Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

06 Dec 2010

Josh McDaniels Fired

The Broncos have fired head coach Josh McDaniels.

Of note: The Broncos have just one person on staff with head coaching experience at even the college level: Wayne Nunnely, who was the head coach at UNLV from 1986-1989.

A quick eulogy: While there's a variety of reasons why McDaniels' tenure in Denver is over, the decline of the defense has to be a huge part of the equation. The Broncos' defense was seventh in the league last year before falling to 31st through Week 12. McDaniels curiously let defensive coordinator Mike Nolan go to Miami after one season, replacing him with linebackers coach Don Martindale.

The biggest reason why the defense has declined, though, has to be health. Denver's 11 defensive starters missed just two games through injury last season; this year, by my count, their intended starters have missed 29 games already and have eight more on the way, with Elvis Dumervil and Joe Mays (indirectly Dumervil's replacement, with Mario Haggan moving back to the outside and Mays taking over as inside linebacker) being on injured reserve. Without Dumervil, their sack rate fell from seventh in 2009 to 29th this year.

UPDATE: The interim head coach is running backs coach Eric Studesville. Studesville has never been even an offensive coordinator at any level, let alone a head coach.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 06 Dec 2010

175 comments, Last at 11 Dec 2010, 3:16am by Kibbles

Comments

1
by zerlesen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:23pm

Welp.

2
by verifiable (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:26pm

I blame Peter King and all his talk about the success of interim coaches.

42
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:45pm

Adam Schefter, August 25, 2009

"He's getting a lot of heat now, but someone who knows coaches well predicted to me that McDaniels is going to be one of the greatest NFL coaches ever. Strong words, I know, and we'll see. But I think he's going to be a real good one".

51
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:11pm

He could still become one of the greatest coaches ever. He just hasn't shown any sign of that at all yet.

Of course, someone probably says that about every new coach just so they can be right when it does happen.

64
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:21pm

Well, there's always a chance for major breakthroughs in video technology.

113
by Big Frank :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:20am

Schefter is just another hack.

3
by Marko :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:30pm

But he did such a great job makng Kyle Orton the best QB EVER, piling up lots of yards and fantasy points! Isn't that more important than winning games?

4
by Flounder :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:30pm

Wow, pretty surprising. I though he would at least make it through the season. Gruden back to the AFC West? I could definitely see that happening.

83
by ddb4 :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:30am

Gruden is so in love with Tebow I wouldn't rule him out as the mole in SGII. That guy, there in the booth, I call him the Chess Player, and his grand scheme to acquire 250 pounds of concrete cyanide is coming to fruition.

5
by Drunkmonkey :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:31pm

DAMN IT!!! I had tomorrow in the office pool for McD getting canned!!! And the pool was worth well over $350!!!

Augh! To make it worse, the ONLY Raiders fan in the entire building won it!!!

6
by Yuri (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:31pm

After this article, where Bowlen basically said, "don't ever quote me saying that I am supporting McDaniels," comes as no surprise.

Bill Simmons was right--there will be no #3 "no handshake" game.

7
by billycurley :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:32pm

I'd love to get raiderjoe's thoughts on this ...

8
by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:36pm

They'll likely be available after he's had a couple of Sierra Nevadas to celebrate.

9
by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:37pm

@#*&^$!! I meant 'He'll be likely...'

10
by dbt :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:41pm

blame it on typoes

24
by rombuu :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:03pm

I'm not sure why he'd be celebrating... most of the AFC West was hoping he'd coach Denver for a long, long time.

16
by NoraDaddy :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:51pm

I've been looking for his posts all day. I figured that, after the Raiders' win yesterday, he'd be in fine form today.

11
by dbt :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:41pm

Remember the talk in Peter King's column before the 2009 season about how Bowlen was wasn't acting very stable? Hmm.

12
by anklsdf (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:46pm

In all seriousness, he would do wonders as the OC for the titans.

33
by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:19pm

Wow. That would be a scary development for all other AFC South fans...

34
by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:32pm

I have a feeling Fisher and McDaniels don't like each other very much.

92
by Temo :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:29am

I have a feeling Fisher won't be around next year. Well, him or VY.

95
by IsraelP (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:47am

Who? raiderjoe?

99
by Whatev :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:40am

No, but mainly because raiderjoe would never be able to truly love any team other than the Raiders.

13
by zerlesen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:49pm

On the bright side, firing him during the season makes good sense from a scheduling standpoint. Now we'll be in position to fire the next guy at the end of the 2011 season, once he's finished getting rid of all McD's players.

(Incidentally, it seems to me that it's quite possible that - with a few notable exceptions, like Clady - the Broncos have now pretty much wasted five consecutive drafts through an unwillingness to stick to an idea of what personnel they actually want. This is without even mentioning the obvious issues w/r/t evaluating the personnel in question.)

14
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:49pm

Mike Lombardi back in the offseason: "After spending time with Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels yesterday, I’m further convinced he’ll produce an eventual Super Bowl winner for the city of Denver."

I mean, even Peter King isn't this wrong.

He may produce one, but he won't be coaching it. Actually, considering his personnel decisions were worse than his coaching, he probably won't be producing one either.

18
by fogarty :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:58pm

I don't think "wrong" is a strong enough word when it comes to Mike Lombardi. God that man is terrible. I guess McDaniels just didn't have enough blue chippers...

104
by OmrothYes (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:26am

Mike Lombardi is a giant bucket full of fail.

15
by manwith7talents (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:50pm

Oh Thank God.

17
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:52pm

Raiders grate 59-14 spankjob iof Broincos this deason was big nail in mcdaniels coffin. Guy couldnt even last 2 years. Is anothrr one of those coach/jerk guys like L. Kiffin.
Difference is Btoncos not going to find goof replacemebt like t. cable. Bfoncos going to get dome crap coach again. Maybe G. Kubiak. He is crap . Right up bowlens alley

27
by jbrown (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:07pm

Yes please let them take Kubiak, he is a total "goof replacement"

54
by Drunkmonkey :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:25pm

I love you Raiderjoe, and you are totally right: Tom Cable was a goof replacement.

All kidding aside, he does have them pointed upwards now. I mean, I know the Chargers aren't overwhelming this year, but the Raiders did just sweep them.

74
by BigWoody (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:19am

Wait, wait, come on guys, there's tons of low hanging fruit here. "Btoncos" is not a dinosaur? "Dome crap coach"...I can think of a few. "right up Bowlens alley"...is that a strike or a spare? ugh, sorry.

100
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:58am

Raiderjoe is bfoncos for the btoncos.

And I'll overlook the bowling pun.

Seriously, though - I doubt it was the losing alone. Bowlen is a pretty 'long-term' type of owner*. I really think the video thing was as devastating to McD's stay as the team's performance.

I mean really - you don't show up at a party with a repeat alcoholic friend and, two hours in, say, 'Aw crap, I didn't know he'd get like this, sorry!' McDaniels' guy smeared the Bfoncos name, and Bowlen would really not like that.

* - This is from a pretty reliable source; a friend of my friend's, who once went to a Btoncos game and took an inebriated piss in the hallway near the luxury suites

19
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 7:59pm

can someone explain why this makes any sense? I mean he's been on the job less than 2 years after taking over a team that needed major reconstruction. Is the plain explanation that mcdaniels has no people skills?

22
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:02pm

They needed major reconstruction on DEFENSE. McDaniels decided to reconstruct the offense as well, which for 1.25 years looked good, but he really ruined to good parts of the team that the Shanahan era left him. He also decided to fire Mike Nolan for no constructive reason after the defense was average (which was a step up) in 2009.

