Franchise must make significant changes
By Dan Karpiel
As everyone is now aware, the tumultuous Josh McDaniels era came to an abrupt end last Monday. The embattled 34-year-old coach, his hoodie, his 11-17 record and his video camera unceremoniously departed the Dove Valley parking lot in a silver SUV. The Broncos must now move on from the McDaniels era, but how they move forward will be key. They have to learn from the mistakes of the recent past and change the model by which the franchise has operated.
Since purchasing the team in 1984, Pat Bowlen has always given his head coach – Reeves, Shanahan and McDaniels – total control. These men had final say in which free agents were signed, who was drafted and what trades would be made. Such a model is championed by future Hall of Fame Coach and GM Bill Parcells. It was Parcells who, when announcing his resignation as Patriots head coach after the 1996 season because he lacked effective control of player personnel, said “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”
Over the years Parcells had proven to be one of the best bargain shoppers in town as well as a world-class chef. However, a person who can do both well is very rare. Shanahan often forget half the items on his shopping list but was usually able to make a tasty meal with whatever he had lying around his cupboard. McDaniels on the other hand bought ground beef instead of ground chuck, forgot the eggs and milk, burnt the butter and added too much pepper. The Broncos need to find an adept shopper, a great chef, some good sous-chefs and someone who can coordinate and oversee efforts of all
Who best for these positions? Look no further than former-Broncos quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer John Elway. It is well known that there exists mutual interest from both sides for Elway to return to the Broncos as a member of the team’s front office. Recently Elway has been working with the Broncos in a marketing and public-relations capacity and delivered a passionate speech to the players days before Denver blew-out Kansas City 49-29 on November 14.
Elway’s expanded role would be as the public face of the Broncos. Bowlen has withdrawn from public appearances over the last eighteen months and COO Joe Ellis, a businessman and not a football man, was clearly uncomfortable in his press conference last week introducing interim Head Coach Eric Studesville and explaining the decision to terminate McDaniels. In a position such as Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Elway’s role would be that of a big-picture, long-term strategist for all things football. He would weigh in on major decisions and be a voice, but not the only voice, in the room for player personnel decisions. Elway would be part grocery shopper, part restaurant owner and would be atop the Broncos football food chain.
After installing Elway the Broncos would have to find someone with player personnel experience to handle the day-to-day duties of a NFL GM. Current Broncos GM Brian Xanders would be a candidate for this role but his strength is managing the salary cap as he has little experience as a talent evaluator. Current Green Bay Packers Director of Football Operations Reggie McKenzie would be an excellent choice for Broncos GM. McKenzie, a former NFL linebacker, is the right hand man to Packers’ GM Ted Thompson, widely regarded as one of best in the NFL. Xanders could be Denver’s assistant GM, managing the salary cap and taking part in contract negotiations. This duo could work with the Broncos’ chefs (more on them in a second) with McKenzie knowing what ingredients to buy and Xanders finding the best prices.
Elway should then look to Philadelphia Eagles Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg for the Head Chef job. Mornhinweg is a former college quarterback at Montana, played QB for the Denver Dynamite of the Arena League in 1987 and has 16 seasons as a NFL coach under his belt. He has worked for Mike Holmgren and Andy Reid as an assistant and from 2001-02 served as Detroit Lions Head Coach. While Mornhinweg’s stint with the Lions was less than stellar (a 5-27 record) he has been a head coach before and thus would not come in as green as McDaniels.
One benefit of hiring Mornhinweg would be that much of the current crop of Broncos talent would fit well into his offensive scheme. Mornhinweg has coached Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre, Steve Young and Michael Vick, all strong armed QBs who can make plays with their legs. Sound much like a certain QB on the Broncos roster? Here’s a hint: he has the NFL’s best selling jersey. Running back Knowshon Moreno is an all-purpose back with good vision who excels in open space much like Philadelphia’s Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy, both of whom have excelled in Mornhinweg’s offense.
Every good chef will tell you how important his sous-chefs are in running his kitchen, thus the Broncos need to do their research and bring in the big names. If he becomes available, former-Broncos QB and current Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak would be ideal as offensive coordinator. Kubiak has a good relationship with Elway and Bowlen and shares a similar offensive philosophy with Mornhinweg. He was Mike Shanahan’s offensive coordinator during the 1997 and ‘98 Superbowl seasons. In keeping with the idea of bringing home former Broncos, Wade Phillips has been very successful as a NFL defensive coordinator. Phillips coached a forgettable two seasons in Denver in between the Reeves and Shanahan eras but by all indications, remains in good graces of both Elway and Bowlen.
Landing Elway, McKenzie, Mornhinweg, Kubiak and Phillips would be the dream scenario for the Broncos kitchen crew. They would have shoppers, a creative and proven head chef and some very capable sous-chefs. If the Broncos can make this happen, the ladder back to the top of the NFL would be much shorter than it appears at the moment.Print This Post