Josh McDaniels is an interesting man.
At first look, the young head coach seems pleasant—he smiles at press conferences and speaks to the media in a straight-forward fashion—a far cry from his old boss Bill Belichick’s passive-aggressive approach.
McDaniels is obviously intense; a character trait that he’s showcased numerous times on the sidelines in his first year as the Broncos’ head man. After beating his ex-boss and ex-team in the New England Patriots, McDaniels ran down the sideline pumping his fist in excitement. During Denver’s Thanksgiving game the head coach passionately berated his players with a curse-word laden tirade—a tactic that arguably worked and hyped up the players who eventually pulled off the win.
But Josh McDaniels doesn’t always get the approval of all his players, something that if left unchecked could result in a perennial problem down the road.
From Day One of the McDaniels’ regime he’s made it known that he’s in charge and the Broncos are going to do everything his way. He hired Brian Xanders as GM and the two handed out double digit pink slips to former Denver players. He made it known that he thought Matt Cassell would be a better fit than Jay Cutler and ended up trading arguably the best player the Broncos had when he took over.
Then there was his month-long dispute with Brandon Marshall that got so ugly the receiver was showing his displeasure with the coach in skipping practices or showing up to show off his new found ball-batting skills.
But everything seemed resolved, or at least kept quiet for almost the entirety of the regular season, until now.
Marshall, who injured a hamstring in practice, is being benched by McDaniels. “He’ll be deactivated from the game Sunday. That’ll be a coaching decision,” explained the head coach at Friday’s presser.
When asked why the star receiver will be deactivated, McDaniels dodged the question saying, “Our word for the week has been accountability. We’re lookin’ to put the 45 guys on the field that want to play together, want to help us try to win and qualify for the playoffs and we talked about it as a group this Wednesday that’s what’s going to happen this week. Anybody that showed any indifference to that we’ll play without them and we’ll play well anyway.”
“We’re building a team. And if you have players that aren’t going to put that ahead of everything else then that can be detrimental to your club.”
“We’re all accountable to give our very best effort to Pat Bowlen, to this organization, to this city, to all the people that support us.”
“We’re playing Sunday with the guys that want to play, that want to be accountable to each other and want to help us accomplish what we want to accomplish.”
He repeated the last stanza around five times during the press conference when asked about any further details about Marshall, and when asked about why pass-catching tight end Tony Scheffler will be benched as well.
So the real question is this: What happened?
Scheffler was hurt when he heard the news of McDaniels shopping him in the offseason and he’s likely quite upset with the lack of opportunities to be effective within the offense. Really, Scheffler has a legitimate gripe as he’s only caught 31 passes and two touchdowns this season.
But McDaniels also has a point; football is a team game and selfish players have no place on his team.
As for Marshall, I’ve heard from multiple sources that the player said something out of line to the coach, although what exactly was said is unknown as of now.
And as McDaniels is making another stand while knocking the starters down a notch with his iron fist, he’s starting to leave a sour taste in the mouths of some fans.
Marshall and Scheffler are arguably the two best pass-catchers the Broncos have, and with Eddie Royal likely a no-play due to injury, Denver’s pass attack will be mediocre at best.
To think that “the offense won’t change,” as McDaniels said, is ludicrous, borderline arrogant and if the Broncos can’t produce points he will be questioned all offseason.
Besides that, McDaniels is showing that he may have a problem connecting and earning the respect of his players.
Could it be that McDaniels is too callous because he’s so driven toward the goal of winning a Super Bowl? Or could it be that McDaniels’ ego and desire for ultimate power are turning people against him?
Only time will tell, but if McDaniels can’t adapt and work on his interpersonal skills, he will be the one missing games after being shown the door by Mr. Bowlen.