Brothers in Arms: McDaniels Boys Have Broncos QBs Locked and Loaded

D. WebbCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2010

ENGLEWOOD, CO - AUGUST 05:  Head coach Josh McDaniels of the Denver Bronocs surveys practice at training camp at Dove Valley on August 5, 2010 in Englewood, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

There is an old saying: "Those who can’t do, teach." In sports it goes something like "those who can’t play, COACH."

Many frustrated players have gone into coaching after or instead of a playing career at the next level.

The McDaniels boys are no different.

The sons of Thom McDaniels, a legendary high school coach from Canton, Ohio, figured out quickly that they didn’t have the size, speed, or talent to become NFL players. What they did have was the brains.

Josh was recruited to play at John Carroll University, and though a high school quarterback, he played wide receiver most of his career.

After his “playing days”—and I use that term loosely—Josh was a graduate assistant coach at Michigan State in 1999 and 2000 under another better than average (insert sarcasm font here) college coach: a guy named Nick Saban.

In 2001 Josh joined the Patriots staff and his training continued, and his pro coaching has been well publicized.

Key Patriot Highlights

2002-2003: Defensive assistant and worked with the defensive backs.

2004: Named QBs coach, a position he held till his departure from New England

2005 -2008: Served as the Pats' play caller in '05 but wasn’t officially named the OC till after the end of the season. Coordinated the record-setting offense of 2007. It set records for team touchdowns, offensive touchdowns, including 50 passing, and a league high in points. The Patriots also posted only the second perfect regular season record in the modern era.

2008: Helped turn Matt Cassel into a hot commodity with an 11-5 record replacing the injured All-Pro Tom Brady. Many credit Josh with Brady’s success since Josh had remained the New England quarterbacks coach since 2004.

Interesting side note: Neither Matt Cassel or Tom Brady have enjoyed more than a portion of their statistical or team success since the departure of Josh McDaniels.

The other brother Ben

Josh’s little brother Ben came out of the coaching witness protection program as the quarterbacks coach at Massillon's Jackson High School in Ohio and followed his brother to Denver as a member of the Broncos staff.

Ben served as a graduate assistant under Glen Mason at Minnesota from 2004-05 and was quarterbacks coach at Canton McKinley High School in Canton from 2006-07.

Ben McDaniels played quarterback at Kent State from 1999-01. Ben also played on McKinley's 1997 Ohio state championship team with former Broncos DL Kenny Peterson.

Quite a jump from high school to the Denver Broncos, but hey, what are brothers for, right?

Neither McDaniels brother was much of a player, but what they did understand was how to teach the game, in particular the quarterback position—something, it seems, they learned from growing up around their father. Some things I guess you learn early.

"The ability to coach is unique in the vocational world because it takes a strong encompassing understanding of a sport that you can’t necessarily play elite yourself. You may not be able to throw a 50-yard strike to a speeding receiver, but if you have a deep understanding of the physics, the mechanics involved, you have a chance to be good at teaching it. If you have the ability to understand how a position fits into a team concept, how each part contributes to the whole, you have a chance to be a good coach."

The other thing you need is the ability to communicate with and relate to players, and that the McDaniels Boys have in spades. You need look no further than their relationship with the three quarterbacks on the Broncos roster: the chronic overachiever, the habitual underachiever, and the juggernaut force of nature rookie.

All three have very disparate personalities and skill sets, but each is looking to get the best out of his opportunity in Dove Valley. All three, Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn especially, can be seen in private intense discussion visibly enthralled, hanging on every word.

Kyle Orton is a prime example of the McDaniels quarterback magic. Like Tom Brady and Matt Cassel before him, Orton brings to the huddle limited physicality, arm strength, and mobility, yet he posted his best career statistics his first year under the McDaniels duo.

Even more impressive are the second-year improvements Kyle appears to be making under the full-time tutelage of Ben McDaniels, who officially took the quarterbacks coach title away from Josh this year.

Never one to be mistaken by the football knowledgeable for a strong-armed, mobile signal caller, Orton struggled last year with roll-outs, bootlegs, and anything resembling escapability.

Defenses knew that they only had to defend between the hash marks and 30 yards deep, a fact that vexed the Broncos head coach, who stated that “Kyle can only run about half of the playbook” on more than one occasion.

The new and improved Kyle Orton

In two preseason games so far this year, Kyle Orton has transformed from “Vyle Ortonary” (as his lackluster play had me calling him last year) to something resembling a confident, mobile escape artist. He has also improved his ability to throw the “longer ball” and shows more zip on what had been more accurately characterized as closer to a pop gun than ca annon.

He is still struggling to hit the “long ball,” as we all know that “chicks love the long ball!” Opposing defenses hate it.

To what can we attribute this seemingly vast improvement? Did Kyle suddenly after five years as a pro just become stronger? Faster? Able to roll out and elude speeding linemen?

Or is it more likely that he has been coached up? Orton very well may take another leap forward, banging his head against his physical skill set ceiling. I have been the first to criticize Orton's play and lack of ability, but Josh and Ben seem to be finding a way to get blood from a stone. Also having players with skills Orton lacks to push him is also part of the coaching genius they bring to the table.

As someone close to me said to inspire this article, if the McDaniels brothers can get this much out of a journeyman reincarnation of Steve DeBerg, what do you think the future holds for young, talented arms like the underachiever and the physical phenom under the watchful eyes of Josh and Ben, Thom’s sons?

Ben bio reference

Finding info on Ben was like finding a needle in a haystack.


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