Josh McDaniels deserves credit for helping turn the Broncos into a Super Bowl contender
|McDaniels helped us say goodbye to the inconsistent Jay Cutler.|
At the time, Denver was pretty outraged by this transaction, but taking a look at it now, the Broncos actually came out way better. Cutler is 23rd in total passing yards with a twelve-to-eight touchdown-to-interception ratio with the Chicago Bears this season. Not good. In Cutler's 41 games with the Bears since the trade, his average QB rating has been 82.4 -- not terrible, but definitely not great. In Orton's 34 games with the Broncos, his QB rating was 85.4, a full three points higher -- and if that stat doesn't fully represent their play, remember that the Broncos got Demaryius, too.
The two other oft-cited position players McDaniels traded away are Peyton Hillis and Tony Scheffler. While it's true the Broncos got very little in return for either of them, neither is playing well at all and the Broncos don't miss them. Hillis had one great season with the Browns, then was disappointing last year -- and in 2012, the current member of the Kansas City Chiefs is putting up terrible numbers: 175 total yards from scrimmage and no touchdowns. Scheffler is doing a little better, with 220 receiving yards, but no touchdowns -- and touchdowns are what tight ends are for. Both of Denver's tight ends are outperforming Scheffler. More importantly, if Hillis had broken out with the Broncos, there's no way the team would have picked up another power back in Willis McGahee, who is playing infinitely better for less money.
Now let's examine McDaniels's ultimate trespass: the season where he sent the Broncos to the second worst record in the league. It was a dark time in Denver, no doubt, and we all had to live through that ugly season. For our suffering, though, the Broncos got Von Miller, who after just a season and a half out of Texas A&M is clearly a superstar in the making. He is tied for second in the league in sacks, made the Pro Bowl his rookie year and, more tellingly, Denver went from the worst defensive team in the league to a solid unit.
Keith Allison Would you rather have McGahee or Hillis?
Remember the ESPN analysts trying to explain Denver's success in spite during Tebow time: It's the defense! It's the kicker!
Some of the credit for the Broncos' defensive renaissance goes to the return of Elvis Dumervil and the arrival of defensive-minded coach John Fox. But Miller added strength and athleticism the team desperately needed last season, and he's even better this year.
Of couse, we need to give credit where credit is due and recognize the number one reason the Broncos are a legitimate Super Bowl contender: Peyton Manning. While it would be ridiculous to give Josh McDaniels credit for bringing the future Hall of Famer to Denver, there's no doubt that we wouldn't have Manning without him.
Remember that at the beginning of the season, the Broncos giving Manning so much money was considered a big gamble. But you don't take a $96 million gamble on a quarterback with a questionable future when you already have one as talented as Cutler, no matter how great Manning was or inconsistent Cutler is. It's too big a risk. And without that offer, without Demaryius Thomas lining up on the outside, without the Broncos' run to the second round of the playoffs last year, and without Von Miller anchoring an improving defense, do you really think Peyton Manning would have come to Denver even if the team had made a big offer to him? No way.
Jay Cutler is a decent quarterback, but if he can't win a Super Bowl with the Bears' awesome defense (and even if he can), there's no chance he could do so with the Broncos' defense, much improved though it is. Even if McDaniels had made decent drafts and kept Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler and Peyton Hillis, the Broncos still wouldn't be a Super Bowl contender.
Broncos fans should be thanking God, Tebow or whatever deity they believe in that McDaniels stumbled his way through Denver -- because without his bumbling self, Denver wouldn't have a shot at going all the way this season. So show McDaniels a little love -- at least until the Broncs head to a playoff match-up against the New England Patriots, where he's currently coaching. Then we can go back to hating him.
More from our Sports archive: "Peyton Manning exorcises Tim Tebow once and for all in Saints blow-out."