Denver Broncos' Offseason: Who Is To Blame?

PunkusAnalyst IJune 25, 2009

When it comes down to it, the fans and the media hold the head coach responsible for the state of a team’s franchise.  I question whether or not this is a fair practice.

Though a head coach has governance over a myriad of things that influence the production and content of the team on the field, he does not wield the power over every decision that effects the organization.

I believe that you should give credit where credit is due and place blame where it belongs.

In the case of the Denver Broncos’ tumultuous offseason, I believe that the fans and especially the media have placed all of the blame for everything that has gone on squarely on coach McDaniels’s shoulders.

Though coach McDaniels is by no means innocent and was not uninvolved in many of the questionable decisions made this offseason, I believe that the credit for these decisions belongs to Pat Bowlen, not Josh McDaniels.

Pat Bowlen is the Owner, President, and CEO of the Denver Broncos.  He is the guy that signs the checks and the guy who puts the people in place to run the team.

When you talk about a man such as Pat Bowlen, the perhaps overused quote “the buck stops here” comes to mind.  He is the “decider” so to speak, and as such he deserves the credit and/or blame for his decisions.

As much as it pains me to add another article that details the events of the past few months (simply because it has been done to death), I feel it is necessary in order to point out who is responsible for each controversial offseason decision.

So here it goes:

After the Denver Broncos missed the playoffs for their third straight year with a defense that ranked near the bottom of the league, Bowlen decided it was time for a change.

It was Bowlen who made the decision to fire Mike Shanahan.

Whether Bowlen made a rash decision, sought bad council and was ill advised, or he made a calculated decision, which was a long time coming. However you see it, Bowlen was solely responsible for that decision.

Then, if we can believe the media and wish to take Jay Cutler at his word, Cutler had a meeting with Bowlen where he made known his disagreement with the decision to fire Shanahan and his concern about the future of the offense and namely the quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates.

Cutler reportedly left this meeting feeling that Bowlen had assured him that the offensive coaching unit would be kept in tact under the new head coach.  Bowlen does not recall this meeting and has made a statement that he may be experiencing some memory loss.

Pat Bowlen later decided to hire Josh McDaniels to be the new Head Coach of the Denver Broncos.

Whether Bowlen made a rash decision, sought bad council and was ill advised, or he made a calculated decision, which was a long time coming.  However you see it, Bowlen was solely responsible for that decision as well.

Josh McDaniels, having the full support of Pat Bowlen and the Denver Broncos' organization proceeded to clean house and assemble the coaching staff of his own choosing. This included the firing of the aforementioned quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates.

Jay Cutler was reportedly upset about this because he felt that Bowlen had assured him that Bates would be retained. Feeling that Bowlen lied to him and the organization betrayed him, Cutler then reportedly asked the Denver Broncos to trade him.

Somewhere between the selecting of the Denver Broncos' new coaching staff and the start of free agency, coach McDaniels sat down with Cutler and told him how excited he was to work with him and shared with him what their new offense was going to look like.

During this period, Pat Bowlen also made the decision to fire player personnel managers Jim and Jeff Goodman and to make Brian Xanders the General Manager of the Denver Broncos.

Whether Bowlen made a rash decision, sought bad council and was ill advised, or he made a calculated decision, which was a long time coming. However you see it, Bowlen was solely responsible for those decisions.

About 24 hours after free agency had opened up, the news media was a buzz with reports that there had been an attempt or at the very least ‘talks’ about the Denver Broncos trading away Jay Cutler in some sort of three-way trade in order to acquire Matt Cassel from New England.

Jay Cutler again felt lied to, this time by coach McDaniels and betrayed by the Denver Broncos' organization and publicly demanded to be traded from the Denver Broncos.

Cutler and his agent Bus Cook met with coach McDaniels and GM Xanders at Dove Valley to try to clear the air and come together on what had transpired and how to move forward.

McDaniels reportedly left the meeting with a positive outlook that things would be resolved, while Cutler reportedly felt like McDaniels had confirmed that Cutler was not wanted in Denver.

After that meeting Cutler ceased to communicate with the Denver Broncos organization in any way, despite many attempts by the organization to reach him through several different communication venues.