I don't think going from 8-8 to 8-8 to 3-9 is good job performance, especially when the situation is only worsening.

38
by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:37pm

My sense as a McDaniels defender is that most of the reasons bandied about are pretty bogus. But what's left is that he didn't create a culture where players expect to win. Instead, there was more an attitude - which was common in quotes from the players, especially Orton - that emphasized doing everything you can but the rest of it being out of your hands. He's great on preparation and the players love him to the point of waxing eloquent on him when the press isn't even asking. But you can see that in lots of losing, loyal cultures, where it's more about sticking together than winning.

20
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:00pm

He was out of his depth as a head coach and de facto GM but he really seems to know how to run the modern spread. If I was picking at the top of the draft and could get my hands on Cam Newton I think McDaniels could create a very good offense.

21
by V. Barbarino (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:01pm

As a Broncos fan, I really disagree with this move. I'm not sure how this guy was supposed to make chicken salad out of the chicken shit that Shanahan left on the defensive side of the ball. But, whatever. The Broncos franchise is a huge mess.
I think they should probably try to move Tebow now. He has literally no value to this franchise without McD here to coach him up. I know the smugger segments on this site think that McDaniels was a lousy coach, for reasons I've not quite sorted out ( was the Cutler trade that bad? I don't think so. Marshall? Is he still in the league?) beyond the fact that he's kind of arrogant, but then these same people masturbate themselves into a frenzy when Bill Belichek's name comes up. He made Orton into a very good player ( yesterday's game aside ), and the defense is no better or worse than when Shanny left. Shit drafting for a number of years has killed this team, and, yes, I'll grant you that he likely muffed that this year, as well, although I think Thomas will be a very good receiver.
Who's on the staff to finish out the season? Martindale? Isn't his defense the reason they've failed.
I don't expect any 'big names' here next year, as Bowlen is now laying out tens of millions of dollars to coaches he no longer employs. Maybe Wade Phillips can make a triumphant return. I agree with somebody who wrote above; I think Bowlen is getting unstable. Was there any thought to the future here at all? I don't sense any.

25
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:05pm

They needed a GM under Shanahan and they still need one. If there'd been a semblance of defensive personnel accumen they would be a better team. If your team doesn't have a GM you become a hamster team.

68
by Alex51 :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:56pm

I'm not sure how this guy was supposed to make chicken salad out of the chicken shit that Shanahan left on the defensive side of the ball.

Look, nobody's saying that he was taking over some stacked team with its eyes on the Super Bowl, but they weren't that bad when he got them. This is the first Broncos team to start a season 3-9 since 1990. And this is after he already had a full year, and two drafts, to fix things. Things are getting worse, not better, and that can't be blamed on Shanahan.

And I'll agree that the defense that he inherited from Shanahan sucked, but he had a chance to fix it, and he didn't even try. He invested the vast majority of his draft resources on his project of blowing up and rebuilding the offense, when the offense was already very good. They've had 19 total draft picks in the last two years, and only picked 7 defensive players (~37%). Of the 10 picks they've had in rounds 1-3, they only picked 3 defensive players (30%). Of the 4 first round picks, only one was defense (25%). He's made it clear with his drafting that he doesn't consider fixing the defense to be a priority. The fact that the defense sucked when he came in obviously isn't his fault, but the fact that he did nothing to fix it is.

I know the smugger segments on this site think that McDaniels was a lousy coach, for reasons I've not quite sorted out ( was the Cutler trade that bad? I don't think so. Marshall? Is he still in the league?)

My take on his handling of Cutler is that it isn't that Cutler was traded, but why Cutler was traded that matters in evaluating McDaniels. If McDaniels had made a well reasoned decision that Cutler wasn't the best QB for his offense, and then traded him off to the highest bidder because he genuinely didn't think Cutler would continue to play well, that'd be one thing. Then, it would matter a lot more that Cutler hasn't had the success he had in Denver after leaving for Chicago.

But that's not what happened. He so quickly and thoroughly alienated Cutler that Cutler refused to play for him. Even if Cutler had been perfect for his offense, McDaniels had lost the option of keeping him. Now, maybe he got away with that this time because Orton turned out to be a good QB anyway, but what about next time? What if he ends up alienating someone with incredible talent and an incredible ego to go along with it? Or do you think that his difficulties in dealing with fragile egos only ever happen with players whose careers are about to nosedive? Possible, but I doubt it. There's just no way he had enough information about Cutler to know that Cutler wasn't going to continue playing at a Pro-Bowl level.

McDaniels just doesn't know how to manage egotistical people carefully. That's not as much of a problem when you're an offensive coordinator as it is when you're a head coach. I think that's one reason he didn't do so well as a head coach, despite a fairly impressive resume as a coordinator/QB coach. I think McDaniels is at least a pretty good X's and O's guy, but I don't think he manages people very well.

73
by Independent George :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:43pm

I think McDaniels is at least a pretty good X's and O's guy, but I don't think he manages people very well

Fifteen years ago, the same could have been said accurately about Bill Belichick.

81
by Flounder :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:10am

So correlation equals causation then?

84
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:52am

People can change. Head coaches can change, too. But they may not, and head coaches need an owner to believe in them again. Not an easy thing to happen. Belichik is lucky Kraft gave him another chance or he would most likely be nobody.

90
by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:11am

Sorry, Noah of Arkadia, but that doesn't fly...If Belichik wasn't damn sure Kraft was waiting with open arms, he wouldn't have given his resignation note to the Jets after one day as their head coach...and a lot of things in the NFL and the AFC East would be very different...

103
by coboney :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:05am

The Jets 'job' wasn't his first head coaching job though. His first was in Cleveland where he did very poorly. He got another chance years later and obviously has made the most of it since.

108
by Tri Shanku (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:04am

Can someone who remembers Belichick years in CLE comment on this? Wikipedia says he went 6-10, 7-9 twice, 11-5 (and went to AFC divisional), and 5-11. Not quite in McD's league. And not to forget that BB did some amazing work as DC for Parcells (including, although it pains me to say it, in the SB against Bills) before he got the HC gig. I think comparing McD to BB, even based on BB's pre-pats HC days, is at all fair, and I am very far from being a BB fan (or NE fan, for that matter).

151
by Jerry :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:54pm

One winning season out of five isn't stellar. And don't forget that when Belichick went to New England, people talked about how much better he was with the media.

126
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:51am

I meant his real Cleveland job, of course, not that Jets "thing". Now, I don't remember all the details of his Belichick's career, but still, not many coaches get a second chance. And most of them who do, don't make good on it.

163
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 9:49am

Among recent superbowl winning head coaches, Belichick, Shanahan, Dungy and Coughlin had all been fired from their previous job. Re-treads are by no means always failures.

168
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 11:37am

You're right, of course, although I wasn't thinking of guys like Shanahan or Dungy, or even Coughlin, who had some/a lot of success with their first team despite the fact that they were eventually fired, but more of guys like Mangini or Herm or Pete Carrol who never quite cut it in the first try (Belichick being the most notable exception).

It's obviously a subjective opinion, and it might be a result of selective memory at that.

125
by Alex51 :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:45am

"I think McDaniels is at least a pretty good X's and O's guy, but I don't think he manages people very well"

Fifteen years ago, the same could have been said accurately about Bill Belichick.

Maybe, but still, it's a matter of degrees. You can get away with the 'football savant with no social skills' thing if you're both extremely good at X's and O's, and not so horrible at dealing with people that you alienate them and drive them away. I think Belichick is probably better at X's and O's than McDaniels, and someone who remembers his Cleveland years could help here, but I don't think Belichick was so bad at managing people that they refused to play for him.

