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News » McDaniels not afraid to make tough decisions 2009-04-04

McDaniels not afraid to make tough decisions 2009-04-04

McDaniels not afraid to make tough decisions 2009-04-04
DENVER - When Josh McDaniels is asked about his age — and when you're still far closer to life's 30-year barrier than you are to the big 4-0, people are going to ask you about your age — he will say it's about "the quality of the years, not the quantity."

And when the Broncos' brass, including owner Pat Bowlen, asked McDaniels just over three months ago if he, at 32, was ready to be the team's newest head coach, McDaniels told them he had enough quality years in to be ready to make decisions.

Tough decisions.

OK, now he's made one. A tough, controversial, uncharted, almost historic decision.

For at this moment, McDaniels, who will turn 33 on April 22, is a head coach still waiting to be the bottom line on the sideline for the first time and has now traded a quarterback who threw for 4,526 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl this past season.

And done it in the interest of winning.

"It's a production business, it's all about winning," McDaniels said. "... There's tough decisions to make and there's some easy ones, but there are some more difficult decisions you have to make on a daily basis. And if you're afraid to make those decisions, then you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't be in this line of work.

"We're looking forward to moving on with our team and we're excited.''

Well then, welcome to the high wire.

Because the relationship between winning coaches and their quarterbacks should never be underestimated and is unquestioned. One does not often happen without the other even if few coaches would like to admit it.

Before Mike Shanahan was fired by the Broncos after his third consecutive playoff miss, he took plenty of heat from both near and far about not having played in, let alone won, another Super Bowl without John Elway at quarterback.

True enough. And a tidy little factoid at that.

Thing is, Shanahan had plenty of well-appointed company in that regard.


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As in:

Super Bowl wins for Chuck Noll without Terry Bradshaw: 0.

Super Bowl wins for George Seifert without Steve Young or Joe Montana: 0.

Super Bowl wins for Jimmy Johnson without Troy Aikman: 0.

Super Bowl wins for Tom Landry without Roger Staubach: 0.

Championships for Paul Brown without Otto Graham: 0.

Super Bowl wins for Tony Dungy without Peyton Manning: 0.

And, yes, in the case of McDaniels' coaching lineage ... Super Bowl wins for Bill Belichick without Tom Brady: 0.

So, safe to say, even the best under the headset need somebody well down the road from pretty good in the huddle.

Jay Cutler is a quarterback going into his fourth season with a 19-20 record as a starter.

The jury remains out on what he will be when all is said and done. But he did just throw for those 4,526 yards — the 17th highest single-season total all time — did just go to the Pro Bowl and did just do both of those things for a team that finished the season with seven running backs on injured reserve and one of the worst defenses in the franchise's history.

So McDaniels has certainly taken a risk, a major one, in moving a quarterback with that kind of arm who is still on the upside of the career bell curve. And the one statistic lost in the he-said, he-said wash over the last few weeks is that Cutler was also adept enough in the pocket to have been sacked just 11 times in 616 pass attempts — or just one once every 56 pass attempts.

With no running game. With no offensive lineman in front of him having been named to the Pro Bowl before center Casey Wiegmann was named as an injury replacement.

"The way I feel about quarterbacks is your job is to score touchdowns and win games," McDaniels said. "Jay Cutler is capable of doing that. There's a lot of quarterbacks that are capable of doing that. He's very talented, obviously he's got a strong arm, very accurate, done a lot of things so far in this league. So, yeah, he's a good player."

Right now the Broncos are in the hands of either Kyle Orton or Chris Simms. Simms has thrown just two passes since suffering a serious spleen injury in 2006, and Orton was not given a long-term contract by the Bears after this past season despite a 21-12 record as their starter.

Football people will say Orton has an above average NFL-caliber arm — scouts like his arm strength far more than fans it would seem — and that he makes good decisions, is tough and not afraid to lead. His mobility is the question, so he's going to take some hits and not going to routinely get himself out of trouble to make a play down the field.

For his part, Simms likely has a better chance to win the job than many might believe since recapturing his own arm strength from his work with Titans strength coach Steve Watterson last season to improve the range of motion in his throwing shoulder. The Titans discovered Simms had altered his delivery — dropping the ball down, losing both velocity and accuracy — because he had lost flexibility in the joint over the years.

But by the time the 2008 season had ended and after plenty of work in the team's weight room, he had that flexibility back and plenty of zip on the ball.

Still, neither has a Pro Bowl season, neither has thrown for 4,000 yards in a football year.

But both want to be in Denver and the Broncos want both of them there. And that seems to be enough for McDaniels right now, no matter the risk.

"(Orton) is going to come in and compete and play quarterback and that's it,'' McDaniels said. "That's one of the first things he told me: 'Coach, I just want an opportunity to come in and compete and help us win.' That's it, that's the attitude I'd love for every player to have and he certainly has it and it won't bother him one bit to be competing for anything.

"And it's not going to bother Chris either. They're both going to be out there competing and we'll see where it goes.''

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 4, 2009

Reggie Wayne Name: Reggie Wayne
Position: WR
Age: 29
Experience: 8 years
College: Miami (FL)
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