As the 2008 NFL draws to a close, the Broncos have spent the last month planning for the 2009 campaign and beyond.
The shock and surprise of the team’s first head coaching change in 14 years has now settled into the reality that the Josh McDaniels era is underway at Dove Valley.
Ultimately, time will tell how successful Coach McDaniels is. This past week there were strong indications that he is off to a great start.
Broncos’ quarterback Jay Cutler told 850 KOA last week that he wasn’t exactly a happy camper when he heard the news of Coach Shanahan’s dismissal.
“I was mad, I was shocked, I was disappointed,” Cutler admitted. “Coming off my third year, we had a lot of success and I felt like we were going to take some steps back and start all over again. When it first happened, I wasn’t very happy about it.”
But after speaking with his new head coach several times, Cutler believes the Broncos hired the right guy.
“He impressed me from the start,” Cutler told 850 KOA. “(He’s) very sharp, you can tell he had a lot of energy. A month removed (from the change), after the fact, you can kind of understand why it was time for a change.”
Obviously I am no football coach and I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. But I know the Broncos’ new coach had to get the quarterback is his corner.
Coach McDaniels is winning Cutler over and the quarterback believes the rest of the players will soon learn why he is so excited about his new head coach.
“I think the guys are going to be able to relate to him,” Cutler said. “I don’t think they’ll have any problems respecting him even though he is 32 because he has a presence about him and I haven’t even met him in person. This is just (from talking with him) over the phone. I have a good feel about him.”
Certainly none of this guarantees a spot in the playoffs next year but it is undoubtedly a good start.
Coach McDaniels has spent the last few weeks filling out his coaching staff. Most notably, former 49ers’ head coach Mike Nolan is the Broncos’ new defensive coordinator.
Nolan has often used the 3-4 scheme, one which many people have pointed out doesn’t fit the Broncos’ current personnel. Given the struggles the Broncos’ have had on defense the last few years, we would all be hard-pressed to think of a defensive scheme they could run that would produce a vastly improved result.
Furthermore, to think that Nolan can only coach a defense that runs a 3-4 seems short-sighted to me. The man has been coaching in the NFL since 1987. He knows defense, not just one defense.
Again, the credentials don’t guarantee a thing. But let’s at least give him a chance to unpack the moving boxes before we start telling him what defense to run.
Change can be unsettling. In this case, the sudden and dramatic nature of it turned the Broncos’ football operations partially upside down. That is difficult for all involved.
But that time is quickly becoming the past. Now Coach McDaniels is settling in and Cutler, for one, is embracing the change.
“I put down the phone (after their first conversation) and texted Casey (Wiegmann) and said, ‘You need to call this guy; he’s the real deal,’” Cutler shared. “When Josh was hired everyone (was thinking), ‘He’s 32 and he hasn’t had any head coaching experience.’ But it’s going to be fun.”
Coach Shanahan is a great football coach and will one day be in the NFL Hall of Fame. Before that, he will likely land a another really good head coaching position in the NFL. Moreover, his legacy will rightly be as one of the best coaches in Denver sports history. A big, big part of me wishes he were still the Broncos’ head coach.
I can also say that as the days go by, I find myself more excited about Coach McDaniels and his staff. I am looking forward to the off-season more than I have in a long time.
Now that the assistant coaches are on board, what are your thoughts about the new staff? I ask you keep your comments respectful; I enjoy reading your posts.
Thanks and I’ll catch up with you next week and share some thoughts about the Super Bowl.