Monday, October 25, 2010

Josh McDaniels: the 2010 version of Lou Saban

In watching the Denver Broncos this year in my 42nd year of owning season tickets I've had a strange sense of deja vu. Today it hit me - Josh McDaniels was the 2010 version of Lou Saban!

Saban was the Broncos head coach from 1967 to 1971. Both were known for:

Poor drafting

Saban drafted infamous players like cornerback Grady Cavness, a 2nd rounder who never panned out. Josh McDaniels, despite a boatload of early round picks, made a number of questionable draft selections (Richard Quinn, Knowshon Moreno with pick #12, Alphonso Smith, and more).

Draft pick giveaway

Both Saban and McDaniels didn't seem to value draft picks and didn't hesitate to trade them away. Saban's worst trade was two number ones for quarterback Steve Tensi. McDaniels worst move was a future #1 for a 2nd rounder so he could draft cornerback Alphonso Smith. McDaniels also had a habit of trading picks away to move up in the draft to make questionable selections.

Sideline demeanor

Saban and McDaniels were known for their sideline blowups. Saban "fired" star Floyd Little in one game. McDaniels famous "just win the ***** game" comment on national TV last Thanksgiving was the talk of the NFL, and this season he chewed out Richard Quinn in the opener in front of teammates.

Unrecognized talent

Both Saban and McDaniels didn't use the talent already on the roster. Saban tried to convert Curly Culp to the offensive line, gave up on Culp, and dealt him to Kansas City where Culp became an all pro. Saban also gave up on Marlin Briscoe, his best quarterback. Briscoe later switched positions to wide receiver and made the pro bowl with Miami. McDaniels worst blunder was dealing running back Peyton Hillis, who is now starring with the Cleveland Browns. I won't even mention the Cutler trade.

Trading draft picks for old vets

Both Saban and McDaniels wasted draft picks, trading them for short term veteran nfl help. Saban once traded a #2 pick for San Diego running back Dickie Post. McDaniels made trades with New England for questionable veteran talent, like LeKevin Smith (later waived) and Lawrence Maroney.

Saban was not all bad, and there were also positives to the McDaniels regime. The Broncos were a minor league operation before Saban arrived. I remember going to games as a kid in the mid 60's and seeing the Broncos practice field in the parking lot of the old Bears Stadium. Saban changed all that. He established Bronco offices and a practice field on north I-25, separate from the stadium. These facilities pale in comparison to present day Dove Valley, but they were a big upgrade from the shoestring budget Bronco operation before that. Saban did draft "the franchise" Floyd Little #1, and had some big wins in his Denver tenure (including home wins in back to back years of the defending Super Bowl Champion). Josh McDaniels brought his quarterback coaching skills to the Broncos, and he has worked wonders with previous journeyman Kyle Orton. McDaniels also got the most out of wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.

When the Broncos fired Lou Saban they eventually replaced him with John Ralston (after interim coach Jerry Smith). Ralston was a terrific judge of talent and drafter, who stocked the team with players that eventually contributed to the 1977 Super Bowl team. The 2010 Broncos need the same thing - a solid GM who can make better draft picks and trades than McDaniels. Here's hoping that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen hires a strong GM first, and then let the GM pick the coach.

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