And I'm not saying it's impossible for McDaniels to become a successful NFL Head Coach, but I don't think that his firing is unwarranted or unwise. If your kid crashes your car one week, and then asks to borrow the new car the next week, do you hand him the keys, or maybe make him ride shotgun for a while until you're sure he's not going to wreck your new ride? And yes, I'd say leading the Broncos to their worst start in 20 years counts as 'crashing the car'.

122
by BroncosGuyAgain (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:33am

You are spot on, Alex, with regard to the Cutler trade. People seem to forget what precipitated the McDaniels-Cutler spat: McDaniels tried to trade for Matt Cassel, a mediocre quarterback with a terrible contract. (Earlier this year, McDaniels was quoted in the Denver Post saying it was such a shame Cutler didn't give his offense a chance; the extent of this guy's denial is astonishing). Compounding that with a confrontational, condescending approach to his quarterback (and Cutler certainly is partly to blame for the magnitude of the conflict) was the first of many red flags. Its not just a lack of people skills, its an utter lack of judgment.

Vinny, trying to reduce criticism of McDaniels to Cutler and Marshall is to put up a preposterous straw man. The McDaniels regime was an endless series of comically bad decisions, on every front: scheme (abandoning the Shanahan running scheme, over-ruling Nolan's game plans), front office personnel (firing the Goodmans, hiring Steve Scarnecchia, firing the college scouts and not scouting his initial draft), free agency, drafts, assistant coaches (the Nolan mess, hiring Ben as quarterback coach) and, most of all, integrity. This is not to say McDaniels did nothing right or that other coaches/organizations don't make big mistakes. All of them make mistakes, but the sheer volume of blunders directly attributable to McDaniels in such a short time, combined with the results on the field, made a change absolutely necessary.

It pains me to say it, but the Broncos are a league-wide laughingstock, a punching bag, a punchline. Hiring McDaniels, I believe, set that franchise back at least five years. Whether Bowlen and Joe Ellis (and why does he still have a job?) can put the right people in place to right the ship remains to be seen.

132
by sicks tea nein (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:13pm

I just wanna add how Broncos fans always leave out the worst trade of all: Peyton Hillis.

And when they do bring it up, it's always "Well, no one saw that coming." Well, just pop in a tape of one of Hillis' starts during the 08 season when all the Broncos backs were injured. Hillis was great on pretty much every touch. I'm sure I wasn't the only one to raise an eyebrow when he got traded for Brady Quinn.

Cutler was an underachiever with potential, so I'll give McD that, but Marshall had 3 100+ catch seasons. Sure he was a diva but a good coach could have made it work. Luckily Lloyd stepped up this year.

But the Hillis trade. Especially considering what they got in compensation is the real backbreaker to the apologists' argument. It's no coincidence that guys like Barbarino conveniently leave that out when making a case for McD.

On the flip side, it's nice to see Hillis on a team that gave him a fair shake.

164
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 9:53am

I didn't see Hillis breaking out to quite the extent that he did, but I was certainly desperately hoping from 08 onwards that if and when the Broncos ever let him go he'd land in Houston, and I was most disappointed when he went to the Browns. Arian Foster is of course doing a very good job of assuaging that disappointment, but you certainly didn't need to be a Broncos fan, much less their coach, to know that Hillis was good.

137
by BigCheese :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:54pm

Here's the thing that drives me nuts. People seem to ahve formed an opinion of Cutler as a complete bust (and Orton a superior QB to Cutler) from the first six weeks of last season and completely ignore all that's happened since.

Let's look at this objectivly, shall we:
-Orton goes from a bad O-Line and Devin Hester as his #1 reciever to one of hte best lines in the game, actual WRs and a Josh McDaniels offense that made Rusher McFumbles look like the next Brady.

-Cutler goes from having the best protection in the league to the absolute worst, from throwing to Marshall and Royal to Hester and Bennet, and to a Ron freakin Turner offense.

-Orton starts 6-0 with good numbers and Cutler struggles mightily out of the gate (and there is definitely blame on Cutler's decission making-here, but the downgrade in enviroment he sufered was still massive). Somehow this means Orton is a MUCH better QB than Cutler, even though the Bears put up more offensive points than the Broncos and the records end up being one game apart.

-Since then, the Bears line started out putrid again but has improved, though nowhere near the level of the Broncos', and they got an actual offensive coordinator (barely, but still better than what they had). Broncos lose Marshall but somehow manage to get a good season out of Brandon Lloy in return.

Result? Bears are leading the division and one game out of the Conference lead and Cutler has won an OPW nod, and continues to actually pas the Bears to wins. Broncos are one game out of the Buffalo/Cincinati/Detroit zone and Orton was about to lose his job to Tim freakin Teabow. Somehow this STILL means Orton is a better QB than Cutler and Denver fleeced Chicago.

Riiiiiiiight.....

- Alvaro

157
by bmurphyuk@mac.com :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 7:56am

Are you Jay Cutler using a fake name? You keep coming back to last year's first 6 games, but Orton has been better THIS YEAR with a team imploding around him, no running game, and no Marshall.

Also, when was he about to lose his job to Tim Tebow?

Yes, the Broncos fleeced the Bears...the Bears would be much better off had they kept Orton and still had the money and draft picks they gave up to get Cutler.

165
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 9:58am

This season? Maybe. Going forwards? Not convinced. If they manage to assemble something ressembling an NFL offensive line, Cutler's flaws will be less in evidence, his strengths more so, and people will begin to realise that the Bears actually do have a franchise quarterback after all. Brett Favre had some pretty rotten years; that doesn't mean he wasn't a hugely valuable player overall. Cutler really is a lot like Favre - not quite as good, but still very good, and every bit as inherently up and down due to his playing style. He'll have more bad seasons before he's done, but he'll also have highs far above anything Orton could ever be capable of.

146
by tunesmith :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:58pm

In defense of some of this "rebuilding the offense" stuff, on the offensive line, he's kept Clady, Harris, and Kuper the same. The other two were a center who is playing well for KC but didn't play well in Denver in 2009, and is a 15-year veteran; and Ben Hamilton. Replacing a 15-year veteran with a drafted rookie is defensible, replacing Hamilton was essential as he was a concussion waiting to happen (currently on IR for Seattle due to... a concussion). The line is now starting to play well and is also young - this could be an area of strength for the Broncos in the future.

149
by BroncosGuyAgain (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:20pm

Tunesmith, you may be mis-interpreting the criticism. What gets lost in Shanahan's final two 8-8 seasons is that the Broncos were rebuilding. They didn't stink on a Detroit/St. Louis level, but they were rebuilding. On offense, Shanahan did a great job starting the re-build; they were very good and very young (aside from, notably, Casey Wiegmann). On defense, not so much. Shanny opted for stop-gaps, and even they were, mostly, mistakes.

Enter Josh. Presented with a very good offense and a terrible defense, his first order of business was to change the offensive scheme (to be fair, he also changed the defensive scheme, which is more supportable). He utterly abandoned the zone-block based system that was in place for "his" system because it is "more physical". Never mind what works; as long as we are "physical" we have accomplished what we want. That Denver was successful with a zone scheme was not happy coincidence; the personnel were selected to execute this scheme. When said personnel did not succeed in Josh's Forrest Gregg running offense, he was flummoxed. (Ironically, in recent weeks, McDaniels reverted to more zone-block plays in the game plan, with pretty good results. Then he was fired.)

