Sunday, October 11, 2009
Updated: October 13, 10:22 AM ET
McDaniels, Broncos mile-high after win
By Gene Wojciechowski
DENVER -- The Josh McDaniels propaganda machine has been exposed. And Hoodie Jr. is the one who blew the cover.
Did you see McDaniels after his Denver Broncos -- the undefeated, AFC West-leading, sticking-it-to-the-Jay Cutler-and-non-believers-of-the-NFL-world Broncos -- won another defibrillator game, this one in overtime against mentor Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots? McDaniels gave not one, but multiple double-fist pumps. And then he almost crushed the rib cage of Broncos wide receiver Eddie Royal with a hug.
"A lot of hugging and screaming and celebrating," Royal said.
Huh? Since when do graduates of Belichick University go vocal? And fist pumps? McDaniels veered from the Belichick handbook on that one.
"Sometimes you're allowed to have fun," McDaniels said. "That's what I was doing."
This wasn't an ordinary win. It was an extraordinary win, against an extraordinary coach and an extraordinary quarterback who are partly, if not largely, responsible for the 33-year-old McDaniels getting the Broncos gig.
McDaniels spent eight formative years in the Patriots organization. Belichick was his teacher. Tom Brady eventually would become his football partner. Yet McDaniels had insisted that Sunday's game against Belichick, against Brady, against the team that gave him his NFL start, was no different than any other. With a straight face he had said, "We're not going to make more of this game than what it is. It's the fifth game of the year."
But after the Broncos' 20-17 victory, those fist pumps and a 5-0 record, McDaniels at last admitted the obvious.
"I lied," he said.
Of course he lied. The man wears a gray hooded sweatshirt just like Belichick usually does (though Belichick went with a blue coat Sunday). He gushes about Brady at every opportunity.
If it didn't matter so much, McDaniels would have never made a beeline for the Patriots' team buses after he was done with his postgame news conference. That's where he found Brady. And if this was just another game, Belichick himself would have never stopped by McDaniels' office to congratulate him on the victory.
"It was a little bit more special to me because I knew how hard it would be to beat them," McDaniels said. He added: "It's a great challenge coaching against Bill and his staff, and playing against that team with all those great players. That's why it's special. It's not special just because I was in New England."
Unlike the great Eric Mangini-Belichick cold-shoulder-fest, it seems the Patriots (and Belichick) still have a soft spot for McDaniels. If not, they deserve acting awards for the way they greeted him at the team buses. Our own Mike Reiss, who covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston.com, had it right when he said Belichick's postgame demeanor was something like "This sucks, but if I'm going to lose, at least it's to this guy."
"This guy" is 5-0. This guy has survived the Jay Cutler-Kyle Orton mushroom cloud, the standoff with Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall and a suspicious fan base unsure what to make of Coach McKid.
Now they love him. And he loves them back. The fact that Win No. 5 came against Belichick only makes it better.
"I was really happy," McDaniels said. "[Belichick] would have been really happy had they won. He taught me a lot. I owe him a tremendous amount of my success, and I'll be indebted to him. A great friend. A great teacher of mine. A great admiration for him. And I don't think he would have expected anything less for me to compete against him."
Absolutely no one predicted the Broncos would be unbeaten on Oct. 12. Remember way back when? Cutler had been traded to the Chicago Bears. Marshall wanted out. Orton ripped up a finger.
But then came the miracle win against the Cincinnati Bengals, followed by victories against the monumentally awful Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders, followed by a last-second defensive stand to beat the Dallas Cowboys, followed by the comeback win against New England.
"Thank you, Jesus!" yelled Broncos linebacker Mario Haggan as he half-danced into the Denver locker room. "We weren't supposed to win four [games] all year!"
The Broncos were aware of the Belichick-McDaniels backstory. Even though McDaniels downplayed the reunion angle, the players weren't buying it.
"Deep down, we knew," Royal said.
"I'm pretty sure it meant a lot to him," said Broncos safety Brian Dawkins. "To know that he came from there, a lot of his friends are still there and some of the people he coached with are still there. I know this is huge for him. We went out to win this game -- and we had to win it, first of all, for ourselves -- but you best believe we wanted to send him off with a victory."
McDaniels doesn't do stoic as well as Belichick. He tried, but he couldn't help himself. Denver defensive end Vonnie Holliday said McDaniels "was running all over the locker room.
"This is a new breed of coaching," Holliday said. "It's an evolution in the whole coaching world. These guys are younger, fired up and show emotions. It's not that old-school mentality any more."
Old-school? Belichick has whistles older than McDaniels. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, consider McDaniels a Belichick copycat. Twenty minutes after the game he was already putting a sock in the 5-0 giddiness.
"Five wins won't get us anything," he said.
It gets you one thing: everyone's attention, including Belichick's.
|Denver coach Josh McDaniels subscribes to a lot of Bill Belichick philosophies, but he's less stoic.|
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.