When questioned by the media, McDaniels stated that Cutler was Denver’s quarterback, that he was still under contract and the organization expected him to keep his word and honor that contract.

I do not think McDaniels was trying to mislead or lie to the press. As far as he was concerned, Jay was still there quarterback.  McDaniels is not the GM or the owner, he is the head coach and as such did not have the power to make the decision to trade Jay Cutler.

McDaniels expressed a desire to once again reach out to Cutler, to try to talk things out and find a common ground. Cutler would not return McDaniels numerous attempts to contact him.

Bowlen had had about enough of this stalemate conflict and media warfare. He contacted Cutler’s agent Bus Cook and demanded that Cutler return his call. When Bowlen did not hear from Cutler in what he determined to be a reasonable amount of time, Bowlen made the most controversial decision of the offseason.

Pat Bowlen made the decision to trade Jay Cutler.

Let me repeat that, Pat Bowlen (not Josh McDaniels) made the decision to trade Jay Cutler.

Whether Bowlen made a rash decision, sought bad council and was ill advised, or he made a calculated decision, which was a long time coming. However you see it, Bowlen was solely responsible for those decisions.

It was not coach McDaniels’ decision to make, and he should not shoulder the blame for this decision. The decision was Pat Bowlen’s.

I am not saying that McDaniels did not play a part in making Cutler feel like he was unwanted in Denver. McDaniels is definitely guilty of that whether it was his intention or not, but Cutler wanted to break ties with Denver before he ever spoke with McDaniels.

Credit where credit is due: Bowlen was unhappy with how Cutler was acting and was unwilling to be patient and wait to see if Cutler would show up for the mandatory minicamp in early April.  Bowlen made the decision to trade Cutler and move on.

The Denver Broncos have also taken some heat for the players they acquired in the draft and the strategy that they applied in seeking those players out.  However you choose to view these acquisitions, the man responsible for the results of the Denver Broncos' draft is Josh McDaniels.

McDaniels coordinated with his coaching staff, GM Brian Xanders and the player personnel department, but in the end he decided which players would best fit his team. And if there is heat to be taken for these draft picks, that heat is rightly directed at coach McDaniels.

That brings us to the current controversy that has landed in Dove Valley and captivated the media once again, Brandon Marshall.

Marshall has informed the Broncos organization that he does not trust the Broncos medical staff (because he felt they misdiagnosed his injury last season) and that he requires a new contract (one that reflects his high level of play over the past two years and will compensate him accordingly).

Marshall chose to express his resolve in having his new contract demands taken seriously by choosing not to attend the team’s most recent mandatory minicamp.

Marshall did come to Dove Valley and had a meeting with Pat Bowlen. Marshall was later seen leaving the Broncos complex after loading his car with packed boxes.

Marshall has also inferred through a comment on his web site that in this meeting he requested to be traded from the Denver Broncos and also inferred that Bowlen communicated to him that the Broncos would do their best to accommodate his request.

Now I feel the need to reiterate this point.  Marshall met with the owner Bowlen, the guy who writes the checks, the guy who would approve a contract extension, and not coach McDaniels who coaches the players.

And Marshall has expressed his displeasure with the Broncos medical staff and how much money he makes, not his relationship with coach McDaniels or the direction he is taking the team.

Coach McDaniels has taken a lot of flack from the media and from Denver Broncos fans.  He is not above reproach and he is not beyond scrutiny. McDaniels has made his share of mistakes as a rookie head coach, but he has taken the blame for things that were beyond his control and for the outcomes of decisions he did not make.

As a good employee, he has bore the criticism for Bowlen’s decisions and backed his boss’ moves, which may make him complicit in them but hardly means that he called the shots.

Just so we are straight here:

Bowlen decided to fire Shanahan.

Bowlen decided to hire McDaniels.

Bowlen decided to Trade Cutler.

McDaniels is responsible for the Draft picks.

Bowlen will ultimately decide what to do with Marshall.


Bowlen has taken the bull by the horns this offseason and has instituted a lot of change in the Denver Broncos' organization, and it has really shaken a lot of people up.  More change may be on its way, but it is important to be honest about who has instituted these changes.

Credit where credit is due, and blame where it belongs.


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