In the wake of a media firestorm, and after being outplayed by a team that had not won on the road in over a year, Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels must now recognize that like his team, he no longer controls his own destiny.
For the first time this season, the Broncos are actually getting national media attention. Unfortunately, it is not out of acclaim, but infamy.
After another failed attempt at espionage in London, McDaniels is now faced with not only the sanctions that the league may enforce on the team, but the fate of his own coaching career in Denver as well.
There are going to be two different angles that both the fans and the media alike will take from Sunday’s loss. The first could be that the team showed true grit after falling behind by 20 points, they were resilient in their efforts to attempt to come back, almost culminating in a game tying field goal.
The second will be to look at this game as a testament to what the Broncos have become: a bottom tier team that was beaten on its own turf by a squad that had one victory last year and had not won a road game since beating the hapless Lions over a year ago.
For the sake of this article, one must go with the latter.
Sometimes it does not only come down to wins and losses, but in the way that a team wins or loses. Sunday’s loss was a microcosm of the entire season prognosticated with a bit of foreshadowing of things to come.
Once again, the Denver Broncos allowed a mediocre offense to run roughshod over their inept defense, and once again, Kyle Orton threw for 350 yards, but when needed most he could not muster a single yard.
Orton had 172 yards and zero touchdowns BTOTSPPD (Before the Opposing Team Started Playing Prevent Defense) including four straight punts and a fumble. It was not until ATOTSPPD (After The Opposing Team Started Playing Prevent Defense) that Orton found his “rhythm”. I wonder how many ATOTSPPD yards Orton has accumulated this season? It should be a new statistic.
The other guy, the one that we traded for Orton, is now 15-12 as a starter in Chicago—compared to Orton’s record of 11-16. I am not trying to get a rise out of the Orton contingent I am merely relaying facts.
Regardless of who is to blame, with the negative attention that has now come to Denver, the inevitable blame will fall to Josh McDaniels; who is now 5-16 in his last 21 with less than winnable games left on the horizon.
Now Everybody Knows
I have always been puzzled by the amount of national media coverage that a sports team gets and how it is solely predicated upon the city in which that team plays. Those of you who are Broncos fans know of the fact to which I speak.
We could have the best team in the league and Denver would still lack the coverage that a pitiful Cowboys team would get (Denver’s Super Bowl runs of the late ‘90s are indicative of this, also the current Cowboy demise). The media coverage is never evenly proportioned unless something extraordinary or awful has transpired.
This angered me when Denver was playing really well, now that they are not, it has been quite the luxury. However, that all changed when Denver played against the Chargers on Monday Night Football last week.
Now everybody knows exactly how asinine the head coach has been, the bevy of talent that he squandered away and the horrific personnel decisions that have been made. Cutler, Smith, Hillis, Marshall, Tebow—it is no longer a secret: Josh McDaniels has ruined the Denver Broncos. He has taken a franchise that was accustomed to competing, to the laughing stock of the league.
Everybody knows about it now, which means owner Pat Bowlen hears about it now, which means McD has nowhere left to hide. The losing was kept silently under the radar, but not anymore.
What Killed His Plan?
There have been several articles written to the topic of McDaniels obstinate and questionable personnel decisions, but this is where the plan started to fall apart. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not mention three things that will continue to stick in McDaniels’ side.
The first fact is Peyton Hillis keeps scoring touchdowns. To beat an old drum, after this weekend he has over 1200 yards of total offense and 13 touchdowns!
The second factor that continues to plague McDaniels is his lack of awareness or concern when it came to the defensive side of the ball. Upon arrival, instead of blowing up Denver’s second ranked offense, maybe he should have shored up some more talent on the defensive side of the ball.
That way instead of using first round picks for offense, they could have been used to accompany Robert Ayers on defense. His inability to keep Mike Nolan on staff did not help either.
Coupling in both of these factors, it is imperative to note that if the Broncos were able to maintain the momentum that fueled them during the “honeymoon”, the first six games of last season, all of this would be moot.
The fact remains, that is definitely NOT what has happened. Alphonso Smith plays in Detroit, our first round equivalent for Cutler is still a journeyman tight end, Moreno has not completely hit his stride and the Browns still do not miss Brady Quinn. Yet all of these things may pale in comparison to McDaniels latest display of narcissism; the final straw that just might seal his fate.
What Happened to Moral Turpitude and Character?
Upon hearing of the taping allegations, the first thought that came to mind was, “I thought we had a team built on the foundation of moral character?” After all, that is why McD got rid of Marshall, Cutler, Hillis and Scheffler. They did not have a “team first” mentality.
Personally, whether McDaniels knew of his assistants actions is irrelevant. I am inclined to agree with Bill Cowher on this issue and say that he did, but I digress.
The simple fact that he was willing to have Steve Scarnecchia on his staff after knowing of his prior transgressions makes him out to be a hypocrite. Just so we understand this: we cannot have a guy on our team that wants to get paid (i.e. Marshall), or that gets angry when he hears—not from his head coach, but from the media—that he is involved in trade talks (i.e. Cutler), but we can have an individual who not only condones, but is an advocate for cheating, on our staff?
It is one thing to put an inept team on the field, it is another thing entirely to give the organization a black eye with regard to its operations. I have written before that I thought there was no way that Pat Bowlen would pay three head coaches.
After this incident, I have to reconsider my stance.
If the NFL levies a heavier punishment on the Broncos (such as the one levied against the New England Patriots in 2008) then one would be inclined to think that Bowlen will let McDaniels go; regardless of salary requirements. From Bowlen’s standpoint, he spent millions more to build the franchise. To see it all swept away, along with his good name, by some Belichick prodigy, is unthinkable.
Waiting For the Miracle to Come
At this point, it would take a miracle to save McDaniels job. Although McDaniels may not be able to perform said miracle, there is someone who can at least help him save face here in Denver: Tim Tebow. I say this solely for the purpose that McD can leave knowing that in light of the fact that he traded away any semblance of offensive talent, and he completely destroyed a franchise, he can at least tell the critics that he got the Tim Tebow pick right.
The only problem with this is playing Tebow at QB will officially designate that McDaniels has conceded. This entire season, McDaniels has kept Tebow at arm’s length; he never wanted to show the fans or the media too much.
This way he could always keep us enamored with the idea that Tebow might play. He knew that everybody would continue asking, “I wonder what kind of QB Tebow will make in the NFL?” And McDaniels could bank on that—at least until next season.
Tebow was the proverbial ace in the hole. It was almost as if he was afraid to play Tebow extensively out of the fear of backlash if he played poorly.
If he is forced to play him now (which fans are calling for, as might Bowlen) then his ruse may be exposed. If Tebow comes in and stinks, then the gig is up. McDaniels is fired and is known as the idiot who blew up the Broncos, drafted Tim Tebow, and we see him on one of those Top 10 Lists on NFL Network: “How to Blow Up a Team in Two Seasons”.
However, if it works, and Tebow is great (or at least shows promise), then McDaniels can put it on his resume that he was the only guy with the onions to go out and take a chance on Tim Tebow.
Sadly, he probably does not recognize this fact, and that could be the fourth thorn in his side. The list will continue to grow, and he will have more to think about during his next job—as a coordinator.