Alright, so I suppose I'm making a pointless title my trademark. This post is about a little trend I've noticed in McDaniels' system. Check it out, and tell me if I'm not right.
In 2008, the New England Patriots were faced with a decision. In week one, Bernard Pollard (I think) ended Tom Brady's season. At that point, their (career) backup had to come in and fill some Shaq sized shoes. Tom Brady to New England is what John Elway was to Denver -- irreplaceable. Matt Cassel was put in a position to make a name for himself. No one was expecting him to come in and win 11 games, 10 of them as the starter. Not only did Cassel turn heads around he league, he also landed himself a nice sized paycheck in Kansas City after the year. Not bad, Mr. Cassel. Not bad at all.
Matt Cassel was worried. He had all the same weapons around him that Brady did, and even though that might be enough to settle wandering minds, anyone would shake up in that situation. That's when a young offensive coordinator came through and said something along the lines of "Chill the f*** out, I got this." I know, I know, McDaniels is not the sole reason why Cassel worked out well in 2008, but if you can find another person more deserving of that small accolade, then I'll keep my mouth shut about it. McDaniels has a system, and the system works.
When Pat Bowlen traded Jay Cutler to the Bears for 2 firsts, a third and Kyle Orton, I'm sure McDaniels had the final say as to which team was involved in the trade. Obviously Washington, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay were all bidders, or at least that's what we've been told. McDaniels didn't make the decision to trade Cutler, but he did make the decision where to trade Cutler. He chose Chicago, and we got Kyle Orton and some picks to go with it. Why am I bringing all this up? KO2009 = MC2008+4 years. That's a simple enough equation. Here's the trend I've noticed:
Stats don't tell the whole story, but they do offer a nice outline to what a system does. Matt Cassel started his first game in week 2, and here's his first 8 weeks as the starter:
Week 2 @ NYJ: 16/23 for 165 yds, 0 TD's, 0 INT's. Win 19-10
Week 3 vs Miami: 19/31 for 131 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT. Loss 38-13 (infamous wildcat introduced here)
Week 4: BYE
Week 5 @ SF: 22/32 for 259 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT's. Win 30-21
Week 6 @ SD: 18/27 for 306 yds, 0 TD's, 1 INT's. Loss 30-10
Week 7 vs Denver: 18/24 for 185 yds, 3 TD's, 0 INT's. Win 41-7 (ouch)
Week 8 vs STL: 21/33 for 267 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT's. Win 23-16
Week 9 @ Indy: 25/34 for 204 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT. Loss 18-15
Week 10 vs Buffalo: 22/32 for 234 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT's. Win 20-10
What does it mean? Well, not much if you look at the numbers. I went back (thanks Game Rewind) and checked out NE's playing between week 2 and 10. Something occurred to me too. The playcalling was vanilla between weeks 2 and 6. It wasn't until week 7 against Denver that Matt Cassel had the light come on.
Weird, that's exactly 4 games. The light seemed to come on for Cassel when they played against Denver (his 5th start in the system). After that, it was pretty much gravy. What does it mean to us? Well, it's weird because Orton's 5th start in this system was on Sunday, against NE (which is just poetic justice) and the light just came on. I bet a good portion of it was the glove, but I don't believe Kyle Orton was fully comfortable and confident in his abilities until yesterday. His demeanor in the presser last night was just lighter. It was as if something opened up for him, and he started to see things that he wasn't seeing.
Is that a coincidence? No it's not. If it happens once, it's luck. If it happens twice, in two completely different scenarios, then it means you're doing something -- and you're doing it right.
Some people think Denver's bound to crash sooner or later, but I think Denver has only begun to see what can be done in this system. Denver's success will mirror Orton's success in the system. There will be more games where he will be asked to win the game, not just manage it. It's apparent now that he is willing to rise to the challenge. With the support of the team around him, he can overcome any challenges thrown his way. I know a lot of people thought KO was a weak link in the team. That may have been the case in the first few weeks, but it's not so anymore. Just you watch, and enjoy watching another weakness become a strength.
Given the rest of our schedule, here's what I think Orton's final numbers will be:
4360 yards, 28 TD's, 5 INT's, 65% comp. percentage
Is it bold? Yes, it is. Is it obtainable? Yes, it is.