The criticism isn't that McDaniels realized he needed to get younger at center and less injury-prone at guard. These were two of his few-and-far-between good judgments. Instead, the criticism is that he didn't, more or less, "let it ride" on a good offense while throwing all resources at a miserable defense. The path chosen, though, produced a ridiculously over-drafted Knowshon Moreno, an inexcusable Richard Quinn, a plethora of aged running backs, and a defense relying on over-the-hill retreads mostly unwanted by other teams.

150
by tunesmith :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:49pm

So, you agree with me, it was good he drafted those two linemen. They graded highly in mobility, by the way. I don't think Josh wanted to abandon zone, he just wanted bigger linemen. Denver's been running zone all year - I think they tried zone for the entire Indianapolis game, for instance. It just wasn't working because Harris was injured, Beadles was inexperienced and out of position, and there was a scrub at left guard.

153
by Kibbles :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 6:27am

I really have no idea how long you're going to keep repeating this "Josh McDaniels didn't want to abandon the ZBS" nonsense, but it's garbage, and I've told you so numerous times now. Here is a direct quote from Josh McDaniels. It should look familiar, because this is at least the third time I've copy/pasted it in response to one of your posts:

"Our running game and some of the things we're going to do next year will definitely change. The teams that run the zone play, that's predominantly what they do, because if you're going to be good at that, you're going to have to be good at that all the time. We're not doing that. There will be some zone in there, but we're not going to major in it. We're going to run some power, we're going to run some inside zone. There's no way to exactly characterize our type of running scheme. It's just not going to be dedicated to the outside zone play. It will be different. But it will be more what I'm used to, and Clancy's going to do a great job with it."

Josh McDaniels wanted to abandon the zone. He said he wanted to abandon the zone- repeatedly, and with emphasis. He cut his zone linemen and replaced them with power linemen, and when he did it, he said that it was because he wanted to abandon the zone. I don't know how many more different ways Josh McDaniels could have said that he did, in fact, want to abandon Denver's old blocking system and the core concepts behind it.

161
by tunesmith :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 5:48am

The problem with how you communicate is that you keep overstating your case, or directly contradicting it. The quote you're pasting contradicts what you're trying to convince people of, stuff like "There will be some zone in there". It's like you don't even see it. It's very, very weird. "We're going to run some inside zone." I don't really understand what your strange bias is here. Josh didn't want to abandon zone, you're posting evidence that completely disproves what you're trying to say. It's like you're some weird kind of insane. Clady, Harris, and Kuper are still there. Beadles and Walton have run zone plays. I think I'm going to stop talking to you about this because it is really weirding me out.

172
by Kibbles :: Sat, 12/11/2010 - 2:55am

When most people say "Josh McDaniels is abandoning the zone", what they really mean is "Josh McDaniels is abandoning the Alex Gibbs ZBS running game that Denver has made famous over the past 15 years", not "Josh McDaniels is never going to call a single zone running play ever again for his entire coaching career". That's nonsense- every single team in the entire NFL has zone running plays in the playbook. Every single one. Period. So you saying "hey look, Josh McDaniels still runs some zone plays sometimes!" may be technically true, but it's also a singularly useless piece of information.

Josh McDaniels might not have sworn off of all zone blocking plays, but he has clearly and unequivocally stated that he's scrapped the Zone Blocking scheme as it existed in Denver since 1995.

23
by BucNasty :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:03pm

That sucks. I've been wondering all year what kind of creative way he could find to ship out Clady in the offseason. Now we'll never know.

29
by Atwater (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:11pm

I figured he'd trade Champ Bailey and a #3 for New England's practice-squad long-snapper...

26
by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:06pm

Thanks BBarnwell for making a relevant nuanced point about the defense, injuries, etc.

30
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:12pm

Why does it have to be health. Even with Dumervil there and getting sacks, and the team relatively healthy, the defense wasn't very good late in 2009, before they fired Nolan. Injuries is an excuse here. I doubt they would be over .500 even with league-average injuries on the defensive side of the ball.

41
by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:42pm

The main stated problem with the 2009 defensive collapse is that the DL wore down. To his credit, McD did bring in Bannan, Williams, and later Vickerson to beef up the DL. There was also the hope that Ayers would help improve the linebacking corp, which he did. The main problem this season has been lack of pass-rushing and the secondary in general.

28
by Atwater (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:09pm

What a disaster. From the beginning, just a complete disaster.

To the guy who disagrees with this move, McDaniels had 2 drafts to focus on defense. Instead of taking Orakpo, he took Moreno. And then reached on Robert Ayers. And Alphonse Smith. And then, despite having a "smart" QB in Kyle Orton, he traded Peyton Hillis for Brady Quinn. Oh, and traded up to draft Tim Tebow.

Not to mention Spygate the Lesser.

What a disaster.

77
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:46am

So, Pretty much exactly the same as the last 5 years of Shanahan?

85
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:54am

Minus the losing record, yes

91
by Kibbles :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:15am

In Shanahan's last 5 seasons, he was 47-33 with two playoff appearances (including hosting an AFCCG). Also, Denver's front office was *ON FIRE* during that span, too- they drafted Dominique Foxworth, Darrent Williams, Chris Kuper, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Elvis Dumervil, Tony Scheffler, Ryan Harris, Ryan Clady, Eddie Royal, and Peyton Hillis in Shanahan's last 4 years. That's a pro bowl QB and WR, another strong WR, a strong TE, a pair of bookend tackles, a starter-caliber guard, a stud RB, a stud pass-rusher, and a pair of starter-caliber CBs in a 4-year span. That's an entire top-5 offense and a good start towards a quality defense.

So other than the whole winning, making the playoffs, and drafting good players thing, the McDaniels era was pretty much exactly like the last 5 years of the Shanahan era.

93
by Temo :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:32am

I still don't get the fascination with Eddie Royal.

106
by Shattenjager :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:15am

Neither do I.

110
by Kaveman :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:11am

This is the reason.

154
by Kibbles :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 6:33am

Most receptions by a rookie WR, NFL history:
1. Anquan Boldin, 101
2. Eddie Royal, 91

He's also got the 3rd highest career punt return average among all active players despite playing for a team not really known for its special teams blocking (in fact, quite the opposite).

McDaniels misused him (Josh has admitted as much), and Royal apparently struggled to pick up the complexity of the McDaniels offense and all the reads that it required him to make... but that doesn't mean he's a bad player, just that he's a bad fit for one particular offensive scheme.

31
by Duff Soviet Union :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:12pm

As a Raiders fan, this news saddens me. Is the modern AFC West the worst coached division in history? McD in Denver, Todd "Thomas Jones is totally better than Jamaal Charles" Haley in KC, Norv in San Diego and Walter Sobchak in Oakland. Wow.

36
by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:34pm

Dude, this is a league game, this determines who enters the next round robin. Am I wrong? Am I wrong?

-------------------
Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

39
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:38pm

Is this your homework, Darrius? Is this your gomework?

47
by Duff Soviet Union :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:51pm

Say what you like about the tenets of the vertical passing game, Dude, at least it's an ethos.

87
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:58am

I am the walrus

98
by Theo :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 5:16am

yeah, well, that's just your opinion man.

101
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:09am

Oh, you all disappoint me; most appropriate quote is straight from McDaniel's game plan:

"When we make the handoff, I double back, grab one of 'em and beat it out of him!"

105
by Theo :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:46am

Maybe he's throwing ringers in the vertical passing game?

50
by TomC :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:00pm

For just a second I read this as "Darrent" rather than "Darrius", and I was really disappointed that RJ went that route.

