With the recent hiring of John Fox, much has been made of the future. Rightly so, too. Broncos fans have not been given much to cheer for in recent years. The Broncos have not so much as sniffed the Super Bowl since John Elway retired, and the closest we've come in recent years (Jake Plummer's last decent statistical season) was coldly denied by the stingy Steelers D.
It's been all downhill from there.
The early Cutler years were wildly disappointing as the defense dropped off the map. Mike Shanahan was let go, largely due to his hand in some poor drafts defensively and personnel mistakes. It may or may not have been all due to mistakes he personally made, but upper management decided a change was needed.
Maybe a defensive coach would have been preferable, since that was far and away the biggest issue with the team. However, management was mostly looking for someone who could step in and instill a winning mindset.
Enter Josh McDaniels.
He had seen his share of success, as New England's quarterbacks coach and later as offensive coordinator. He had not only watched Tom Brady, but coached him and reared him to rise from a late-round draft pick to become arguably one of the greatest QBs of all time. Except for the disappointing showing at the Super Bowl, the Patriots offense was explosive all season long.
Say what you want about any tainting Spygate may have put on any (or all) of the Pats' previous Super Bowl wins, the fact remains that this has been a dominant, well-coached team. Denver's front office salivated at the chance to experience similar success.
Denver had a young QB of their own and all wondered if Josh could have similar success with Jay Cutler as with Brady.
The only problem was, Josh was a young guy with no experience as a head coach. He did make rookie mistakes and it cost him the trust and respect of his quarterback. Jay Cutler pouted his way out of Denver over the Matt Cassel fiasco, and suddenly the Broncos were without their hotshot QB.
But McDaniels worked on Kyle Orton, who turned out to be solid in his system, not spectacular, but solid.
He brought in Mike Nolan (who never should've been let go), and the largely no-name defense responded in a big way. The Broncos shocked the world when they jumped out to a 6-0 start.
Then the season began to turn, for a combination of reasons.
The defense began to lose its cohesiveness, and started to crumble. Injuries set in, as every team has to deal with, and the Broncos began to lose. As if they had suddenly been jinxed, the Broncos faded down the stretch. It continued into this season, where Josh was finally fired after Spygate II. I do not believe that he was completely to blame. However, he made another mistake, and it cost him everything.
Broncos fans have been calling for his head ever since last season's slide culminated in another missed shot at the playoffs. It is trendy to cast all blame on him for Denver's current rut. However, this is not the case at all.
His players love him (Jay Cutler aside). They fought for and defended him. They played hard for him. If nothing else, for six games, he showed them how to win. The Broncos responded to their young, fiery coach.
Did Denver need a change for next season? Yes. Whenever losing becomes consistent, change is needed. Have the players expressed regret at seeing their coach leave? Yes. His players have all had wonderful things to say about him and have wished him well.
It was shown that experience is important when taking the reins of a team, but Josh got the most out of his ragtag group of players. For six games anyway.