Denver Fans Are Hoping For a Legacy With McDaniels

Jeff PetersContributor IAugust 16, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 14:  Head coach Josh McDaniels of the Denver Broncos looks on against the San Francisco 49ers during the preseason game on August 14, 2009 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

This week's news in Bronco-land centers around three bad passes thrown by Kyle Orton, passes that head coach Josh McDaniels admits were, "three throws that I've seen him make every day in practice.  Kyle is a good player."  

It's no shock that McDaniels would stick up for his quarterback this early in the preseason, especially with all of the controversy surrounding the position.  But the question must be asked: is this just another case of a head coach trying to calm the media hype, or does he really see something special in Kyle Orton?

Flashback to week seven of the 2008 season.  Broncos fans may have purged their memory of this debacle, but let me refresh it.  It was a Monday night at New England.  As a Broncos fan who lives very far away from Denver, I've been in the unfortunate position of trying to see my team at away games on the east coast.  I've witnessed far too many losses, including the mess at New England.

At the time, I wasn't aware I was watching the current and future head coaches of the Broncos on the same field.  But what I did start to realize was that Josh McDaniels had transformed Matt Cassel from a career-backup quarterback into a viable threat who was worthy of starting in the NFL.

Statistics speak louder than words.  Going into their Monday night blowout of the Broncos, Cassel had put up a meager 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in 5 games.  That night he put up 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, albeit against a weak defense with an injured Champ Bailey.

Following his spark against Denver, Matt Cassel continued a high level of play by leading the Patriots to a 7-3 win/loss record, including 15 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions.  The Patriots narrowly missed the playoffs and finished with a formidable 11-5 record.  Not bad for the equivalent of a rookie at quarterback.

It would have been easy for the Patriots to make excuses and lose several games after Tom Brady went down in the season opener.  But Josh McDaniels saw something in Matt Cassel and helped him become a better player.  Couple this with a good defense, and suddenly the Patriots no longer needed a Hall-of-Fame quaterback to win games.  

It would not be surprising if all of this was a major factor in Pat Bowlen's decision to hire Josh McDaniels as head coach of the Broncos.  Bowlen and the fans can only hope that Matt Cassel's New England performance was not a fluke, but instead a product of excellent coaching by Josh McDaniels. 

Now fast forward to the present, still amidst all of the chaos surrounding the Broncos and their most important position.  Three bad passes aren't helping to ease the craziness. 

Maybe it would have been much easier for McDaniels to have a more naturally talented quarterback like Jay Cutler to work with.  We are all left to wonder what would have been if Jay hadn't been so offended by the fact that the NFL is a business where players can be traded.  Instead, Josh McDaniels finds himself in a familiar position of having to take a quarterback, or perhaps two, and make them better players.  Does he see something in Orton?  Does he see something in Simms?

Broncos fans should certainly be hoping that a great player can emerge from the status-quo and help to build the McDaniels legacy.  

Will Pat Bowlen's risky decisions pay off?  Let's at least wait until midseason. Historically speaking, that's when we might see the fruits of Josh's labor.