West Coast Away, McDaniels Brings the Patriot Way

Rick KarasContributor IMay 16, 2009

ENGLEWOOD, CO - MAY 03:  Quarterback Kyle Orton #8 particiaptes in practice during Denver Broncos Minicamp along with running backs LaMont Jordan #32, Knowshon Moreno #27 and Correll Buckhalter #28 at the Broncos training facility on May 3, 2009 in Englewood, Colorado. Moreno was the Broncos first round draft pick in the 2009 draft.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

If it aint broke, don't fix it.

Even upon being fired, former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he was leaving his successor a plethora of talent that produced the No.2 ranked offense in the NFL.  A parting gift after 14 years as the head man in Denver.

Of course, Shanahan was, in fact, fired, so new coach Josh McDaniels had every right to mark that gift, "return to sender."  And he did, with Chicago as a forwarding address.

Jay Cutler bristled at the notion that whomever took over as Broncos coach would want to change anything on the offensive side of the ball.  Tweak the defense, and let's get to work.  That was Shanahan's plan the last few years, and his eventual downfall.

The departure of Shanahan, along with QB coach Jeremy Bates set off a chain of events that would land Cutler and McDaniels in each others doghouses.  McDaniels considered the notion of trading for Matt Cassel, who put up big numbers in New England under McDaniels' tutelage.  Cutler was furious.

Several failed meetings and unreturned calls later, Cutler was a Bear, Kyle Orton was a Bronco, and McDaniels could finally get to work installing his offense.  His way.  The Patriot way, no questions asked.

Well, here's one: How could the Broncos have finished second in yards, but only 16th in points?  It's a question McDaniels surely has been focused on, and he hopes his answer will show he is the right man in Denver.

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He'll start with trying to live up to his billing as a first rate QB coach.  Tom Brady, Cassel, and now Orton.  Orton brings a steady, if unspectacular resume from Chicago.  He threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 18 TD surrounded by average offensive talent. 

The numbers pale in comparison to Cutler's (over 4,500 yards, 25 TD), but much like the Broncos overall offensive stats, there's more to the story.

Cutler threw 18 interceptions, occasionally short-circuiting drives in Shanahan's West Coast offense, which calls for short and intermediate throws to set up the big run or pass later on.  McDaniels hopes what Orton lacks in arm strength (and make no mistake, Cutler has a cannon), he can make up for in accuracy, and red zone efficiency.

Further proof the Bronco offense wasn't all it was cracked up to be? Week 16 vs. Buffalo.  Denver outgained the Bills 532-275 in total yards, and won the time of possession battle.  And lost, 30-23.  The Broncos were only 2 of 6 in the red zone.

Orton amassed a higher completion percentage, TD/INT ratio, and red zone rating than Cutler.  McDaniels will gladly trade gaudy offensive numbers from his QB in favor of gaudy numbers in the "TD's scored" column in the stat book. 

McDaniels doesn't have a name for his offense, though it was sometimes referred to as 'amoeba,' adapting to the situation at hand.  Receivers in his system are always on the move; spread out, bunched together, you name it. 

In New England he had Randy Moss and Wes Welker.  There's little drop off, if any, in Denver.  Orton will have Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal starting, backed up by Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney, himself coming over from the Pats.

A major change could be in how the tight ends on the roster are utilized.  Used as downfield receivers in the West Coast,  they are used more as blockers under McDaniels.  Tony Scheffler was a frequent target of Cutler,  and McDaniels has said he wants to take advantage of Scheffler's pass catching skills. 

Of course, he also said Cutler was his QB, days before he was traded.  The presence of Daniel Graham, who played under McDaniels in New England, and rookie Richard Quinn, considered the best blocking TE in the draft, will continue to raise questions on Scheffler's long term future in Denver.

Like the offense he runs, McDaniels appears to be willing to adapt to at least some of what he's been given in Denver.  The team will continue to employ a zone blocking scheme to open holes for the run game. RB coach Bobby Turner and line coach Rick Dennison remain from Shanahan's staff.  One cut, and go; that's what they teach their backs in Denver.

Making those cuts will be Knowshon Moreno. McDaniels surprised everyone by making the Georgia RB his first ever draft pick, and following in the tradition of another Bulldog RB, Terrell Davis, McDaniels is hopeful he's found his franchise back for years to come.

McDaniels has also found there's no need to revamp an offensive line which gave up a mere 12 sacks all season, tied for first in the league.  All five starters from '08 remain, led by bookend tackles Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris. 

With more weapons than he's ever been given, and improved protection, Orton has no more excuses if he wishes to be known as a top QB rather than simply "good in the huddle."  His head coach simply wishes to be known as more than a "Bill Belichick disciple."

Josh McDaniels is going to do things his way.  He hopes "The Patriot Way" will soon be known as, "The Bronco Way."  A new offense arrives in Denver.  Along with his three Super Bowl rings.

That's one thing McDaniels hopes will never change.