The presence of Decker, Ayers, Demaryius Thomas, Knowshon Moreno and left guard Zane Beadles — all key cogs in the Broncos’ current success — adds a layer of complexity to the discussion about what, exactly, McDaniels left behind in Denver. Sure, he turned out to be a callow leader, not near ready to guide an NFL franchise. But he didn’t completely whiff on every choice.
“He’s been vilified, but he’s a bright, young coach and you see what he’s done in going back to New England and being their offensive coordinator,” said John Elway, who was brought back to the Broncos to clean up the McDaniels mess. “I don’t know why it didn’t work out, other than the fact he didn’t win enough games.”
But it was more than that.
It was the cheating — the Broncos got caught in an embarrassing videotaping scandal that transpired while they were practicing to play the 49ers in London.
It was the secrecy — he created an environment of mistrust, not only with the media, but with fans, who never felt they were getting the full story. Shortly after firing him, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen sent an apology to ticketholders: “You deserve more from this franchise than what we saw in 2010, and you have my word that I will restore the culture of winning, trust and integrity within the Broncos,” he wrote.
And it was the roster — successes aside, there were also a number of mistakes: the botched handling of Jay Cutler’s ouster. (Not that all Broncos fans disagreed with the move itself.) The out-of-nowhere trade of the popular and effective Peyton Hillis. And, the move that symbolized it all — McDaniels’ decision to run counter to the opinion of every other NFL front office and use a first-round pick on Tebow, and then, just as inexplicably, to leave him wallowing on the bench.