Every Monday (it's Tuesday this week, for personal reasons) I sit down and catch up on the Broncos' news, check out what's happening in the league, and just update myself on the state of our franchise. I love this day more than any other day of the week because of how many new things there are to soak in and learn. And I love learning. I'm a student for life. Many of you already know that because you school me with your articles all the time. I love getting new insight as I continue to shape and mold the ever-softening clay that is my brain. Anyhow... while watching (and reading) Coach McDaniels' presser, I couldn't help but notice how many questions were asked about second-year players. That being said, many of McDaniels responses seemed to be talking about rookies in general and not just specific guys. I stretched that further and started thinking about the guy himself: Josh McDaniels, the second-year Head Coach of our Denver Broncos. Let's dive in!
"I think for every rookie coming in, sometimes it can be overwhelming at times because there are so many different things coming at you and you're doing so many things for the first time."
I wanted to start here first because I think it's an important aspect of McDaniels performance last year, and it played a part in our season (big or small, take it however you see it). McDaniels was a rookie last year and I don't doubt there were quite a few things coming at him that he'd never dealt with before - at least not in the position of being solely responsible for the outcome of all the results of the team. That's a huge task. Ask anybody who's ever run a company, anything from a major corporation to a small business; that responsibility factor adds a whole new level of stress and/or added weight. It's a big task, and in this modern-day league of: You better W's or get lost... that is huge.
"They are in their second year (in the system), most of them, and hopefully they know it better now than they did last year."
I'd be hard-pressed to find a single reader on this sight that isn't hoping McDaniels has got a better grasp on his job this year, and is hoping he knows the ins and outs a little better than he did before (or a LOT better). The draft in particular comes to mind. Last year he was kind of thrown into the mix and had to get a staff together and scout and grade, and watch film, all in just a few month prior to the draft. This year he and his staff had a lot more time to prepare and there's no doubt they came into this previous draft with some experience, understanding, and preparation that they didn't have last year.
"I think for the quarterback, there is a certain part of the offseason that you have to go back and relearn some of the things that you're seeing for the first time."
Yes. I am aware that he was talking specifically about the quarterback position here, but I think it can be applied to just about any position, including the Head Coach. Last year was his first draft, his first season managing all three phases of the game, and making big decisions on defense (even though Nolan worked with the D mostly and called the majority of the plays, McD still had significant input on what that unit did last year) while calling pretty much all the shots on offense. It may just be an assumption (hopefully its a fact) but I like to think McDaniels re-evaluated himself just as hard as he did his players. How he drafted, how he coached, taking a second look at everything he did last year and how he approached a new set of responsibilities. I remember him saying in a presser that he was evaluating himself and his staff and I am pretty confident it wasn't just fluff. He has a record of being critical of himself - and it's probably one of the biggest reasons he's had such a successful career thus far.
"He's got a confidence about him that I don't know that he had as a rookie because I don't know that you can as a rookie."
This was the quote that turned the insight from McDaniels describing his rookies, to McDaniels describing himself. And I'll get into more of it in the next couple of paragraphs. Think about that statement for a minute, go back and read it again if you need to. McDaniels was a rookie last year, there's no way to get around it. Had he done a lot of that stuff before? Sure; but not all of it. He showed a lot of confidence (as a Head Coach you've got to!), and I applaud him for that. How impossible of a task that seems to me. Trying to establish your authority and earn a bunch of grown men's respect, some of which are even older than yourself. How did he do it? He summed up the courage from somewhere to get the job done last year. I'm hoping that this year is even better, because in his own words he basically said He doesn't understand how a guy can come in as a rookie and be confident. That speaks volumes about our offense, defense, and special teams last year.
"I think we've changed quite a bit on both sides. I don't want to say that's abnormal but we always evaluate some other teams in the league to see if it sparks any ideas and then we always try to create some things on our own that we think will be useful for our players. Not necessarily thinking about other teams and other players, but if there are some schemes that we think fit our guys then we try to utilize them. We're definitely doing some different things on defense and definitely doing some different things on offense and we're actually practicing differently in the kicking game this year than we did last year. We've made some adjustments in every area and I think our focus is on being aggressive. Whether that means blocking kicks in the kicking game (or) pressuring more on defense than what we did in the past. Offensively, there are some different things we're doing to throw the ball downfield that we didn't do last year. We're going to try to be aggressive. That would be a very big word for us."
This was quite an amazing statement to hear, from the normally restricted and closed-mouth McDaniels. I think it shows that he's really starting to feel comfortable here, and wants to assure the fans that he is making changes. That aside, it's obvious from the attacking style that he's feeling comfortable with the direction of the team, and feeling comfortable with his own responsibilities and his staff's. He's ready to open-up the throttle a little and not play so cautiously. He's finally showing some true confidence and true desire to win with his actions. Sure, he talked the talk last year, but it's hard to walk the walk when you're just jumping into a new job. Some may recall the phrase: "Fake it till you make it." And I think McDaniels is making it. He's getting there. He's gotten over his rookie hump and that confidence that has been underlying all of his decisions seems to really be jumping out now.
Whether you like it or not, this team is going to be an extention of McDaniels' personality (at least to some extent) and now that he's jumped into the fire and made it out alive it's finally time to play some real football. McDaniels had to establish himself, establish a team, and create a new lockerroom mentality last year. He had to set his expectations. Now that the team knows them, they're ready to push beyond and make him raise those expectations. This is going to be a confident, high-speed, smart, tough, and versatile team. We heard a lot about all that last year, but I think the hard work is going to really pay off this year. I think we're going to see many improved rookies on the field this year, not the least of which will be the Head Coach himself.
Hope you all enjoyed my thoughts (not facts) and are ready to watch a confident and aggressive team. I always had the question with McDaniels coming in if we would be a system/scheme reliant team that plays intellectually (which we will be to the same extent that every team is) or if we would actually dig into those trenches and punch people in the mouth. From what it sounds like, we're going to be both. And I'm lovin' it!