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Published on 01/24/2012 at Tue Jan 24 08:56.
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Former head coach of the Denver Broncos Josh McDaniels talks with Tim Tebow #15 during a team training session at The Brit Oval on October 29, 2010 in London, England. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images Europe)

Former head coach of the Denver Broncos Josh McDaniels talks with Tim Tebow #15 during a team training session at The Brit Oval on October 29, 2010 in London, England. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images Europe)

Over a year ago, Broncos fans celebrated like they were liberated from a maniacal dictator when Pat Bowlen relieved Josh McDaniels of his coaching duties with the Denver Broncos.  The dark ages had finally ended, and though everyone knew the sun would rise again albeit at a very slow pace.

Then came the 2011 season.

In a year where the Broncos were expected to win no more than five or six games, the team finished 8-8 in the regular season, won the AFC West and advanced to the divisional round before being blown out by the New England Patriots 45-10 in Foxboro.

Take a look at the wild card win over the Steelers.  The two players who made the play of the game? Quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Demaryius ThomasJosh McDaniels’ final two first round draft picks.

Yes, THAT Josh McDaniels.

Throw in the potential Eric Decker has also shown, and the Broncos offense is suddenly set at receiver.

In a season where the Broncos shocked the world, credit now needs to be given where credit is due as much as it hurts to say:

Josh McDaniels seemingly has laid a solid foundation for the Broncos, one he for better or worse won’t get to see grow unless he’s on the opposing sideline.    Despite multiple other boneheaded personnel moves, McDaniels made the picks in 2010 that may have started righting the ship despite a change in its skipper.

It all starts with Tebow.  When McDaniels traded back into the first round in 2010 to claim Tebow, many people including some Tebow supporters thought he was crazy.  Most experts thought Tebow needed a lot of work and was not going to be the immediate contributor first round picks usually are and that it was going to be a tough go for Tebow to succeed as an NFL quarterback.

While they were partially right as Tebow didn’t see action until after McDaniels was fired, the rest of it turned out to be wrong.  Though he is by no means the most mechanically sound passer in the NFL, Tebow’s  raw athletic ability as well as his fire and leadership pushed the Broncos to an unexpected AFC West crown this year along with a reborn defense under Miller.

The drafting of Thomas is a little sketchier.  The Broncos had just sent Marshall to the Miami Dolphins and Brandon Lloyd was about to have a breakout season.  Throw in the injuries that plagued Thomas through most of 2010 and this pick was beginning to look like a bust only one year in.

2011 started out as more of the same for Thomas. Injuries continued to slow his progress down.  As the Broncos got hot, so did Thomas.  He finished 2011 with 551 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games.  The most memorable play of the season for Thomas of course came in the wild card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers as Tebow hit Thomas in the middle of the field and after one textbook stiff arm, Thomas was off to the races and the Broncos were off to Foxboro where their season eventually ended.

A McDaniels pick threw to another McDaniels pick.  After leaving town as one of the most reviled coaches in NFL history, this was unbelievable.

Please note that this is not a McDaniels apologist writing this article.  Far from it.  While he may have had the offense on track, the defense was atrocious.  With drafting of Von Miller this year by John Elway and Brian Xanders combined with the steady hand of head coach John Fox, some pride was finally restored to a Broncos defense that had been getting eaten alive practically since the early 2000s.

Instead, the legacy of McDaniels’ time in Denver may evolve over time.  Right now, he’s remembered as the guy who ran Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Peyton Hillis amongst others out of town.  He’s also the guy who allegedly condoned videotaping of the 49ers who didn’t report his employee’s illegal videotaping of the 49ers leading up to a game in London.  He took a proud franchise and dragged it through the mud before the franchise reclaimed itself and kicked McDaniels out the door.

He deserved to be fired.  Had he not, who knows where the Broncos would be?  Many think a Tebow/McDaniels team would have made beautiful music, but would McDaniels have gotten the team to play as hard as it did for Fox this year? Highly unlikely.

However, if Tebow and Thomas continue to get better and can make the Broncos perennial contenders then maybe the McDaniels legacy can be polished a little bit.  Not enough to remove the mud acquired from his time in Denver, but at least the dirt won’t be as thick.

