You should all be very happy! You threw your little tantrum and got Josh McDaniels fired. You logged onto DP in your parents' basement and bashed your team's head coach and it worked. You brought your "Fire McDaniels" signs to the games and the message was sent. But wait, I thought firing McDaniels was the solution? I thought we were destined to play better now that "McHoodie" was gone? After that performance by the Broncos on Sunday, are any of you bandwagon-jumpers second guessing your desire to jettison a promising young coach with a track record of success after giving him just 28 games to see what he could do? Of course not, because introspection is not among your characteristics. Instead, you are just waiting to see who we hire next so you'll know you to hate in 2011.
So let's take a look back at the reasons that have been offered for McDaniels' firing, and then let's think about the real reasons he was let go so soon.
When the news first broke, the immediate speculation was that McDaniels had refused instructions from the front office to play Tebow instead of Orton. Well, Denver just played one of the worst teams in the NFL. If the front office wanted Tebow to play, what better opportunity than against the Cardinals? Troy Smith tore up that defense. That defense hadn't shut down any team in the NFL (until yesterday). But Tebow didn't play, even after Orton was making the Eli Manning face and throwing picks like Turnoversaurus Rex Grossman. Orton couldn't have made it more clear that he wanted out of that game if he took his shoulder pads off. But still Tebow sat on the sidelines. And now the front office has stated that Orton will start against Oakland. I think this settles the "McDaniels was fired because he wouldn't play Tebow" debate.
Next, some suggested that McDaniels had too much responsibility because he was calling all the plays on both sides of the ball. They said things would improve because now Studes could focus on the big picture and let McCoy and Wink call the plays. So how did that turn out for us? Well, on defense we failed to disrupt a rookie QB making his first appearance in the NFL. Denver couldn't muster an interception or a sack. Inexplicably, we brought very little pressure against a rookie making his first start for a 3-9 team. And we gave up 211 yards rushing to a team starting a rookie QB. Why not stack the box, run blitz and make Skelton beat you? Apparently that was too complex for Wink to figure out.
Oh, but the story on offense was entirely different, right? Different? Yes. Better? No. The offense was simply dreadful. We went 3-15 on third down. If it wasn't for pass interference in the endzone late in the game, we wouldn't have scored a single TD. We lost 43-13 but it wasn't that close. Orton and the offense went three and out over and over again. The play calling was entirely unimaginative and uninspired. In short, the theory that the play calling would improve once McDaniels wasn't in charge of everything has not passed its first test.
Finally, some have theorized that Spygate II and character issues were the big concerns for management. Bowlen wanted to clean up the team and restore the tattered image. Well, during the week the news broke that Perrish Cox had been arrested for sexual assault. Here was the golden opportunity for Bowlen and the new regime to show the team and the fans how committed the Denver Broncos were to restoring the image of the franchise. No longer would we tolerate misconduct by players or coaches. The Broncos were going to set an example and...oh wait, that's right. Perrish Cox played. So much for that notion.
So what really happened? Why was McDaniels fired? Because this organization is adrift. From Bowlen to Ellis to Xanders, this team has no plan. We have been slowly crumbling since Shanahan was given the keys to the kingdom. McDaniels inherited a terrible roster, we all know that. But what people don't acknowledge is that those terrible players who were cut by McDaniels and couldn't even make the practice team anywhere else in the NFL were doing more than taking up space on our roster and on our playing field. Those players cost the team money against the cap and they represented enormous lost opportunities to build a team through the draft and free agency. They weren't just mediocre players. For many of them, those players were taking a spot which should have been occupied by stars we should have drafted over the years. Somewhere I read that there are only eight players on the roster from among the 36 who were drafted by Denver from 2004-2008. That is on Shanahan, the front office, and ultimately, Pat Bowlen. When you whiff that many times in the draft, one of the problems is that you don't even have anyone you can trade. To fix the roster when it is as bad as ours was in 2008 it is almost inevitable that you are going to get worse before you get better. You have only two choices. You can keep overpaying crappy veterans (Webster, Manuel, McCree, Koutovides, the Browncos, etc.), or you can cut that dead weight and free up some roster space. But it's not like other teams are just handing out good players. You can raid practice squads for guys like McBean and Vickerson and Hunter. And you can sign free agents like Fields and Williams and Goodman and Hill and Dawkins. But more often than not, all you get are expensive stop-gap players. So you have to build though the draft.
Enter Josh McDaniels. Many have noted that he took over with little time to prepare for the 2009 draft, and with no experience in the front office to evaluate talent. I'm not here to rip his picks. I wish we'd taken Orakpo instead of Moreno and then Shonn Green instead of Ayers, but that's not my point. McDaniels didn't have time to evaluate that class and he took his shots. In 2010 he did much better. Of those who have played, the early results are positive. Thomas, Walton, Beadles, Decker and Cox, and SydQuan have all looked very good for rookies. And count me among those who can't wait to see what Tebow can do.
Remember when Tebow was drafted and everyone said that McDaniels would ultimately be judged by the success of that pick? Now we'll never know what the best college QB of all tme can do when paired with the play-caller behind the best season in NFL history. Instead, we're left with two choices. Either we can make Tebow-compatability the number one criteria when screening coaching candidates, or we can hire someone who doesn't like Tebow, thus completely wasting a first round pick with unlimited potential. We must either limit our pool of new coaching options, or abort the Tebow experiment (see what I did there?) before giving it a chance to prove itself.
So again, congratulations to the McDaniels haters. You got your wish. And eventually, you'll get a new coach. Just remember that it's considered bad form to start calling for the new coach to be fired before he's even been named.