Before the 2009 season began, many league observers believed that Broncos coach Josh McDaniels had waded into a swamp several inches deeper than his height.
McDaniels shipped away a franchise quarterback, picked a fight with a gamebreaking receiver, and generally inspired little confidence with a press-conference demeanor involving more ticks and touches than a third-base coach trying to instruct the batter to swing away.
But then the games started, and McDaniels became the Broncos’ boy wonder. Six wins later, it was presumed that McDaniels “gets it,” and that he has what it takes to be a successful NFL head coach.
Eight losses in 10 games later, it’s time to revisit that assessment, especially with receiver Brandon Marshall now destined to be shipped out of town in the offseason.
And here’s the key — with Mike Shanahan poised to return to the NFL and give up most if not all of the remaining $14 million the Broncos owe him over the next two years, owner Pat Bowlen could choose to divert that money to fund the balance of McDaniels’ contract over the next three seasons, with roughly $8 million to spare.
It’s unlikely that Bowlen will pull the trigger. But who would have dreamed a year ago that Shanahan would get shown the door? This year, the outcome was the same, including a three-game losing streak that squandered what had once appeared to be a clear shot at the postseason.
So while the end result of McDaniels’ first season still wasn’t as bad as most thought it would be — and also not nearly as horrendous as the overall performance of Eric Mangini’s Browns, Raheem Morris’ Buccaneers, Jim Schwartz’s Lions, Jim Mora’s Seahawks, Todd Haley’s Chiefs, and Steve Spagnuolo’s Rams — McDaniels merits as much or more scrutiny than each of them, and even if he sticks around for another year he deserves a spot on the hot seat for 2010.