Regardless of where you stand, it’s fun debate to have.  Broncos country can be very thankful for the team it has in place right now and for the magical season that recently came to an end.  Still, fans may soon be wondering if McDaniels really was as bad as they thought.

He still stunk up the joint but maybe the odor wasn’t as pungent upon further review.

  • areferee

    “Over a year ago, Broncos fans celebrated like they were liberated from a maniacal dictator when Pat Bowlen relieved Josh McDaniels of his coaching duties with the Denver Broncos”…

    HEY!  Even maniacal dictators have their redeeming qualities.  Take Stalin, Hitler and Hussein for instance…

    Yeah, no… NEVER MIND!

  • Djdjd

    This is a really poorly written article. Thanks for the basic review of what has happened in the past year.

    Way to stink up BT.

  • Anonymous

    I strongly disagree, he traded away a top 10 QB in Cutler who was the best QB we’ve had since Elway and basically got no value back for him. His first draft were all busts. He traded The Beast away because he couldn’t get along with him, while yes he had his issues, who doesn’t? Without trading those players no need to draft Tebow and Thomas. I love Thomas, may even be better than Marshall in the long run but Tebow will never be a “QB” on Cutler’s level. The best thing McDumbass did for us was blow last season so we could draft Miller. 

    That’s just my quick reaction, might have more to add later.

  • dbroncs24/7

    In what twisted world is Mr. interception Cutler a top 10 qb?? I have to admit that I thought and prayed he would be but in just under 5 full seasons he’s thrown 86 picks, has a 41-37 record, and never has a career qb rating of 84.5. Nothing about that says top 10 qb 

  • dbroncs24/7

    **and has a career qb rating

  • Anonymous

    Since being in CHI he hasn’t had a decent WR to throw or any protection. Name the 10 QBs that are better in particular order:

    Rivers, Big Ben, Brady, P Manning, Brees, E Manning, Rodgers

    I came up with 7, if you want to argue Romo or Schaub I’d listen. But that still brings us to 9.

  • flbronc

    when we traded him he was top 10 the previous year in yardage (3rd), yds per att (10th), td’s (7th), fewest sacks (2nd).  those aren’t bad.

    he was 16th in rating though, and had the second most interceptions.  however, by definition he could be classified as a top 10 qb in 08.  depends on how you look at it.

  • dbroncs24/7

    Matt Ryan is number 10 that is better, and if you go on the past two years Cutler isn’t close. It’s not 08 anymore

  • dbroncs24/7

    I think interceptions is one of the most important stats and he averages about 17 per year and is especially bad in the red zone. And the most important stat is wining and the fact is he’s had one winning season.

  • dbroncs24/7

    Not to mention 50 fumbles (10 a year)

  • Peter P

    He deserved to be fired.  Had he not, who knows where the Broncos would be?  Many think a Tebow/McDaniels team would have made beautiful music, but would McDaniels have gotten the team to play as hard as it did for Fox this year?

    No they would not. Mcdummy wanted Tim so he could run a spread offence like he had in NE. Tim was never gonna be Brady. He picked Tim for all the wrong reasons… great reading defences, accurate arm, quick relese and so on.

  • Kris Burke

    Thanks for that. ‘preciate it. :)

  • flbronc

    lemme know where you’re blog is posted and i’ll be sure to check it out.

  • flbronc

    i’m not a huge cutler fan at all.  in fact glad to be rid of his smug attitude.  all i am saying is that he was top 10 in several categories when he was traded.  i just looked up passing stats, i forgot about the fumbles.  he sucked in that dept.

  • Dakota Fan

    First of all, you’ve got a special find if you have someone who gets drafted and makes an IMMEDIATE impact. Sure, the Andy Daltons and the Von Millers of the world are there, but they’re a rarity. I don’t have (much of) a problem with McDaniels’ draft picks or personnel decisions, including dumping that crybaby Cutler. I don’t know Jay Cutler personally, but the public persona indicates he’s a real horse’s ass.

