Wanted to offer my thoughts on Josh McDaniels’ comments from the scouting combine. I wasn’t there, and all of the comments come from the video of his press conference on the Broncos’ official site. Here’s were my views on some of his statements:
Scheffler and Marshall: Let’s go through the big stuff first, which was the main comments surrounding Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler, who each are restricted free agents and finished last season on a well-publicized sour note. McDaniels had the same tone he has had all offseason, that no decision has been made on either player and he won’t rule out either coming back.
“They played an important role on our team this year and I don’t see why that has to change,” McDaniels said.
McDaniels said general manager Brian Xanders has been in touch with the agents of Marshall and Scheffler. McDaniels did say he exchanged messages with all of Denver’s Pro Bowl players, including Marshall.
“He’s a very good football player, there’s no question about it, and we had a great season this year in terms of his production,” McDaniels said. “A Pro Bowl year. He had a great year. I think anytime you’re dealing with players and contracts, you weigh a lot of things. Certainly the fact that we did it once certainly makes you believe you can do it again and again and again. I’m really fond of him, he’s a good person and he played a huge role on our team.”
Knowing how poorly the 2009 season ended, with both players being deactivated for the season finale, it seemed they would be traded. I’m not sure if McDaniels is protecting the Broncos’ leverage in trade talks by maintaining they could return, if he is paving the way if they have to return, or if he legitimately feels they could come back.
My thought is both players will be traded, but we’ll learn a lot based on the free-agent tenders they receive this week. As I’ve said in Marshall’s situation, I think the most likely scenario for his return is if the Broncos can’t find a trading partner willing to part with whatever price the Broncos find fair. And with the labor situation up in the air, that’s certainly possible. No team is going to invest those draft picks into trading for Marshall and not give him a new contract he covets, and it will be tough for a team to commit millions up front to Marshall with the fear of a work stoppage in 2011.
And McDaniels’ words ring true in this aspect – Marshall was an enormous part of the offense. His last eight games, he caught 68 passes. The Broncos can’t give him away.
New boss: Plenty of people wonder about McDaniels’ coaching style, which appears quite authoritarian to some. So it certainly is interesting that he talked to players – he mentioned Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, D.J. Williams and Elvis Dumervil by name – to get their feelings on hiring Don “Wink” Martindale as the team’s new defensive coordinator.
“We didn’t make any decisions based on that, but always the input from your players is something you consider and weigh heavily,” McDaniels said. “Their input matters to us and what they think about a coach’s ability in their room is critical.”
I don’t always think it’s the best decision to ask players their views on hires/signings, etc. In this case it seems like a good idea. Their insights helped McDaniels make a decision.
“Some of which I knew, some of which I didn’t,” McDaniels said.
Reaching out for that input and listening to the players can’t hurt when it comes to how he is thought of in the locker room.
What will be difficult is for Martindale to duplicate what Mike Nolan did last year. McDaniels didn’t shed much light on why Nolan left the Broncos for the Dolphins, but said he expected another improvement on defense.
“Mike did a great job,” McDaniels said. “The improvement we made defensively was pretty remarkable. No regrets on that. It was a mutual decision by both parties and I wish him nothing but the best in Miami and know he’ll do a great job there. I have great confidence Wink Martindale will do a phenomenal job with our defense. We expect to get better and improve on last year’s performance.”
Running backs: Never too early to think about fantasy football, right? Well, anyone who owns Knowshon Moreno in a dynasty league can’t be happy to hear that McDaniels has no inclination to go away from the timeshare at tailback. He said he thought Correll Buckhalter or Moreno could handle a majority of the load, but just doesn’t want to lean heavily on either.
“That’s something we’ll always be interested in,” McDaniels said about using multiple backs. “If there’s another player we can put into the mix and share carries, we’ll never be averse to that.”
This shouldn’t be a huge surprise, considering New England used many backs when McDaniels ran the offense. And, if Moreno turns into a star as a sophomore, it might be impossible for McDaniels to limit his carries.
Quarterbacks: McDaniels was complimentary of Kyle Orton, saying he has had only one year in the system and should continue to improve. He also had nice things to say about Tom Brandstater, a sixth-round pick last year who looked good late in the preseason. McDaniels said he had “high hopes” for Brandstater.
“Hopefully he has the opportunity to progress this spring,” McDaniels said.
Still, McDaniels repeated something he said after the season, that the team couldn’t rule out adding a quarterback.
“If there’s another player we felt like we could push and make that group better, we wouldn’t turn our shoulder away from him,” McDaniels said.
The Broncos could draft another young quarterback, and perhaps look at veterans in free agency. Chris Simms had a shaky 2009 season when he got a chance.
Looking forward: Like most Broncos fans, McDaniels still sounded disappointed about last season. The Broncos started 6-0, then went 2-8 and missed the playoffs.
“Obviously we started the way we wanted to, certainly didn’t finish anywhere near what we had expectations for when we were 6-0 or 8-4,” McDaniels said. “The thing we’re feeling now is evaluating the things we didn’t do well as the season progressed and making sure those same things don’t repeat themselves next year. If we have an opportunity to start well and get out in front of people in our division and conference, we have to have the ability to stay out front, and we didn’t do that. There’s a bad taste in our mouths because of that.”
McDaniels talked about hopefully not having so many distractions in 2010 – which might be unavoidable with so many hot-button topics this offseason – but he sounded optimistic about next season.
“It was definitely an interesting year to say the least,” McDaniels said. “Very excited about 2010. Our building and everything around our building is moving forward.”
One of the positive things about McDaniels is his exuberance, and that could help this offseason. Nobody with the Broncos should be happy about how last season ended, but it wouldn’t be any better if the coach was already talking about rebuilding. McDaniels doesn’t seem like the type of coach that would ever concede that.