Wednesday, October 7, 2009
With wins come respect for McDaniels
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's doubtful that any NFL head coach has endured more tumult before even coaching a game than Josh McDaniels. But with McDaniels' Broncos off to a 4-0 start, few are questioning him now.
What a difference a few months make.
Now players like perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey are joining others in praising McDaniels' turnaround effort.
"Just being under Josh McDaniels for a few months now, he's a guy that is going to have you as prepared as you can be for a game, and that's something that throughout my 11 years I haven't had a lot of," Bailey said Wednesday. "I've had some great coaches, including [Mike] Shanahan, but [McDaniels] is definitely one of a kind in the way that he approaches the game."
Bailey believes part of what has helped revive the Broncos is personnel decisions made by McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders, who made a significant free-agent overhaul, similar to what the Patriots did in 2001.
"We got rid of a lot of bad apples, and we brought in a lot of good ones," Bailey said.
On the field, the Broncos are tied for first in the NFL in turnover differential (plus-7) and they've allowed the fewest points in the league (26 in four games), although critics point out they've had a pretty soft schedule, with home wins over the Browns and Cowboys and road victories over the Bengals and Raiders.
In preparing to face the Broncos, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said one area of concern is how effective Denver has been in getting opponents into long-yardage situations, which has helped them post a league-high 15 sacks. Belichick said the Broncos "are playing as well as anybody in the league."
That is, in part, a credit to McDaniels, who weathered early storms with the trade of quarterback Jay Cutler and the disruption created by the formerly disgruntled receiver Brandon Marshall.
Another breakthrough moment came after Sunday's 17-10 win over the Cowboys, when Marshall hugged McDaniels at the interview podium. That seemed to reflect a growing trust that Marshall has in McDaniels, something that has spread throughout the team.
"One thing about football is you've got to buy in right away or else you're not going to win early," Bailey said. "I think a lot of guys are really buying in now, and as the season goes on, the more trust you gain. Winning definitely helps all of that, so obviously our confidence is pretty good right now in what he'd done to this point and what we can do on the field. I think every week everybody trusts each other more and more."