Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Wacky Workings of Josh McDaniels

Every year, the media makes a huge deal about many of the new coaching hires, especially if they tutored under well-respected guys. This year is no different, and may be even higher than in past years. Everyone seems convinced that simply because they are Bill Belicheck disciples, Josh McDaniels and Scott Pioli will inevitably turn around their respective franchises. I just heard Bill Simmons's latest podcast with Mike Lombardi and Aaron Schatz, in which they sung the praises of those two guys and declared that the Broncos and Chiefs would be sleepers. But the point here is not to demean Bill Simmons, one of the best columnists out there. It's just that, I am getting incredibly annoyed by the amount of praise getting heaped on the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs (I also disagree with Simmons's assertion that Brad Childress is the worst coach in the NFL by a wide margin; Wade Phillips is pretty darn close. Honestly, I thought Wade was the worst until Childress signed Brett Turnovers). When are people going to realize, it's not like Belicheck has some magic X's and O's football secret that he passes on to all his assistants (even if Bill had this knowledge he probably wouldn't even let his dog see it anyway). Belicheck certainly does know a lot of football strategy that he probably passes down, but part of his success is his leadership, project management skills, ability and willingness to think outside the box, understanding of the draft, free agency, player value, and other traits. You can't just assume that all of Belicheck's assistants will automatically inherit these traits. in fact, based on what Pioli and McDaniels have done so far, i'm thinking that Bill turned them into stupid androids and planted them into other teams. Both these teams made some very questionable hires and personnel decisions. I already highlighted the plight of the chiefs, but as bad as that has been, Bronco fans have had it 100000000 times worse. That got me thinking, what exactly has been running through Josh McDaniels's mind during this offseason?

Day one of Free Agency: "Hmm, last year these guys had a great offense but the defense is a mess. We gotta fix that. Hmmmmmmm...wait...what if...Got It!!!! Why don't I go sign 800 5th string running backs? That'll keep people from scoring on us!"

Day two of Free Agency: "Time to patch up that secondary. I think what we really need is aging defensive backs who couldn't keep up with a turtle in coverage. 17 million for Brian Dawkins? done! 25 million for Andre Goodman? why not!"

Day three of Free Agency: "You know, this was a pretty explosive offense last year, but I have a masterplan to make it better: Why don't I trade away my young, productive, physically gifted franchise quarterback for a system quarterback who has no idea how to operate under center and can't throw the ball 8 yards without it wobbling? Better hurry-up and notify Belicheck that I'll gladly give up my whole draft for the right to downgrade from Jay Cutler to Matt Cassel. Uh-oh, Jay's coming. Better make up some story and lie to his face!"

Day four of Free Agency: "Oh no, I couldn't get Cassel! Time for plan B. I know it's true that I can get Jason Campbell, a high-character, strong-armed, athletic guy who gives 80% of Jay's production, but I'm not interested in getting talented guys at the position! The guy I want is Kyle Orton; I love his intangibles! He has an uncanny ability to avoid mistakes by never taking any risks at all! Kyle is amazing in terms of being able to throw enough incompletions to not lose the game. You simply cannot teach these kinds of things!"

Day five of Free Agency: "Our defense sucked even though our guys were in the right scheme. Hmm, why don't we try to fix it by putting them in a scheme that they don't fit at all? Time to bring in the 3-4!"

Day one of the NFL Draft, Broncos War Room

McDaniels: "Sorry guys, I was really busy figuring out how to downgrade the quarterback position, so i couldn't scout prospects. I'm really leaning on you guys this time."

Scout 1: "Well, if we're gonna switch to a 3-4, we need guys who actually fit the scheme..."

McDaniels: "Hold on, I signed those 800 backup running backs to fix our leaky D, but the fix won't be complete without a franchise runner. Let's fix our defense by getting that Moreno kid."

Scout 2: "Umm, as great as Moreno is, he doesn't exactly play defense..."

McDaniels: "Don't question me! I learned from Bill Belicheck!"

Scout 1: "Okay, um, whatever you say. But i think we should spend at least one first rounder on an actual defensive player. How about Larry English? He could do for us what Lamarr Woodley does in Pittsburgh's 3-4."

Scout 2: "I really liked Tyson Jackson until your buddy Pioli started overrating him. One guy I really like is Rey Mauluga; He's a beast."

Scout 3: "We could try for Clay Matthews; He's a great fit at outside linebacker."

Scout 2: "3-4 nose tackles don't grow on trees. We should really consider Ron Brace."

McDaniels: "No no no no no, these guys fit the scheme too well, and that's not the direction that we are trying to head in. Tell me about this Robert Ayers guy. I read some blog called "All Things Sports", and the author says that he's really good."

Scout 3: "Yeah, he's pretty good if you play the 4-3. But in our scheme, he's too small to play defensive end and not athletic enough to play outside linebacker."

McDaniels: "Well why didn't you say all this before! I really love what I'm hearing!!!"

Scout 1: "I'd be a little wary of him. He's a bit of a one year wonder..."

McDaniels: "Wiat a minute...Cassel was also a one year wonder, and you know how much I love Cassel! That's it, we're taking Robert Ayers."

Day two of the NFL Draft, Broncos War Room

McDaniels: "I'm satisfied with our work so far, but I really want to get this kid Alphonso Smith."

Scout 1: "Why? He's 5 foot 8 and only has lukewarm speed. He'll never be more than a nickel corner.

Scout 2: "Yeah. Even if he becomes the best at his position, his value is pretty limited."

McDaniels: "Great. Let's trade one of next year's first round picks for him."

Scout 3: "Uh, I wouldn't do that. Let's be honest: We sucked last year, and we'll probably suck again. That first rounder will be a really high pick in an absolutely loaded draft class."

Scout 2: "I agree. Even if Alphonso Smith becomes a really good player, he has terrible positional value; you can find nickel corners anywhere. Besides, there's only so much a good nickel corner can do to help the team. It's not he's going to prevent us from picking in the top ten. Lets keep next year's pick."

McDaniels: "Nonsense! Our team will be great. All those backup running backs and ancient defensive backs will give us a killer defense. Add in our major downgrade from Jay Cutler to Kyle Orton, and I think we have a chance to go 16-0! I already have my stuff packed for the super bowl."

Scout 1: "Listen, Orton's not the long term answer. I don't think you understand what we're passing up. Sam Bradford is the best quarterback prospect in this decade, the next Peyton Manning. He's seriously that good. We can't pass up the chance to draft him simply because we fell in love with a nickel corner."

Scout 3: "And even if for some completely inexplicable reason you don't like Bradford, next year has a bunch of amazing players, like Eric Berry, Russel Okung, Ndamukong Suh, Carlos Dunlap, Arrelious Benn, Gerald McCoy, Jermaine Gresham, Taylor Mays, Trevor Lindley, et al. These guys are all the best prospects in the last 10 years at their respective positions. We can't pass that up."

McDaniels: "Wait, you're telling me that I can trade away Sam Bradford for Alphonso Smith straight up? The future best quarterback in the league for the future best nickel corner in the league? Are you kidding, there's no way we can pass that up! Wow, we are really getting a steal!"