86
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:57am

lmao! nobody will get this one... especially cause I doubt the name was even "Darrius"... Larry! Yeah... "Is this your homework, Larry?"

61
by Rufus T. Firefly (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:09pm

Au contraire. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Obsessing on revenge kills the soul of those who do so. Gratitude is easy and genuine when earned.
That is why China is passing the US in every important category. We are a bunch of lazy, spoiled, unethical, narcissistic, over privileged wing nuts who cry when mommy can't fix everything in life.

32
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:19pm

Peter King on his twitter states "Could see it coming. Lots of [the problems in Denver are] his fault. He'll be better 3-4 years from now".

Why? Why will he be better 3-4 years from now? Because he's a Belichick guy? Because so many of them have worked as head coaches. Eric Mangini can rest easy, as he's still, amazingly, the undisputed leader in the "Bill Belichick Coaching Tree" race in the NFL.

43
by jfsh :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:45pm

In some ways he's like early Belichick. Very smart, not as experienced as he needs to be, personality that rubs some people the wrong way.

35
by jbrown (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:34pm

I just can't get my head around this: McDaniels is fired for defensive failures yet the Texans haven't fired Frank Bush, a position coach, trainer, golf cart driver or even really publicly called out anyone? Really?

#KubiakBelievesInShit

166
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 10:06am

And hired/promoted who?

Bush has obviously got to go at the end of the season, and he will, and maybe Kubiak too. I can't for the life of me see what purpose would be served by canning them now. I think McDaniels is a bad coach and deserved the sack, but I still think Bowlen should have waited for the end of the season before firing him. The only reason to fire someone mid-season is if you think you have a potential replacement already on your books and want to try him out.

37
by Kal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:35pm

The only thing I can think in terms of the timing was that they're targeting a college coach. But we'll see. Maybe Gruden is interested.

40
by WillDavis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:40pm

Bottom line: Without any trades, you get 6 picks in the first 3 rounds over two years. The Broncos because of trades had 10 such picks. Yet they have only two defensive players to show for it! Robert Ayers, who is solid but not worth a 1st rounder, and Darrel McBath who has been injury prone and might end up being a bust.
The 8 offensive players: Tebow, Moreno, D. Thomas, Decker, Quinn, Beadles, Walton...and Gronkowski who is ultimately a 1st round pick through Alphonso Smith. None of them have justified being picked as high as they were.

Injuries happen, and even the best teams have high picks who didn't pan out...but there is a numbers game to it too. McDaniels didn't even try to stock defensive talent.

44
by V. Barbarino (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:46pm

I see by Bill's addendum that they have named the running backs coach as interim head coach. I have literally no idea who this person is. I guess the best thing they can do now is just make sure to lose out the rest of the year ( which, with games against the Raiders and Chargers, looks to be a pretty simple thing to do. I thought at least they could beat the Cardinals next weekend. I no longer do. )and hope to get a high draft pick, although as somebody noted above, until they sort out their front office, it's a crap shoot that they'll even do that right.
I'm not saying that the guy didn't have his problems, he clearly did, but is there some reason to believe that just changing the coach is going to solve all of this? I'll wait and see who Bowlen hires, but I don't know of anybody who will come in here to fix this mess. Where's the defensive talent? That's the real problem. Living off scraps and the castoffs has led to the Broncos woes.
RJ is probably right. I can really see Kubiak getting the gig after Houston boots him. Well, that should solve everything. Look at the job he's done with Houston's defense since he's been there. At least the talk radio cretins, and yer Woody Paiges, will be happy. Christ, they'll probably encourage Bowlen to hire the old CU coach, Bill McCartney. Dudes only 70 years old, but, you know, 'he knows how to win'.

167
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 10:08am

Don't totally count on Kubiak getting canned. It's entirely possible, of course, but I really don't think it's a done deal at this point.

45
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:48pm

McDaniels has coached 28 games as a headcoach in the NFL.

He had four separate 4-game losing streaks.

46
by rengewnad (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:50pm

this week has been crap. my huskers lay a big fat sausage-like log of a dump in the big 12 championship, my broncos continue the spiral downwards, so much so that they have to axe the coach.

on an individual relationship basis i don't know mcdaniels but part of me was always pulling for him to succeed as a young coach in the league, maybe part of this early-30's football fan dreamed of myself as a head coach due to his hiring. While the results were not good, pulling him now kinda rips that dream outta my head and it just dims the edges of an already crap week I've had that started with 2 angry days in front of the tube swigging beers watching 2 qbs suck it up to high heaven (martinez and orton)...argh...

48
by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:56pm

A quick summary of the draft and trade history:

Cutler, Marshall, a 4th-rounder, and Keary Colbert (sent to Seattle for a 5th-rounder) were in effect traded for:

Kyle Orton (starting)
Tim Tebow (umm)
Demaryius Thomas (injured)
Eric Decker (getting more playing time)
Robert Ayers (starting)
Richard Quinn (backup)
A 2011 2nd rounder.

We traded Tony Scheffler and a 2010 7th-rounder for Perrish Cox (starting).

We traded Peyton Hillis and a 2011 6th-rounder for Brady Quinn (backup).

We traded (in effect) a 2011 5th-rounder for Syd-Quan Thompson (it was actually for 2 2010 7th-rounders but we cut one of them). (He's a backup with potential maybe)

Our other "straight-up" picks were:

2010:
#1: Knowshon Moreno (starting)
#2: Darcel McBath (good backup, injured)
#3: Seth Olsen (cut)
#4: David Bruton (good backup)
#5: Kenny McKinley (RIP :-( )
#7: Blake Scheutler (cut)

2011:
#1: Alphonso Smith (taken in 2010 2nd round)
#2: Zane Beadles (starting)
#3: J.D. Walton (starting)
#6: Eric Olsen

88
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:03am

"Starting" is not good enough. They need to get the job done. I know at least Moreno isn't, and I suspect others aren't either.

107
by Fan in Exile :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:25am

You don't think Moreno is getting the job done? The problem is with you then and not Moreno.

128
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:57am

No, the problem is not with me. It might be with DVOA, but not with me: His DVOA is -10.4%, good for 27th among RBs.

138
by BigCheese :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:12pm

Actually that's Peyton Hillis, a 2011 6th-rounder AND a 2012 conditional pick.

I haven't been able to find what the conditions are anywhere, except that they must be met this year, but since they involve Brady Quinn, I'm going to go ahead and ssume they'll not be met, so it'll be a 2012 6th-rounder.

- Alvaro

147
by tunesmith :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:01pm

Yeah, I missed that - I don't recall that conditional pick being mentioned a lot back when the trade was made.

49
by Rhombus (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:58pm

UGH i was hoping it would be Singletary this week.

71
by MurphyZero :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:29pm

Yeah, I didn't see a Broncos-Packers game this weekend. From the McDaniels firing it's obvious GB won but what was the score?

52
by Tomczaked :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:24pm

This seems like a plum assignment for any of the high profile ex-coaches out there. Nationally followed team with rabid fan base, town that a lot of players like to live in, owner that is trying to reduce "meddling" and temporarily reset expectations for success ...

55
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:33pm

The problem is that Bowlen may not want to pay top dollar when he will be paying both Shanahan and McDaniels money in 2011. Not sure how much the McDaniels money is but Shanny's is pretty substantial.

57
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:42pm

Plus there's the small problem of Denver being a talent-deficient, old team. There are very few premium young players on roster. Clady and Dumerville, that's it, and that's a bit generous.

