When Super Bowl LII is completed Sunday, Josh McDaniels will get a second chance as an NFL head coach.
It didn’t work out the first time, did it Bronco fans?
McDaniels was plenty smart enough. He could devise an offense and knew how to build a roster. The problem McDaniels had as the Broncos’ head coach from the start of the 2009 season until he was fired with four games remaining in 2010: He was too emotionally volatile.
He was too joyous in victory. Too angry in defeat.
He was seen pumping his fist maniacally after defeating his mentor Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in week 5 of the 2009 season, a win that boosted the Broncos’ record to 5-0 and had McDaniels looking like a boy genius.
Yes, it was huge for McDaniels to beat his former boss and team. But don’t act like it.
He was often demonstrative on the sidelines. He yelled at his offensive linemen, for all the NFL Network audience to hear, in a win against the New York Giants. And he lambasted defensive coordinator Mike Nolan on the headsets as Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning was dissecting the Denver defense for a quick, 21-0 lead in a late-season loss.
McDaniels’ temperamental style, his combativeness, is why he quickly lost his team. The Broncos went from 6-0 to 8-8 and out of the playoffs in 2009. The next year, McDaniels was fired after a 3-9 start.
As he gets ready to become the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, McDaniels said keeping his emotions in check is something he has self-evaluated and addressed.
“It sure is,’’ McDaniels said Thursday in his final pre-game interview as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. “I think you learn this sometimes the hard way. Being able to maintain calm and poise, set a great example for others in that situation is really imperative from that position of leadership. Impulsivity is not a great thing when you’re in that spot. You have to do a good job of keeping a level head, making good decisions.
“There’s going to be adversity every single Sunday in our game. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about: An injury, a call, something didn’t go right. Having enough patience, having confidence and trust in the process you try to put in place, that’s what important.
“Not making fast decisions. Not reacting to the moment. I think I’ve tried to do that as I’ve moved forward, I really do.’’
Nate Solder would agree. The Patriots’ left tackle was playing for the same position for the University of Colorado Buffaloes at a time when McDaniels was coaching the Broncos.
“There was a public perception of him that is totally inaccurate to the person he is,’’ Solder said. “He is a phenomenal coach. He has always put me in the best position to be successful. He’s a phenomenal person. He’s a great family guy, he’s a great person. He’s reached out to my family. He’s been very loving, he’s been very caring.
“The perception I had when he was in Denver and the perception I have now are way different.’’
McDaniels was a Belichick disciple when the Broncos tapped him to be the Broncos’ head coach in 2009. After failing as a head coach, McDaniels returned to run Belichick’s offense in 2012 and this time, he studied as if he got to retake the test.
Grumpy as Belichick’s personality may be during press conferences, he rarely loses his cool while coaching in games. He might chase down an official after a game, but he stays calm on the sidelines, even if all is not well.
“After I left, I came back and now I have a chance to look at him through a little bit of a different perspective, little bit of a different lens,’’ McDaniels said. “Because when you’re sitting there before you do that job, you really don’t know things that go on, what that guy has to do, the hats he has to wear.
“Having an opportunity to do that and then coming back and watching him a second time has been really important for me. And I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s been incredibly gracious with his time with me to try to help me in any way that he could. Not to just in preparation for another opportunity but in general. He’s made me a better coach.’’
McDaniels has stayed calm as the Patriots offensive coordinator – a job he does very well. Of course, having Tom Brady at quarterback will help a coach keep his wits.
If Indy quarterback Andrew Luck can return healthy in 2018, McDaniels will be a far better head coach for the Colts than he was with the Broncos.