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New Broncos coach’s young looks deceiving

Jeff Legwold
Rocky Mountain News
Barry Gutierrez/Rocky Mountain NewsJosh McDaniels
ALL |

DENVER, Colorado ” For the second time in two weeks, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen stepped to a podium to announce a change of direction for his organization. And this time, he said:

“I’m ecstatic, I’m excited and I’m ready to introduce the new head coach of the Denver Broncos. “

And with that, the Josh McDaniels tenure formally began Monday. McDaniels was introduced as the team’s 12th coach, a 32-year-old, three-time Super Bowl winner as a New England Patriots assistant who now is the youngest head coach in the NFL.



“Well, he certainly knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl,” Bowlen said. “That’s why I’m here. Otherwise, I’d be surfing in Hawaii.”

McDaniels arrived at the team’s Dove Valley complex Monday afternoon, and though he had yet to actually sit at his new desk, he said the evaluation of the team he was hired to lift off the deck would begin “right now.”



In the end, seven candidates were interviewed for the job McDaniels has, and Bowlen said it was McDaniels’ “horsepower,” that pushed him to the front of the line. He was the only candidate who was interviewed twice – both times in Providence, R.I. – by team officials.

Asked if he had any concern about McDaniels’ age, Bowlen said: “He’s 32 years old, he’s obviously the youngest coach, but that doesn’t scare me one bit. He’s aggressive. He wants to have this job.”

“My age has never been a factor, never going to be a factor,” McDaniels said. “It is about what you’re capable of getting the players to do, about the information you can give them, about doing your job to the best of your ability.”



McDaniels, who has agreed to a four-year contract, takes over for the franchise’s winningest coach and two-time Super Bowl winner, Mike Shanahan.

But he also inherits a team that missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons and has only one playoff win since it closed the 1998 season with its second Super Bowl win.

“Josh McDaniels is one of the finest people and brightest, most talented coaches I have ever worked with,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement Monday. “He is the product of a pure football environment, which is evident in his approach to the game.”

Bowlen called him simply “a football guy, a football coach.” And it was McDaniels’ background as the offensive coordinator behind the Patriots’ record-setting offense, as a defensive assistant for one of the team’s Super Bowl winners and his time in the team’s personnel department that was important to the Broncos.

Seeking veteran aides

The Broncos find themselves trying to maintain the vocational growth of quarterback Jay Cutler, who set a single-season passing-yardage mark this season en route to his first Pro Bowl trip, while also repairing a defense that finished 29th overall this season and near the bottom of the NFL’s rankings in virtually every major category.

To that end, McDaniels is expected to pursue veteran assistants as well as some up-and-comers for the Broncos’ new coaching staff.

Mike Nolan, with whom McDaniels already has spoken about joining the team, is expected to be appointed defensive coordinator in the coming days.

Dom Capers, a former Texans and Panthers coach who has a year left on his contract as the Patriots’ special assistant/secondary, also is expected to discuss a position on the Broncos’ staff once they formally seek permission to speak with him.

The Patriots conceivably could block the move if Belichick wishes, but Bowlen said McDaniels had presented a plan for the team’s defense that included hiring some “veteran hands” to coach the unit.

Though Nolan and Capers long have coached a 3-4 look, they have experience in multiple defensive schemes.

And McDaniels said no decision would be made on a defensive scheme for the Broncos until the coaching staff was in place and it could evaluate the team’s personnel together.

“We do want to bring some consistency to (the defense),” McDaniels said.

McDaniels also has some interest in current Eagles secondary coach Sean McDermott, but McDermott’s team still is in the playoffs and he is believed to have another year on his contract.

Offensively, things also could be far more fluid than was expected two weeks ago, when Shanahan was fired.

On his way out, Shanahan said the next coach “would have to be crazy” not to keep the team’s offensive staff in place, and Cutler has called for quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who called plays this season, to remain.

But , McDaniels said Monday he will call the Broncos’ offensive plays, which would mean Bates no longer would have that responsibility.

Bates recently signed a two-year contract extension, which has three years left on it overall.

Also, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, who headed the team’s running game and interviewed for the head coaching job, interviewed for the offensive coordinator position in San Francisco.

The Broncos had given all their assistants who were not already fired permission to interview with other teams.

Defensive line coach Bill Johnson has taken a new job in New Orleans.

McDaniels said he would like to have his staff in place before the scouting combine next month and that the new staff would be assembled before he meets with the Broncos players as a group.

“I would hope to,” McDaniels said. “The sooner we can put together a staff of the best coaches we can to help this organization win, that’s when that will be done.”

Offense is calling card

McDaniels was the Patriots’ offensive coordinator in 2007 when the team shredded the record book for scoring and set a team single-season scoring mark, with quarterback Tom Brady throwing a record 50 touchdown passes and winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

This season, McDaniels guided Matt Cassel, who had not started a game since high school, to a 3,000-yard passing effort in the wake of Brady’s knee injury in the opener.

McDaniels also was a defensive assistant for Belichick, having worked with the team’s secondary in 2003, another of the Patriots’ Super Bowl seasons.

In that 2003 season, McDaniels received praise from around the league for his work with the Patriots’ injury-riddled secondary, with then-starters Ty Law and Tyrone Poole having been injured.

The Broncos even borrowed from the Patriots’ wide-open attack this season, putting Cutler in the shotgun much of the time, even in some run-down situations, as McDaniels had done with Brady during the 2007 season. McDaniels said he would run a similar attack in Denver and that he would quickly convey that to Cutler when they speak.

Cutler has been out of town, and Bowlen and McDaniels each said they hope to reach him in the coming days.

“Jay’s very talented . . . he’s got a lot of ability,” McDaniels said. “Very intelligent person, very intelligent player. . . . I think Jay’s going to enjoy playing in this system. This offense is very quarterback-friendly, once you can use all the tools.”

Added Bowlen: “Look, the chance to get this young man was very intriguing to me. I think he’s going to be a great coach and I think he can fix our defense. . . . I think we’ve got a great young coach who’s ready for the job.”


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