    The thing being missed out of this whole issue is the attitude change that has come in the front office and in the coach’s room with Elway and Fox. Fox hasn’t won a Super Bowl, but it appears to me that he knows how to motivate his guys, stay positive and treat the fans with respect. McDumbass was just like his mentor whom he’ll probably never leave again: keep it secret, it’s none of your damn business and the hell with you if you don’t like it. Beleichik can be that way, winning 3 Super Bowls with a possible 4th on the way, but McD’s leftovers made me (briefly) rethink my loyalty. For that, i’ll never admit anything good came from him during his time here.

    An 8-8 record, a playoff berth and a first round win doesn’t sound like much, but for Fox and Elway to get what they got out of the hand that was basically dealt them, this team is so much better off.  

  • http://ehalseymiles.com E. Halsey Miles

    Yeah, no. Even a blind clown throwing darts at a dartboard is bound to hit the board once in awhile. And not everything McD did had to be bad in order to make him a bad head coach.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SLK4DTKKWEXGSFO2IX6G222J4M King

    I agree.  Cutler has no further upside.  I will say that he is better than Orton, but not by much.  Both are injury prone.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s not forget that it was McDaniels, the all-knowing, that put DT on kick return duties that got him injured within 5 kickoffs. Add that to the fact that McD traded away our 2nd best offense in 2008 and had a WHOLE DRAFT bust in 2009, squandering picks left and right to trade up for duds. He also drove Mike Nolan out of town after treating his assistant coaches like JV clipboard holders.

    There is no saving grace for McD here in Denver. He set us back 3 years in 1.5 years time. We’re moving on now.

  • Anonymous

    The underlying theme of this post is flawed.  It assumes that Tebow is actually good and/or a legitimate replacement for Cutler. 

    McD is the biggest “villan” in the history of the franchise.  Including Al Davis. 

  • Anonymous

    Tebow fumbled 13 times this season…

  • Anonymous

    lol 

  • Anonymous

    Odd, I always looked at Al Davis like a hero. He ensured we won two SB’s and also that his team didn’t compete against us for the division title.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, he was kind of a joke the last fifteen years or so.  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SLK4DTKKWEXGSFO2IX6G222J4M King

    That’s not BT that’s stinkin’.  It’s yo’ bad breff.

  • dbroncs24/7

    ….he also scored the same amount of rushing tds that Cutler has in his career

  • Anonymous

    We were 16th in points scored in 2008 bud. 2nd was only in total yardage

  • MeOMy

    I will concede the point that McD drafted 2 players in the first round that could potential be the face of the offence for many years to come. My problem with the draft picks is neither one should have been a first round draft pick. First round draft picks should be expected to compete day 1 for a starting position. While it’s good we have them we could have gotten more for the picks.

  • MeOMy

    We are right where we were 3 years ago, 8-8 at the end of the regular season. We just made the post season because SD was worse than they were 3 years ago. I will concede that maybe we are a little ahead only because things seem more promissing than they did 3 years ago.

  • Anonymous

    In other words he would have traded Elway.

  • Anonymous

    But those were all Orlando Franklin’s fault.

  • Anonymous

    McD drafted to show how clever he was.

  • Deborah

    Cutler will have to buy a ticket to go to a Super Bowl.  On McDipshit, even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Making a couple of good picks, (in itself debatable) does not redeem him.

  • MileHighBadGuy

    Who is this clown that wrote this? If your recall in your own story we had Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. Who cares who McDumbass drafted. He was only able to draft them with the picks we got for trading Cutler. The Broncos had a good Offense, but like you did get right our defense has sucked for years. Had we not traded away our two best players we could have used those picks on defensive players instead of tebow or thomas. I personally am a broncos fan and have been for 30 years and I can tell you id rather still have cutler and marshall then tebow and thomas. McDumbass traded away our offense and then used draft picks to rebuild it so really what in the hell did he do? If you want to write about the broncos get if right otherwise go kiss the Pats ass.

  • Guest

    Great.  Dan Marino has how many rushing TD’s again? 

  • Anonymous

    Yes because Franklin knocked the ball out of Tebow’s hands

  • Anonymous

    Yes because Franklin knocked the ball out of Tebow’s hands

  • DLMyers

    No Kris, the stench is still here because #42, #74, and #114 positions were given away to get back into the first round at #25.
    Josh was just in love, which goes to prove that the HC should not be the decision maker in FA and draft. Yes he should have input but not the final say. Brian Xanders is that man for the Broncos.