On football: Broncos switch out mastermind for whiz-kid | VailDaily.com

On football: Broncos switch out mastermind for whiz-kid

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado

After spending the last few days trying to digest Denver’s hiring of Josh McDaniels, the decision still gnaws at my stomach like a gas-station burrito.

Sure, signing the wunderkind may be appetizing now, but the Broncos will probably end up regretting the choice. Denver owner Pat Bowlen officially switched out The Mastermind for a whiz-kid. The 32-year-old coach looks like he has to show an ID to get into R-rated movies.

McDaniels comes to the Mile High City with lots of promise, but little experience. Now, he is being handed the keys to one of the best franchises in the NFL. Let’s hope he doesn’t flop like the rest of Bill Belichick’s disciples.

Remember when Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini where hot assistant coaches for the Patriots? Crennel (Cleveland) and Mangini (New York Jets) have already been fired from their original gigs, and Weis is in more hot water than a New England lobster at Notre Dame.

To succeed, McDaniels must do something different than his Patriot peers ” win. Bowlen and the players expect victories. The fans demand it, especially after canning a future Hall of Famer in Mike Shanahan for a mini-version of the former Broncos coach.

How young is McDaniels? When Shanahan became Denver’s head coach, McDaniels was 18. During the Super Bowl years, he was in college.

The last two seasons, McDaniels called plays for one of the most-prolific offenses in NFL history as New England’s offensive coordinator. Even after the Patriots set the record for most points in a season on their way to near-perfection in 2007-08, the job McDaniels did this year might be more impressive. That’s because New England turned lifetime backup Matt Cassel into a star after Tom Brady went down.

How much of that is due to Belichick’s genius? Like him or hate him, he’s one heck of a coach.

Offense shouldn’t be the problem with McDaniels. The Broncos are loaded on that side of the ball ” provided they can find a reliable running back ” with Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Ryan Clady, Ryan Harris and Tony Scheffler.

The real chore will be shoring up a defense that is among the league’s worst. Blame Shanahan for that. His continuous gaffes drafting defensive players cost the Broncos games and Shanahan his job.

On Tuesday, McDaniels made it official with Mike Nolan, bringing in the former San Francisco head coach to run the defense. That’s a good start. Nolan served as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator from 2001-04. I’m hoping he’s like Norv Turner ” a better assistant than head coach.

If not, at least he’ll look good on the sidelines wearing his suit.

With McDaniels and Nolan now in the fold, Bowlen needs to find a general manager. Shanahan not only controlled the Broncos game-day decisions, but all the off-the-field stuff, too.

Early indications are Jim Goodman will remain on staff and serve as GM. Goodman will have final say on player personnel and the draft, a responsibility Shanahan never let go until Bowlen showed him the door.

Still, Goodman was among the top Denver officials who let Shanahan waste handfuls of draft picks on defensive players. Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder immediately come to mind for their lack of production. Don’t forgot, Shanahan once chose Ashley Lelie instead of the ball-hawking Ed Reed.

It should be interesting to see what happens with McDaniels and the rest of the changes at Broncos headquarters in Dove Valley. Bowlen is certainly sticking his neck out by hiring the now-youngest head coach in the NFL.

Unfortunately, I predict the coach Bowlen just put through the guillotine will win another Super Bowl before the Broncos do.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or ismith@vaildaily.com.

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