It’s been a trying season for Josh McDaniels for various reasons. At the tender age of 33, he was thrust into the role of NFL head coach last winter—and at least as far as his team’s fanbase is concerned, he has failed miserably so far.
So it begs the question: Is there such a thing as being too young or inexperienced to be an NFL head coach?
I think so, and thanks to his latest brilliant idea of benching Brandon Marshall—which may have ostensibly cost Denver any shot they had of making the playoffs—McDaniels is the poster boy for proving the point.
See, with age and experience come a certain maturity and panache for handling players, team personnel, and opponents. But when you’re younger than a quarter of your roster, it’s almost impossible to possess those qualities.
McDaniels has now exhibited that lack of knowledge three times this season.
The first came almost immediately after he was hired, when a tiff between him and Jay Cutler got so heated that the “franchise passer” the Broncos had previously alienated the adequately capable Jake Plummer for was jettisoned to Chicago for...a few draft picks and the adequately capable Kyle Orton.
Then, there was the alleged incident with the San Diego Chargers, where McDaniels allegedly claimed “we own you.” Even if it went as McDaniels claimed—that the “owned” comment referred to his past with the Patriots—it was out of line. Outside of Ty Law and Jabar Gaffney, how many guys on the Broncos’ roster even ever played for the Pats? Exactly.
And now, finally, with the season on the brink of collapse, McDaniels benched his best offensive player. Sure, Gaffney had a big day in his absence, and the defense resembled little more than an obstacle course for Jamaal Charles, but there’s no way you can’t tell me having a two-time Pro Bowl receiver who is barely in his prime wasn’t a huge loss.
All because Marshall was late to an injury treatment session?
Please. There’s more to it, and both McDaniels and Marshall know it, and Marshall also knows that he’ll most likely be suiting up somewhere other than Denver next year. Which means unless they draft Jerry Rice or Joe Montana next year, this “new era” of mediocre football will continue for at least another couple years.
After all, the sum total of McDaniels’ efforts was an 8-8 season in which the team started strong, collapsed, and missed the playoffs. Sort of like 2008 with alleged fossil Mike Shanahan at the helm.
But hey, when you’re young and don’t know what you’re doing, bad decisions and immaturity seem acceptable—unless you’re Mike Tomlin, but he’s a special case of a young guy succeeding.
If I were an NFL GM, I wouldn’t even look at a guy who hasn’t been in the game for more than 10 years—especially one with so little experience above assistant to an assistant—to be the savior of my franchise.
To wit, I offer you two resumes, and urge you to pick the one lesser qualified to be an NFL head coach.
No. 1: Played HS ball for his daddy. Went to a Division III school where he had to switch positions to get playing time. Got graduate assistantship in college based on a connection from his daddy. Moved onto a defensive assistant job elsewhere based on another connection and spent eight years there (two as a coordinator) before being hired as a head coach.
No. 3: Played high school ball for a local legend and was a three-year starter for a two-time state champion. Three-year starter at Division I-AA school and then became a grad assistant there. Moved on to take lower assistantship at another level based on a previous connection, spending four years there (two as a coordinator) before being hired as a head coach.
Take away names and levels, and those resumes look very similar, don’t they? Clearly, the latter was a better player (and probably a few years younger) yet the former is very privileged.
I suppose I shouldn’t have to tell you that behind door No. 1 is, in fact, McDaniels.
For those who are counting, the second one is Tom Lennon—the current head coach at Seymour (CT) High School and a guy I graduated high school with 12 years ago.
But hey, clearly, as long as you know the right people, you’ll be fine regardless of how much you know.
Unless you’re black, in which case you’ll get a token interview before they hire the guy they really want…but that’s another story I’ve already written.