McDaniels' errors way beyond Spygate II

Published Nov. 29, 2010 12:00 a.m. EST

I laugh when I hear someone say Josh McDaniels deserves to be fired by the Broncos because of “Spygate II,” because “rogue” videographer Steve Scarnecchia taped the Niners walk-through in London. This is one of the funniest takes I’ve ever heard. I crack up when I hear talking heads debating whether McDaniels knew about the taping. I double over in hysterics when I see debate on whether the fine was enough.

Good morning, great people of this planet. Spygate II means very little, other than firing McDaniels with cause and saving money.

McDaniels deserves to be fired for sheer incompetence, for awful people skills that have caused talent to leave the building, for some of the worst personnel decisions in the past two years, for losing games at a rapid rate.

This isn’t about whether McDaniels reported Scarnecchia in a timely fashion.


This is about McDaniels single-handedly ruining one of the best franchises in the NFL.

The Josh McDaniels era (actually, let’s go with the Josh McDaniels error) has been two years of slipping on a banana peel, showing he has no clue how to run an organization. It has been an absolute comedy of errors since he walked into the building.

Let’s remind everyone Denver owner Pat Bowlen canned Hall of Fame coach Mike Shanahan because of a late-season collapse in 2008, the inability to beat Buffalo and San Diego in the final weeks to make the playoffs. Shanahan refused to change his defensive coordinator (remember that), and Bowlen pulled the trigger on his longtime genius.

It’s worth jogging the mental Rolodex that this was not a rebuilding or retooling situation. The expectations were for McDaniels, part of the Bill Belichick tree, to get the Broncos into the playoffs in 2009. And McDaniels has failed, and failed to epic proportions.

It all went horribly wrong right after McDaniels was hired. He ignored the fact that he employed the talented Jay Cutler and decided to inquire about obtaining Matt Cassel, a quarterback he worked with successfully in New England when Tom Brady was injured. It was a huge mistake. It showed McDaniels’ inexperience in being a head coach and executive. It showed he didn’t understand the inner workings of the media and how his inquiry would morph into a major breaking story.

As a result, Cutler never trusted McDaniels again, and it led the Broncos to trade their franchise quarterback, something they never planned on doing when the coach was hired. Go back to McDaniels’ first news conference. Read the early Bowlen commentary on what McDaniels and Cutler could do together. Players started looking sideways. Trust was broken.

McDaniels’ relationships with Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler would eventually lead to these offensive weapons being traded the next offseason.

While Marshall was an off-the-field knucklehead, McDaniels never really took the time to try to make it work. And he seemingly had instant disdain for the pass-catching tight end Scheffler. And if boy wonder McDaniels thought he wasn’t a fit, then Scheffler, despite catching 49 balls in 2007 and 40 in 2008, wasn’t a fit.

McDaniels’ frosty personality and clumsy management style chased Cutler, Marshall and Scheffler. And this gets the headlines. But it represents just the tip of the iceberg for inept decisions and futility.

How about spending a first-round draft pick last year on Robert Ayers, who was far from a sure thing? Ayers didn’t record a sack in his rookie season and has just 1.5 this season. There were better players, non-projects, on the board.

But even worse, during the same draft, McDaniels, in a move of both arrogance and ignorance, traded a 2010 first-round pick for the opportunity to draft Alphonso Smith in the second round. Now, we bashed this move when it was made. It was McDaniels’ first NFL draft, and he treated it like a kid dealing baseball cards. Did he learn anything about value, about the art of the deal from Belichick?

You don’t give away a future first-round pick for a second. And for Alphonso Smith! Smith couldn’t even see the field during his rookie year. He was totally lost. And he was so bad McDaniels was forced to trade him after one season to Detroit for non-factor tight end Dan Gronkowski. This represents a flat-out embarrassment. This represents having no clue how to run a team. This represents the lowest of lows in running a war room. Matt Millen knew better!

But wait. It gets worse.

