It’s easier to forgive than forget.
The failure that was the Josh McDaniels’ era is unforgettable. The traits that made him fail – being confrontational, egomaniacal and a cheater – are forgivable. McDaniels made the mistakes of an inexperienced young man.
In a moment of rarely seen self-reflection, McDaniels opened up about his time in Denver at Media Day on Tuesday.
“I made a lot of mistakes there. You know that.” McDaniels told the Denver Post. “But I think it was a great learning experience for myself, and hopefully I’ve grown from that and will continue to grow from that.”
It’s easier to forgive a naïve young coach than a conniving experienced coach.
John Fox had his next head-coaching job lined up before the Denver Broncos took the field against the Colts. He gave up on his team and this franchise before Denver’s most important game of year. That’s inexcusable and unforgivable.
Fox’s actions in the last week of the season proved he was the wrong coach to lead the Broncos this season. And McDaniels statements proved he would been a better option.
Yes, you read that correctly. The Broncos would have been a better football team with McDaniels as their head coach in 2014 than wily old Foxy. That comes with one caveat; we’re talking about the present version of McDaniels, not the 2009 version.
As the 2014-15 season progressed, it became clear that Denver’s shortfall wasn’t the players on the field, but rather the coaches leading them. Fox’s staff lacked creativity, situational game awareness, discipline and, most of all, passion.
Fox’s press conferences weren’t the boring, cliché-filled acts of defiance of Bill Belichick or Gregg Popovich. They were boring because Fox is boring. That’s the last trait you want seeping into a football team.
NFL teams take on the identity of their head coach. If the coach has no fire in his belly, the team isn’t going to either. The last time Denver had a head coach show emotion was following a Week Six victory against the New England Patriots in 2009. And that coach was McDaniels.
Passion was never an issue with McDaniels and, as we saw when his Patriots offense faced the Ravens, neither is creativity.
This season, Denver’s idea of creativity was overreacting to a loss in St. Louis and completely changing their offense. Tying the hands of your quarterback who had 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions through 10 weeks can only be defined as stupid.
McDaniels, on the other hand, lined up a wide receiver as an offensive lineman and split him out wide in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Patriots ran that innovative/infamous formation three times against Baltimore. All three plays went for 10-plus yards and a first down. John Harbaugh’s head is still spinning.
McDaniels has made a career of pushing the envelope. As he’s matured and refocused on coaching, he has proved his value as an elite coach.
In 2011, Fox’s golly-geez attitude was unquestionably what the Broncos needed to clean up a frat house atmosphere created by a young inexperienced coach. In 2015, that wasn’t the case. Fox was Denver’s biggest negative. He looked like nothing more than a stubborn old man stuck in his ways, refusing to change. His stubbornness caused him to mismanage games, handcuff his star quarterback and suck the passion from his team. But, none of those were his biggest crime.
Fox spent the week of a playoff game angling for his next head-coaching job. He quit on the Broncos. McDaniels biggest crime in Denver was hubris.
Quitting is rarely forgiven and never forgotten. Pride is not the same sin.
McDaniels pride accounted for innumerous errors in Denver. All you can ask from young men is that they learn from those errors and the Patriots offensive coordinator has done just that. Under John Elway’s leadership, McDaniels would have strictly had to coach and that’s what he does best.
The fresh thinking of a young, matured up-and-comer would have served the Broncos much better than a stubborn, stuck-in-his-way-of-thinking has been.
If McDaniels got his opportunity as Broncos head coach too early, Fox held on to his too long.
Under Josh McDaniels the Broncos would have been legitimate Super Bowl contenders and not a rudderless ship. Think about that one, Denver.