’t I’m certain his lack of leadership qualities will be highlighted as a primary factor.
Brandon Marshall: undeniable talent, undeniable headache.
Peyton Hillis: cover of Madden, stupidest trade ever in 2010. This year, not so bad. Hillis is in a contract year and he’s complaining, has a bad attitude, is sitting out games for a phantom sickness, is being forced into team interventions, and is producing well below his 2010 numbers. Madden curse, or McHoodie foresight?
Tony Scheffler: moderately productive. Tebowing in the endzone = zero class. I’m sure Scheffler and Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Lions get along famously but perhaps they should be more concerned about preventing a collapse from their fantastic start than rejoicing in each others’ antics.
All in all, I don’t really miss these guys. Give me a less talented player that works hard on every down any day of the week. There’s no discounting the value of leadership by action.
The one thing all of the pundits and fans of the orange and blue point to is that the Broncos are displaying an undeniable team chemistry as young players rise behind true leaders; this improbable banding together of a team left for dead five games into the season has led many to dub the Broncos “America’s Team.”
For a moment we should step back and look at how the pieces of this team came together. First and foremost, look at our undisputed team leaders: Brian Dawkins on defense and Tim Tebow on offense. Both are McDaniels products. A step further, look at the list below:
- Robert Ayers
- Britton Colquitt
- Andre Goodman
- Demaryius Thomas
- Zane Beadles
- J.D. Walton
- Eric Decker
- Joe Mays
Recognize these names? All starters, either drafted, signed, or traded for by McDaniels. Combined with your “true leaders” and you have 10 of the 24 starters on the team (including the kickers). You would be hard pressed to say this team would be doing what it’s doing if you removed even one of these players. To be fair, the team wouldn’t be what it is without the likes of Ryan Clady, Elvis Dumervil, Champ Bailey, Willis McGahee and Von Miller either. But McDaniels delivered your two primary leaders and a strong cast of young players coming into their own. In fact, the 2010 draft class is looking awfully good.
I’m not for a second saying that McD should have kept his job; the Broncos are better off without him. However, if he hadn’t cleaned house would we be where we are today? Who knows.
Maybe the kid wasn’t that far off…