How many coaches who could help it would want to tie their careers to the project of turning a fullback into a franchise quarterback?

59
by Tomczaked :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:49pm

Talent deficient? Possibly relative. I think they have some nice talent on O: Royal, Thomas, Gaffney, Lloyd, Moreno, Orton ... Tebow was a waste, but first round picks fail at other positions this just seems like a failure at the concept phase not the execution phase. O-line is not what it was, but can still run block decently (Moreno has gashed teams recently). D is hurting, but can possibly be turned around (to average) more quickly than a talent deficient O.

63
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:19pm

Of the guys you listed, only Thomas has a chance to be great. Although he's still all potential, still raw and still injury-prone.

All others are pretty much proven mediocrities. Some have uses in limited systems. Some, like Moreno, just suck. It's pretty homerish to count them as any kind of talent. There's no reason to believe that Gaffney, Lloyd or Orton will play major roles on the next good team in Denver or anywhere else.

66
by Tomczaked :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:28pm

Interesting. Seems like Knowshon has shown elite talent when healthy... Might end up being Broncos version of Fred Taylor: never healthy at the times when the team is good enough to make a run. Royal seems to have talent (reminiscent of Austin Collie or Brandon Stokely - just needs a QB who can hit timing routes and can find the underneath receiver). Not much of a homer. DEN isn't really my team, just follow them a bit since my family lives in the area. Curious about the pessimism.

70
by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:14pm

Well Gaffney is 30 and in his 9th season, and Lloyd is 29 and in his 8th season. They're actually in their late peak and will likely soon be starting toward the downside of a normal career arc for a receiver. And Orton is 28 and in his 6th year. Sure they look good this year, but by those ages a real star should be well established as a star. Other than that you could be right.

58
by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:44pm

Marty Schottenheimer?

65
by Shattenjager :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:27pm

If that happens, I'm not following football anymore.

115
by BroncosGuyAgain (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:47am

It's about $7M between the two them.

53
by B :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:24pm

"The interim head coach is running backs coach Eric Studesville"
That makes sense, cause the strength of the team is clearly the running game.

60
by Spielman :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:56pm

Huh. I don't know him at all.

102
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:17am

Perhaps they just realized that there is no real reason to keep a running backs coach for this Denver team.

56
by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:39pm

I've traced the Broncos losing ways back to the day they decided to replace Jake Plummer with Jay Cutler. Their mistreatment of Plummer has left a Curse on the team, and the Broncos have not reached the playoffs in the five years since Plu...mmer left. But the Football Gods are merciful, and have given Denver’s fans another chance for redemption in the form of Kyle Orton. The team and the fans must now embrace Orton, who is destined to lead the team back to the playoffs. They must not worship false idols like Tim Tebow: he must be cut or traded at the first opportunity. But if they give Orton the boot the way they did Plummer, the Curse will not be lifted and the Broncos will see 70+ years without a playoff game.

139
by BigCheese :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:16pm

You're pining all your hopes on Kyle "I have never started a play-off game in my 6 years in the league" Orton?

Wow, sucks to be a Denver fan...

- Alvaro

140
by Rax Grissman (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:38pm

Interesting. Loled at "Worshipping false idols"

62
by Shattenjager :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:16pm

Fire Bowlen.

67
by slipknottin :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:38pm

In a season and a half he completely destroyed that team.

But hey, at least they have Tebow.

Really, when he started there he had a top 5 offense loaded with young players, instead of just getting the defense to improve and get to the playoffs, he decides to dismantle the entire offense.

69
by V. Barbarino (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:01pm

Yes...and the offense is still very good ( mostly ), with the same strengths and weaknesses ( the main beef that most people in Denver had with Cutler was that he struggled within the red zone...that he put up a lot of empty yards, and was a guy with a million dollar arm and ten cent head...and he was already being lambasted by the usual sources until Bowlen signed off on trading him, and then, curiously, that day those same buffoons wept over the fact that the cretin McDaniels had traded the greatest young quarterback in football..)that were there before. The run game has suffered, but there have been a lot of injuries on the line. Moreno has put up some good games the last few weeks as the line came together, but it was all too late. I still rate Orton highly, and the receiver corps is much better than it was two years ago, but when you can't stop anyone, than it is a whole lot of nothing.
I've defended McDaniels in the past, and today, but I understand the issues, and can't say that I'm shocked by the firing, although the timing is curious, to say the least. I just think it's a shame that an obviously bright young coach, with a real talent for offense, is being dumped, and likely going to be replaced with the usual safe retreads that make up the NFL's old boy network. You could see a few years ago that the Broncos were in for some tough years with Shanny's brutal years of drafting failures. That adds up in the end.
Interesting fact; the two coaches that were in the running for Denver's job in 2008 were McDaniels and Raheem Morris. I'll be honest, I sure thought Morris was the more likely to be fired first. Well, at least we know that something has finally brought a smile to Cutler's sullen face.

72
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:38pm

The Josh McDaniels offense sucks. 5 out of 35 third downs in the last three weeks. Talk about empty yardage.

Orton is the very definition of a system quarterback. Jay Cutler had to carry the 2008 Broncos with the worst or second worst starting field position in the league because of a historically bad defense. There is no comparison.

Now who's the football fan who could recognize a franchise quarterback and who's the buffoon who worships a system noodle arm?

75
by Dennis :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:20am

I think McDaniels is a decent coach but he needed a GM. That was the same problem with Shanahan his last few years.

94
by Kibbles :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:34am

Shanahan's last 4 drafts:

1st round-
Jay Cutler (say what you want, that was a huge success of a pick)
Jarvis Moss (huge bust)
Ryan Clady (huge, huge success)

2nd round-
Darrent Williams (starting corner with promise, killed in drive-by shooting)
Tony Scheffler (not great, but a solid pick)
Tim Crowder (bust)
Eddie Royal (wasn't suited for McDaniels' scheme, but huge success under Shanny)

3rd round-
Karl Paymah (bust)
Dominique Foxoworth (starting CB in the NFL)
Maurice Clarett (bust)
Ryan Harris (huge steal)

4th round-
Brandon Marshall (huge steal)
Elvis Dumervil (huge steal)
Marcus Thomas (started for years, strong pick)
Kory Lichtensteiger (bust)
Jack Williams (nickle CB/special teamer- par for a 4th rounder)

5th round-
Dominique Hixon (had some moments for the Giants, about what you'd expect from 5th rounder)
Chris Kuper (quality guard, huge steal)
Ryan Torain (par for a 5th)
Carlton Powell (bust)

6th round-
Chris Myers (starting guard in the NFL)
Greg Eslinger (bust)
Spencer Larson (great pick)

7th round-
Paul Ernster (bust)
Peyton Hillis (steal)
Joshua Barrett (who? Dunno if he even made it out of camps).

Does that look like the track record of someone who needed a GM in his last few years? 5 out of 7 picks in the first two rounds were successes, including several "home runs" (Cutler, Clady, and Williams had the potential to be a long-time fixture, too). 6.5 out of 9 picks in rounds 3 and 4 were successes, including some HUGE steals (Harris, Marshall, and Dumervil are all pro-bowl caliber players). Even in the late rounds his success rate was well above league average, and he produced two starting guards in the NFL and this year's RB revelation, Peyton Hillis.

Shanahan and his front office (headlined by the Goodmans, a father/son team in charge of scouting) were en fuego at the end of Shanahan's tenure. Personally, I wouldn't have changed a thing after 2008.

97
by tunesmith :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:47am

honestly, I read that list and thought you were about to make the opposite point as the point you made.

