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Broncos Media Helps Explain What Went Wrong with Josh McDaniels in Denver

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Many people simply have been told that Josh McDaniels failed as a head coach with the Denver Broncos, but why did he fail?

'NFL: OCT 04 Cowboys at Broncos ' Photo by Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

When it comes to the topic of Josh McDaniels, there’s not a ton of middle ground. People either love that the Indianapolis Colts are going to hire him as their new head coach or they loathe him because of his New England Patriots roots and his previous flame-out as head coach of the Denver Broncos.

Many people simply understand that McDaniels’ time as the Broncos’ head coach went poorly, but it is also important to understand why things went that way.

McDaniels was the Patriots’ offensive coordinator before being hired as Denver’s head coach in 2009. He was given plenty of personnel control and was, at the time, the youngest head coach in NFL history at 33 years old. He was considered by many to basically be a wunderkind/”boy genius”.

From there, I wanted to turn to some people that I follow in the Broncos media community for more answers at what went wrong.

Up first is Sayre Bedinger, Editor of Predominantly Orange:

The 6-0 start to the 2009 season was a honeymoon that was over as quickly as it started. After inexplicably deciding to trade the Pro Bowl quarterback Denver had drafted just three years earlier (Jay Cutler), McDaniels really came in and just blew everything up personnel-wise from what it had previously been.

I think one of the major reasons why it was such a quick divorce between McDaniels and the Broncos is because he tried to overcompensate for his youth by flexing his power within the organization. McDaniels had full control over the roster, and while he didn’t have the same credibility and respectability as a guy like Bill Belichick, he tried to command that respect like a dog marking its territory all over the organization.

Some of the moves McDaniels made were great (drafting Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker stand out, along with signing Brian Dawkins) but others were hilariously bad (his first ever draft pick was Knowshon Moreno, and he traded three picks to move up and draft Tim Tebow in round one).

Basically, McDaniels thought he was bullet-proof as the former protégé of an actual living legend, and that mentality ultimately got him burned. People don’t really remember this but the last straw that got McDaniels fired in Denver was after the team was caught cheating in their London game against the 49ers, filming their walkthrough. That was something McDaniels and the Patriots had previously been penalized for.

McDaniels had done enough over a two-year span to completely embarrass the franchise, but I don’t think he is a bad coach or talent evaluator. I think McDaniels’ system will work, but it’s critical that he knows his role within the team and that there is no power struggle between he and Chris Ballard moving forward.

As Sayre pointed out, one of the big issues with McDaniels previously was that he came on too strong. Because of his age, reputation and the expectations of him, he felt it necessary to flex his muscle at every turn. He’s definitely had some humbling since then, so we’ll have to see if that translates to this, his next opportunity.

Next up is the host of the SportsKrunch Podcast, David Kromelow:

The best thing I can recollect is that he was too much of a control freak. My hope is that he understands Ballard will have equal if not greater powers and forms a productive relationship with him.

David pretty much echoes what Sayre said in regards to McDaniels and his strong personality. David mentions something very important, though, and that is Chris Ballard. Ballard is all about building a team that wants to fight for each other, in the front office, coaching staff and the locker room. If Ballard thought McDaniels was going to be an entitled punk again, I don’t think he makes this move.

Last up is publisher and editor-in-chief of Mile High Huddle, Chad Jensen:

The biggest issue with Josh McDaniels’ first go-round as an NFL head coach came down to power. Denver Owner Pat Bowlen gave McDaniels executive/personnel authority, which was too much for the inexperienced and immature coach.

McDaniels’ first order of business was to explore a trade for Denver’s former first round pick, Jay Cutler, who was coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2009. Cutler caught wind of the shenanigans, and the relationship with McDaniels and the Broncos deteriorated rapidly. Cutler was shipped to Chicago in exchange for a couple of first round picks, and quarterback Kyle Orton.

Alas, McDaniels squandered those picks, and the Kyle Orton experiment failed miserably in Denver. The franchise paid for McDaniels’ mistakes. During his tenure as head coach, McDaniels alienated every player in the locker room and most of his coaching staff, to the point that nobody was willing to fight for him.

By 2010, McDaniels’ second and final season, his message and vision had ultimately fallen on deaf ears because of how he treated people. My guess is that the he’s matured over the years, and hopefully has learned from his mistakes in Denver.

Any team who hires Josh McDaniels must guard against giving him too much power. There must be checks and balances for McDaniels, and in so doing, it should help him to become a more efficient head coach.

A couple of important things here. First, like the others have mentioned, McDaniels got so caught up in instilling his own views and making moves that he felt were right that he completely neglected the relationships within the building. Nobody is successful in a game like football without leaning and depending on those around them.

The other thing is that McDaniels will not have as much power and control in Indianapolis as he did in Denver. Ballard is the decision-maker, but I am sure that McDaniels will at least have a significant influence in personnel. After all, part of the job of the GM is to get the type of players that the coaching staff wants.

In the last week or so, it seems like we’ve already turned over most of what we can about McDaniels and he hasn’t even been officially announced as the coach yet. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait much longer like San Francisco had to for Kyle Shanahan last year.