When an organzation like the Denver Broncos decides it is time for a new head coach, the decision is not made lightly. Unlike NFL parriah's, such as the Oakland Raiders, Pat Bowlen makes the decision with the belief that the new coach will need several years to implement their program.
However, the hostility and criticism that Josh McDaniels has had to endure during his first two offseasons perplexes me. I asked myself, is McDaniels doing anything different than any other new head coach in the NFL? Perhaps. How about Mike Shanahan? How much change did Shanahan bring to the Broncos in his first few years as Head Coach?
In pursuit of an answer, I decided to compare McDaniels and Shanahan's first couple of years as head coach of the Denver Broncos. To see, for myself, how much change in the roster really occurred.
After firing Dan Reeves, Bowlen wanted to bring Shanahan in as Head Coach, but was turned down. He settled for Wade Phillips and waited patiently for Shanahan to change his mind. Shanny did change his mind after leading one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history to a Super Bowl Title in 1994.
He took over a team that had finished 8-8, losing their final three games in the process(sound familiar?).
Shanny's first order of business was to install a new blocking scheme. Only one tackle and one guard survived his first offseason. Yes, 1 at each position. Shanny then brought in six new offensive lineman and began to implement his Zone blocking scheme.
Next, Shanny desired to transition the Broncos defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Instead of taking a single offseason to make the switch, it took a full two offseasons to make the full switch.
In the end, only six defensive players survived the switch. In total, just fourteen players from the 1994 roster were playing for the Broncos at the start of the 1997 season. Those players were, John Elway, Tom Nalen, Ray Crockett, Randy Hilliard, Harald Hasselbach, Brian Habib, Jason Elam, Tom Rouen, Allen Aldridge, Keith Burns, Steve Atwater, Gary Zimmerman, Dewayne Carswell, and Shannon Sharpe.
Not a single wide receiver or running back made it through the transition to the Super Bowl team of 1997. And Mike Shanahan became The Mastermind.
Yet all he did was implement his program, by bringing in players that fit what he wanted to do and by running the system he felt was necessary to win Championships.
The result? A three year stretch where the Broncos went 39-9 in the regular season and 7-1 in the playoffs - with two Super Bowl Championships.
What does this mean for Josh McDaniels and the current Denver Broncos?
Mike Shanahan was fired after compiling a 24-24 record over the course of three seasons, culminating in a three game collapse with three games to go needing just one victory to secure a playoff berth.
Pat Bowlen went out in search of a special human being. One with the drive and intelligence to implement a winning program. Very few men fit that bill, but there is no denying that Josh McDaniels has the drive and intelligence to do just that.
There is a question about whether he will be successful, as only time will tell. After inheriting the team, he set about to implement his program. However, he would be faced with a me-first culture in the locker room that would marr his first offseason.
Instead of having a quarterback who wanted nothing more than to win a Super Bowl(John Elway circa 1995), McDaniels was faced with a talented young quarterback that wanted to be paid more than he wanted to win.
McD was hammered for the trade, by both the media and a large segement of the fanbase. Though he got excellent value in return, the criticism remained with him throughout his first season.
So, what about turnover?
Josh McDaniels first set about to make a defensive switch from a 3-4 hybrid disaster that was run by Bob Slowik the year before, to a base 5-2 3-4 hybrid that would get after the quarterback.
Which means he had to replace nearly the entire defense. Who could blame him? The defense was a complete disaster. McD kept just one safety and two corners, it's no wonder he drafted three last year to go along with three other free agent signings.
Meanwhile, McD desired to move to a power run game. He stated the transition would be a multi-year approach. The first phase was to blow up the backfield. Only Peyton Hillis survived the bloodbath, but even he ended up getting traded anyway. McD got rid of Tatum Bell, Cory Boyd, Andre Hall, P.J. Pope, Michael Pittman, Ryan Torain, and Selvin Young in the process.
All in all, only twenty-four players remained on the roster after McD's first offseason. Of course there is Jay Cutler and that fiasco, but that situation is what it was - we and the Broncos have moved on.
Midway through McD's second offseason, we have already seen another blood letting of former Shanny guys. Bringing the pre-draft total to just seventeen players left from the 2008 roster. They include, Champ Bailey, Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss, Marcus Thomas, Chris Kuper, Matt Prater, Mario Haggan, D.J. Williams, Wesley Woodyard, Spencer Larsen, Josh Barrett, Ryan Clady, Ryan Harris, Tyler Polumbus, Daniel Graham, Eddie Royal, and Brandon Stokely.
Mike Shanahan ended with just fourteen by the end of his third offseason, so I expect McD's program to be fully implemented by the end of the next offseason. He has cleaned house and now we will finally start to see the fruits of his labor.
Shanny finished his first season as head coach with an 8-8 record, which he then followed up with a 13-3 record. So far McD has finished with the 8-8 record, now it is time to see the next step in his program. I don't expect a 13-3 record, but I do expect a Division Title and the first playoff berth for the Broncos in five long, arduous years.
If there is one thing that should be understood by the fans, it is that Josh McDaniels earned his way into the Denver Broncos Head Coaching job. His hard work and dedication to winning was/is evident even during the 2-8 collapse last season. therefore, I am going to continue giving him his fair shake to make our team into a winner once again.