Peyton Hillis was a Mike Shanahan guy. Hillis, strong and versatile, played great for Shanahan in 2008, including a majestic performance the Sunday after Thanksgiving, barreling over and beating the favored Jets in New York. Hillis was a bit of a Shanahan sensation, playing running back, fullback, special teams, and once was quoted as saying he would play linebacker for Shanahan.

So, of course, McDaniels had no use for him and thus barely played him in 2009. So, of course, he traded Hillis to the Browns for a third-string quarterback, a first-round bust in Brady Quinn in March 2010. And because McDaniels never seems to have a plan, one month later, he drafted Tim Tebow, to help ensure that Quinn had no chance to ever play behind Kyle Orton and the former Florida star. Hillis has been one of the best running backs in the NFL this season in Cleveland. Once again, it shows ego, poor talent evaluation and no direction, no correlation between one move and the next.

McDaniels has had strained relationships with players and coaches. How do you let Mike Nolan leave the building? How do you clash with the only great hire you made to your original staff? Wasn’t the defensive coordinator the big issue for Shanahan and Bowlen? Nolan is well-respected around the league. He was attracted to the McDaniels situation because they have the same agent. As a control freak, McDaniels wasn’t the boss Nolan expected. McDaniels reportedly had an issue with Nolan’s play-calling last season and took issue with the strategy. And thus, the head coach let his best asset go.

All of the above, frankly, is more damning than the controversial pick of Tebow. I happen to like Tebow as a potential pro. It’s more damning than drafting an injured yet supremely talented receiver in Demaryius Thomas is the first round. Being fair, I like both these players. But the issue for McDaniels is whether the Broncos, who needed help on defense, should’ve picked a project quarterback and banged-up receiver in the first round.

And, as Bill Parcells once said, “You are what you are.” The body of work speaks for itself. After a 6-0 start, his team sputtered to an 8-8 finish. The Broncos are in dead last in the AFC West at 3-8. They gave up 59 points at home to the Oakland Raiders in a game where Darren McFadden told us, “It looked like we broke their will.” They gave up 59 points at home to the damn Raiders. It has to make Bowlen ill.

Denver fans should be thankful for Steve Scarnecchia. He hopefully delivered the dagger in forcing a change. As if you needed any more visual evidence that McDaniels is in way over his head. He is a losing football coach. He can’t run an organization.

Coaching the Denver Broncos is a plum job. The NFL is better when the Broncos are relevant. They aren’t right now. Denver needs to hire a legit new general manager, who will hire the next coach. The Broncos need to follow the Falcons model from a few years back after Bobby Petrino quit like a coward.

Denver deserves a winner. You shouldn’t need a rogue videographer to help you see the Broncos don’t have one. There’s no excuse, Pat Bowlen. Save your franchise.


My guys


Jay Cutler: Four touchdowns, zero picks and one very gigantic win against the Eagles. I was wrong, Chicago!

Eric Weddle: The Chargers safety had one of the four picks of Peyton Manning Sunday night in the statement win against Indy. And he was comfortable enough to joke about whether or not there was pass interference when we chatted on Sirius NFL Radio on Monday.

Dwayne Bowe: Remember when this cat was in Todd Haley’s dog house? Now, he’s a touchdown machine for the first-place Chiefs!

Glover Quin: After botching the Hail Mary against the Jags and getting burnt throughout the season, the maligned Texans corner had three picks in the huge win against the Titans.

Matt Ryan: Three guarantees in life: Death, taxes and you don’t beat Matty Ice at home.


My goats


Cortland Finnegan: He was the instigator in the ugly brawl with Andre Johnson.

Stevie Johnson: The Bills receiver dropped a sure-fire game-winning touchdown in overtime and then blamed the Lord on Twitter. Can’t make it up.

Donald Brown: Sure, Peyton Manning tossed four picks. But some balance would’ve been nice. And the former first-round pick was awful against the Chargers.

The Raiders: No excuse losing at home to the banged-up Dolphins. It was bad timing (first guess) for a quarterback change going into the game.

Jack Del Rio: Why would you take the ball out of Maurice Jones-Drew’s hands in the second half??