Josh McDaniels timeline: Suck for years, then get your old job back
When Josh McDaniels returns to the New England Patriots as an offensive assistant this weekend, he won't only provide insight about a Broncos team he coached just last year. He'll also complete an improbable circle in his career. Next year, McDaniels will take over as Patriots offensive coordinator, which is the post he held before he took over the Broncos sideline in 2009. That's a fortunate turn of events for him, considering he's been almost exclusively incompetent in the three years since he left the New England.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's decision to rehire McDaniels indicates that Belichick really likes McDaniels, and that he recognizes it doesn't much matter who the offensive coordinator is as long as Tom Brady is the quarterback. McDaniels was the offensive coordinator of the 2007 Patriots team that set NFL records for touchdowns and points, and Brady and Belichick are enthused to have his familiar mug back. But McDaniels has done little in the past three years to earn such a position. Let's examine.
I'm going to do terrible things to you.
January 12, 2009: Broncos introduce McDaniels as head coach.
The then 32-year-old McDaniels had three Super Bowl titles to his name, but no head coaching experience. The offensive guru was taking over a team that ranked second in overall offense the year before and was headed by Jay Cutler, who made the Pro Bowl the previous season.
McDaniels quickly gutted the offensive staff, keeping only running backs coach Bobby Turner and offensive line coach Rick Dennison. The firing of quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates particularly angered Cutler.
Quote that's hilarious and sad in retrospect:
During his introductory press conference McDaniels was asked his involvement in and opinion on the New England Spygate controversy:
"I don't think it is good. To have that kind of attention was a distraction and I think that is how we all treated it. We tried to do the best we could to limit those distractions every week and it will be no different here. Certainly we are never looking to do anything that is not within the rules established by the National Football League. They determined the punishment on that and it was what it was and we moved on."
So, uh, I'm leaving.
March 17, 2009: Broncos have horrific meeting with Jay Cutler.
McDaniels reportedly tried to trade Cutler for Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel, which Cutler didn't think was the coolest thing in the world. To attempt to mend the fences, Cutler and his agent, Bus Cook, met with McDaniels. The meeting was about as productive as an intervention at a bar.
Among other things, Cutler told ESPN McDaniels was antagonizing and admitted he wanted Cassel because McDaniels had brought Cassel up. Cutler said the meeting lasted less than twenty minutes, but that's all it took for him to realize McDaniels had little use for him. Following the meeting, Cutler formally requested a trade from the Broncos.
Quote that's just sad in retrospect:
"I thought he was antagonizing me and that was disappointing because I was ready to move on, committed as a Bronco," said Cutler. "Really, I figured we'd hash things out, shake hands, laugh a little and move forward. What happened [Saturday] was the last thing I expected. If I didn't think it could be fixed, I never would have come back to Denver. It was painfully obvious to me and Bus [Cook, his agent] it's not something they want to fix."
ChicagoBears.com It was fun. Sort of.
April 2, 2009: Broncos trade Jay Cutler to Chicago.
In return for their angered quarterback and a fifth-round draft pick, the Broncos received quarterback Kyle Orton and his neck beard, two first-round picks and a third-round pick. Orton, you will remember from his 12-20 record as starting quarterback for the Broncos and his release late this season that netted the Broncos free oxygen.
The draft picks the Broncos received from Chicago have been a mixed-bag. With Chicago's 2009 first-round pick, the Broncos grabbed defensive end Robert Ayers, who in three seasons has 4.5 sacks, which is not a historically excellent pace, in case you were wondering.
The Broncos traded Chicago's third-rounder along with another pick and turned them into people called Richard Quinn and Seth Olsen -- neither are currently on the team. A lone bright spot for McDaniels is the magic he pulled with Chicago's 2010 first-round pick. Through several trades and re-packaging, that pick is at least partially responsible for the drafting of Sunday's hero, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and, you guessed it, Tim "Jesus in a Broncos Helmet" Tebow.
Never mind that Thomas has only 834 receiving yards and six touchdowns in two seasons or that McDaniels could have picked Tebow up in the second or third round rather than using a first-round pick. That's a good haul, assuming Tebow is not actually the awful quarterback he's been at times. Because that would mean Cutler was essentially traded for a bad defensive end and two marginal receivers.
Note that's depressing in retrospect or otherwise:
Cutler has thrown for 9,259 yards as a Bear and took the team to the NFC Championship game last year.