109
by dmb :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:09am

If you list all the draft picks made by any team, there are going to be a lot of misses. That's really a pretty good run, though the hits were certainly concentrated on one side of the ball.

116
by Fan in Exile :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:49am

I think that you're being too hard on Lichtensteiger. I know he didn't make it in Denver but I think a lot of that had to do with the scheme change. He's in Washington now and I think he's about the level of a good back up. Maybe a Redskins fan can help with that. For where he was drafted that's good.

119
by zerlesen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:15am

You can argue that the Moss-Crowder-Thomas draft is ultimately what sealed Shanahan's fate. Three out of four picks spent on the D-line, and basically nothing to show for it. (OK, M. Thomas has stuck around, but would he be starting on less historically-bad defenses?)

It looks to me like we're about to squander whatever good may have been salvaged from the last eighteen months. I appreciate that loneweasel has already decided that all the first/second year players (except - maybe - D. Thomas!) are terrible because they were drafted by McDaniels, but people with less of a vendetta usually give it a while longer to evaluate a draft class. (I'm particularly worried that now we're going to change blocking schemes again.)

The best thing that could come of this would be if Bowlen used the temporary power vacuum at HC to hire (and empower) a damn general manager. He has not shown much inclination to do that sort of thing, however.

121
by Independent George :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:28am

Yeah, I'm with everybody else here - that looks to me like a pretty good series of drafts. The problem with it is that most of the success comes on the offense - which is consistent with the idea that Rorshan needed somebody else picking the defensive players.

156
by Kibbles :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 6:49am

I don't know about that. Just because the defensive success rate wasn't as unbelievable as the offensive success rate doesn't mean that the defensive success rate was BAD. Those 4 drafts produced Dumervil (who led the league in sacks last season), Williams (who was a very bright young player before he was killed in a drive-by shooting), and Foxworth (a starting CB who Baltimore gave a 4-year, $28m contract with $16.5m guaranteed). That's three quality players. Someone raised a good point that Thomas might not be starting on a less historically awful defense, but he's still quality depth and a strong 4th rounder, and Wesley Woodyard (not listed because he was a UFA) is also another guy who's not going to get you killed if he's in the starting lineup. Jack Williams was a Shanahan favorite who never got a chance to develop once McDaniels took over. I realize that much of this qualifies as "damning with faint praise", but my point isn't that Denver was awesome at picking defensive players, it's that they weren't awful at it. They were probably somewhere around the league average. And unless I believed that identifying offensive players and identifying defensive players are radically different skillsets (I'm certainly not convinced they are), I'd be inclined to stick with the blazing-hot front office and see what they could do once they turned their full attention to drafting defense because the entire offense was already stocked with pro bowlers age 26 or younger.

158
by Southern Philly :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:06am

The Broncos thought so highly of Foxworth they dealt him to Atlanta for a 7th round pick at the end of training camp, which means they were going to cut him or at least they were considering cutting him. Can we please stop using a guy that was an afterthought for them as a positive for their drafting? They didn't do anything with him, and he moment he leaves he excels. Denver shouldn't get credit for that.

173
by Kibbles :: Sat, 12/11/2010 - 3:04am

Why shouldn't Denver get credit? We're talking about whether Denver's scouting department is capable of identifying defensive talent. Denver's scouting department saw film of Foxworth and decided that he was worth a 3rd round draft pick. Whether the front office or coaching staff later wasted that player is irrelevant when evaluating the scouting department.

129
by dmb :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:59am

Yeah, I wouldn't quite say he's a failure for a 4th round pick, though he didn't contribute much to the team that actually drafted him. I think you have him pegged about right -- he's good if he's providing depth, but isn't quite starting caliber -- though Ben Muth, who's much more knowledgeable about line play than I am, seems to view him as adequate. To me, that's an okay use of a 4th-rounder.

130
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:59am

That looks like a strong list to me

155
by Kibbles :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 6:41am

Seriously? Now your McDaniels' support is becoming cartoonish. That's a top-5 draft performance. Compare that list to any other team's list during the 4 year span and find me 5 teams that drafted better than the Broncos from 2005-2008.

159
by mrh :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 2:58pm

I went to p-f-r and looked up the 2005-2008 drafts and calculated the career approximate value of each team's drafts. I see this as a far from perfect but rough index of how well Shanahan drafted in that period from what we know so far. Obviously I'm ignoring how many pcisk teams had, where they were drafting, etc. Here's the numbers.

The Shanahan-drafted players posted 284 CarAV thru last season. That ranks 9th. The year-by-year Car AV (and ranks)
2005 - 57 (24th)
2006 - 149 (1st)
2007 - 27 (30th)
2008 - 51 (7th)

Since older players have had more time to accumulate Career AV, 2008 looks very strong compared to the 2007 numbers, but that's comparing 9 picks vs. 4. Here's the top 5 picks in this span by (Career AV):
Cutler (38)
Marshall (33)
Dumervil (28)
Clady (25)
Scheffler (22)
Myers (22) (tie)

Here's the bottom 5 picks; Clarett, Eslinger, Powell, Ernster, and Torain, all zero. Lichtensteiger (1) and Moss (2, along with a couple of others) just missed. The Moss pick was probably the worst one since it was a #1 (17th overall).

The damning thing about the Top 6 is that only two are still with Denver. Best and worst drafts:
2005 - DAL (197) and BUF/DET (26)
2006 - DEN (149) and MIA (25)
2007 - SF (89) and NE (19)
2008 - ATL (72) and SD (7)
Overall - GB (347) and DET (141) - to give you a sense of what Schwartz and the regime have had to overcome, the gap between the Lions and #31 WAS (181) was bigger than that between the Redskins and and #24 MIA (219).

The fact that CarAV puts up a top 5 (or 6) list for DEN of who I'd subjectively rank as the best players in those drafts and puts Millen's draft at the bottom gives this method some credibility although CarAv is not flawless.

160
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 4:33pm

Shouldn't you use CarAv divided by players drafted?

169
by mrh :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 11:46am

I thought about that but then there's the issue of should I be counting 7th rd picks to divide the CarAv of players from the 1st rd. There's no question that I'm missing some information by doing it this way.

Probably the best measure would be to calculate the expected CarAV of all picks thru 2009 vs. the actual. A great study but too much work for a quick post on a dying thread.

170
by tunesmith :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 3:58pm

Hmm, how would you measure expected CarAV?

171
by Jerry :: Fri, 12/10/2010 - 12:08am

This post may do what you're looking for (it includes a link to the previous post that explains the methodology).

174
by Kibbles :: Sat, 12/11/2010 - 3:15am

How about CarAV divided by draft value points? For instance, I compared Green Bay to Denver, and GB had a top-5 pick, as well as a whopping EIGHT second rounders (vs. four for Denver). Green Bay also had 5 3rds compared to Denver's 4, and 7 fourths compared to Denver's 6. Also, I'd say career AV also unfairly penalizes Denver for Darrent Williams- he'd almost certainly have another 18 points of AV if he hadn't gotten killed in a drive-by shooting.

162
by tunesmith :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 5:55am

At this point you are ascribing way too many motivations to me. I wasn't comparing this draft to McD's drafts in my head at all when I wrote that, I was actually reflecting on the defensive fail draft of Moss, Crowder, and Thomas (limited impact that he's had). Let go of whatever grudge you have against my comments or I'm going to have to put you in the same mental category that I put loneweasel. :-)

175
by Kibbles :: Sat, 12/11/2010 - 3:16am

You're writing off an entire 4-year drafting period on the basis of 2 bad picks?

