Josh McDaniels was hired two weeks after the Denver Broncos’ epic collapse in 2008 in which they lost three straight games to hand the division title to San Diego. The team expected the young coach to use enthusiasm and offensive wisdom, passed down from Bill Belichick, to lead the team back to the playoffs.
So far, it has not worked out as planned. Josh McDaniels immediately clashed with Denver’s most promising player in an overall, embarrassing episode. Many fans were eager to see what Cutler was capable of doing with McDaniels (who coached Cassel during his breakout season in 2008) teaching the young QB. Cutler was traded in April to the Bears and the Broncos started the season with Kyle Orton as their quarterback.
After missing the playoffs with a team that started 6-0, McDaniels managed to get rid of Denver’s second-best offensive player a year after trading Cutler. Brandon Marshall was traded to the Dolphins when he squabbled with the new coach.
After the 6-0 start, Denver squandered its All-Pro talent and went 4-14 through Week 9 of 2010.
McDaniels was not as good as people thought: his teams in New England were already stacked with talent and did not need a lot of his coaching to put up big numbers. This situation gave him more credit than he deserved and fooled Broncos ownership.
Not that the Broncos are doomed, well, they are this season anyway. But what the Broncos need to do is look thirty miles to the west, where the CU Buffaloes have fired Dan Hawkins after more than four seasons of dismal football at Folsom Field.
How did Dan Hawkins manage to lose so many games despite his large contract, success at every other level and top-notch recruits? For one, he did not have many great relationships with potential assistants to bring to CU because of his lack of experience as a head coach and his age.
Another glaring hole on Hawkins’ long list of flaws as a head coach has to do with Darrell Scott. When Scott signed with CU, he was considered a top 10 recruit in the nation. In his first season in Boulder, he ran for 343 yards and one touchdown.
Scott was the top-ranked player recruited by Dan Hawkins, but Hawkins had a knack for misusing his players. Whether he picked guys with the wrong makeup or did not know how to help them succeed, his coaching skills were definitely too weak for Big 12 competition.
Anyway, Hawkins does not have a job now, but McDaniels still does. Some will argue that the 34-year old coach is too young to know how to lead a winning team now, but that he will grow into the role. That would put the Broncos owners at fault for hiring McDaniels two years ago. A team can give up a couple years to wait for their players to reach their prime, but a team should never wait a couple years for a coach.
Both guys were hired in Colorado as hot-shots, the next new X-and-O stars of the NFL and NCAA respectively. Both turned out to be big mistakes and it’s not a surprise. Bill Belichick (one of McDaniels’ mentors) was in his mid-40’s when he won three titles with the Pats.
New England also had some great offensive talent while McDaniels worked as an assistant: Tom Brady, Matt Cassel when Brady got hurt and Randy Moss and Wes Welker were All-Pros without major coaching from McDaniels.
Denver’s team, on the other hand, featured a slew of young RBs and Eddie Royal, who had the tools to be great, but needed coaching like all newly-drafted players. McDaniels simply does not have the experience with young players NFL coaches need.
McDaniels, like Hawkins, was one of the worst possible hires to rebuild a team because he himself was young and needed building up in experience to run a team. Young teams often try to get a young coach to match their players’ attitudes and unify the team, but it is often the worst possible combination.
The Buffs realized this a little late, but still got Hawkins out of there before he could continue to try and scrap together a few wins, like a 4-year old trying to write a paper on atomic mole theory.
A veteran team getting a young coach can work out. Take the Yankees. Jeter, Pettite, Posada, Rivera, A-Rod and Teixeira all had years of experience in the MLB and four of them played dozens of games in the playoffs before their 2009 World Series title. Joe Girardi was clearly overmatched by his counterparts in the playoffs, but his players picked him up and used their veteran know-how to get their 27th title.
On the other hand, a young team with a young coach has no chance for survival, like a zebra with two legs being chased by a lion. The Broncos should learn from the Buffs, fire McDaniels and stop wasting away week after week without building towards winning in the near future.
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