The League

Michael Kun

Michael Kun

Co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia. He is also the author of six other books and is a practicing attorney.

Too many bad decisions


My brother Steve is a Broncos fan.

I imagine that Monday was one of his happier days in his many years of following the team. And I imagine that most Broncos fans feel the same way.

Monday, they said goodbye to Josh McDaniels. Tuesday, they'll say hello to a new head coach. We don't know who it is yet, but Steve and other Broncos fans probably don't care. Whoever it is won't be Josh McDaniels, and that should be enough.

McDaniels had some pretty big shoes to fill in Denver. Mike Shanahan's shoes, to be precise.

It's not everyday that a kid in his 30s with no head coaching experience is hired to replace a two-time Super Bowl winner.

But when McDaniels started off his Broncos' head coaching career with six straight wins and a Sports Illustrated cover, he probably started shopping for a bigger home in the Denver suburbs to live in during his long Broncos coaching career.

That was then. This is now.

Now, he's probably wondering how quickly he can put that house back on the market.

Getting fired will do that.

And, although I hate to say that anyone deserved to lose his or her job, particularly around the holidays, McDaniels deserved to lose his.

With an 11-17 record following that 6-0 start in 2009, McDaniels can't be that surprised to have been given a pink slip on Monday.

Of course, that 6-0 start was a mirage. It made people believe that the Broncos were better than they were. It raised expectations too quickly, and when those expectations weren't met, well, you had a lot of unhappy people in Denver.

But it's not just the record, is it?

There are plenty of coaches with mediocre squads and losing records who have been able to ride out the storm as they try to remake their teams. (See the Chiefs and Rams.) The difference between those coaches and McDaniels is the perception that those coaches are in control, that they have a plan, that they know what they're doing.

McDaniels may be a great guy, and what I'm about to say may be entirely wrong, but it certainly appeared that he was making decisions -- bad decisions -- based on emotion rather than reason. It certainly seemed that he wasn't thinking things through at times and was putting the Broncos in a bad position as a result.

He feuded publicly with two of his most talented players, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. Sure, Cutler and Marshall handled themselves poorly, too, which makes them no different than hundreds of other self-important athletes who live in their fantasy worlds. The head coach is supposed to deal with these players. The head coach is supposed to rise above the nonsense. McDaniels didn't. So Cutler is in Chicago and Marshall is in Miami.

McDaniels is also the one who (apparently) was responsible for trading Peyton Hillis to the Browns. Now, few people had heard of Hillis when he was traded. For most, the trade was just another minor transaction in small type on the sports page. Few of us had any idea that Hillis would turn into the player he is for Cleveland. But we're not talent evaluators, are we? McDaniels is supposed to be. And a Broncos team with Cutler, Marshall and Hillis looks an awful lot better than the current squad, doesn't it?

But it's not just the 11-17 record, or the poor relationships with his star players, or the bad personnel decisions, is it?

There was also the dust-up with Todd Haley of the Chiefs earlier this year, where Haley refused to shake McDaniels' hand after the Broncos appeared to run up the score needlessly at the end of their game -- only months after Haley and the Chiefs refrained from doing the same in a victory over the reeling Broncos. Should McDaniels have let up? Perhaps, perhaps not. But it didn't help that another respected coach was pointing a finger at McDaniels. The picture of Haley pointing his finger at McDaniels at mid-field spoke volumes. "You're a petulant, immature kid, and you're going to get yours," the photo said.

Then there was the videotape fiasco, where McDaniels was fined $50,000 for failing to report a subordinate who taped part of the 49ers' practice before their game in London. And, having been an offensive coordinator with the Patriots during Spygate, McDaniels of all people should have known better.

Add this all up, and you can't help but conclude that the Broncos had hired a coach who repeatedly made bad decisions.

The Broncos just made a good one.

By Michael Kun  |  December 7, 2010; 10:40 AM ET  | Category:  Coaching , Denver Broncos , Michael Kun , NFL Rules Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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