76
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:43am

Decline of the defense?

The decline of the defense is why Shanahan got fired. It was terrible when McDaniels took over.

78
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:03am

Yes. And now the defense is much older and just as bad.

Your point?

79
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:08am

That there has been no decline.

IE, hes been no worse than Shanahan, who has managed to take Washington's defense from 10th (.1%) in the league, to 2th (10.9%) in a single year, while not improving the offense at all, even after "upgrading" from Campbell to McNabb.

80
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:09am

2th = 24th

82
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:17am

The defense has obviously seen drastic decline from the early start under Nolan's smoke and mirrors. Don't pretend that you didn't know that's what's meant. Without that fluky streak, McDumbass might have only been a one year error.

123
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:38am

Again, if it was just a fluke, then the defense hasn't declined at all.

This team is exactly what Shanahan left, poor defense, great offense. its just younger right now. Rebuilding takes time.

131
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:02pm

Younger?

The defense is much older. The secondary ridiculously so, which is almost unfathomable since it's pretty much the only area of the defense in which McDaniels invest draft picks.

And again with that "great offense" nonesense...

134
by Alex51 :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:27pm

This team is exactly what Shanahan left, poor defense, great offense. its just younger right now. Rebuilding takes time.

That excuse would be valid if McDaniels had actually been trying to rebuild the defense. But he hadn't been. Instead, he spent over 60% of his draft picks on rebuilding an offense that was already one of the best in the NFL. If he had spent a lot of his high value draft picks on defense, and it was just taking them some time to get up to speed, that'd be a different story. But the guy looked at a team that had a great offense and a horrible defense, and decided that fixing the offense was the biggest priority. The only way you can get away with doing that is if either the offense becomes so incredible that it makes up for the horrid defense, or your defense gets much better in spite of you neglecting it. Fast forward two years, and neither of those things has happened in Denver.

Put it this way: Say someone hires you to be the captain of their ship. You get on the ship, and find out that the last captain got fired after he ran the ship aground, leaving a big hole in the bottom of the hull that's letting water in. Do you spend your time and energy switching from square sails to triangular sails, or do you spend it fixing the hole? And if you chose the first option, and the ship started sinking into the Atlantic, would you really be surprised if you got fired?

143
by deflated (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:01pm

The only unit that is younger is the O-line. The core D players, bad as it is, are all Shanahan guys (Champ, Dumerville, DJ). The receivers are older - Graham is still the starting TE, Lloyd is 3 years older than Marshall. Cutler/Orton is a wash (unless you want to drag Tebow into the conversation and the drop off in demonstrated talent between the two is so huge that age becomes irrelevant). Given the RB injuries in 2008 the starting RB would be a player from the 2009 draft no matter what, either Moreno or a later pick.

The team is exactly what Shanahan left, it just needs rebuilding more urgently.

89
by andrew :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:04am

Thankfully he can turn to his friendship with Bellichek to find work in the NFL for the time being. Good thing he didn't do or say anything to ruin that.

96
by rots (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:39am

This is an example of what happens when you fix what isnt broken and than pour all your efforts into crafting a "system" to show how much smarter you are than everyone else.

In a vacuum i dont hate the cutler and marshall trades but in the aggregate when mcdaniels made those stands he was tearing down the least broken part of the team and utterly ignoring the obviously horrid D/ST.

When he canned our longtime long snapper who had never blown a snap to bring in the NE long snapper and pay that dude the most money ever for that position he showed that he valued "system" over adapting to the players. Its a common mistake by coaches - they refuse to adapt tehir systems to the players they have and thus insist on having it their way.

Wasting picks on alphonso smith, richard quinn, trading 3 picks to move up for tebow, taking knowshon over orakpo, taking alphonso smith, insisting on trotting out the oldest secondary in history, drafting alphonso smith, etc etc. This firing is entirely well earned and overdue.

Now, can we for the love of freaking god get a GM/Coach combo in there that will draft some dlinemen, secondary guys w/speed and hostility?

114
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:29am

I don't think many teams work with a GM/Coach combo, unless it's a coach with a very good personnel guy (e.g., Belichek/Paoli).

111
by BroncosGuyAgain (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:14am

Oh, thank god.

112
by BroncosGuyAgain (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:17am

Eric Studesville is the interim coach, not exactly a Leslie Frazier situation. So, does this mean Ben McDaniels won't be interviewing for the job?

117
by Atwater (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:09am

According to sources close to the situation, Ben McDaniels has his resume out at Black Jack Pizza...

118
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:10am

Mommy!!!!! The Btoncos fired me

120
by Atwater (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:16am

Am I the only one who suspects maybe this Studesville fellow was the guy who brought the "Spygate Part 2" issues to the attention of ownership?

124
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:42am

Why do people keep trying to rewrite history and say the Cutler trade had anything to do with Mcdaniels?

Cutler was asking for a trade before McDaniels was hired.

127
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:52am

Bull. Shit.

The only one who reported that rumor was the Pats bootlicker Peter King, after the fiasco went down, in order to muddy the waters.

Numerous other sources reported that McDaniels lied repeatedly during the whole period of the controversy. Now we also know that McDaniels is a habitual cheat. Why would you disregard all other evidence and hold on to a single uncorroborated Peter King story?

The commissar was never in the picture, right?

135
by BroncosGuyAgain (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:52pm

I have no idea where RichC got this idea. I don't recall seeing it reported anywhere.

The King story, IIRC, suggested that Cutler asked for a trade when Jeremy Bates was not retained by McDaniels. The Cutler camp denies this, and I never saw it reported by anyone but King (except those referring to the King story).

And, while I am a huge critic of McDaniels, "habitual cheat" is a stretch.

144
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:48pm

Does it even matter? Lots of players ask for trades and don't get their wish. If McD actually liked Cutler, he did a terrible job at keeping him.

148
by tunesmith :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:05pm

I followed it while it was happening and to me it had every indication that it was all blowing over and that Cutler and McDaniels were getting back on constructive footing again. But then Bowlen announced the intent to trade because Cutler never called him back. A year or so later, Cutler swore he did try calling Bowlen back. I dunno, I got nuthin.

133
by ammek :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:40pm

I don't think 'eulogy' means what Bill means it to mean. Elegy? Obituary?

136
by Alex51 :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:00pm

"Eulogy, from the Greek for 'good word'. Now, if she'd asked me to deliver a bastard-ogy, I'd be happy to..."

I agree, eulogy doesn't fit here. Elegy does fit the somber tone, but generally elegies are sad that a person is gone, as opposed to sad that they were here. Obituary probably fits best, although most obits don't have as much analysis as what Bill wrote.

142
by Shattenjager :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:59pm

Quoting my personal hero makes you my new favorite poster on FO. Raiderjoe has been dislodged.

141
by Pass to Set Up ... :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 3:56pm

I couldn't really care less about the Broncos as an organization, but I just feel bad that Dawkins landed in such a dysfunctional place.

145
by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 5:43pm

Well, I couldn't be happier that he's gone. I admit that I've never been particularly rational about McDaniels. Initially I was just upset that the Broncos didn't bring in a defensive-minded coach. Then I was upset about the air of arrogance and immaturity that I (fairly or not) always got from McDaniels. Then I was just upset about all the losing. I don't know who they should bring in to replace him, but keeping him would have been the football equivalent of Chief Wiggum's line, "No, no. Dig UP, stupid." When you're in a hole, just stop digging.

152
by Bobby Heenan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:00am

Do not EVER shake Josh McDaniels' hand, you don't know where it's been.