Where did Josh McDaniels' 6-0 Denver Broncos go?
The went down to Miami. They were Mike Nolan.
Anyone who was paying attention to the Denver Broncos back at the beginning of the 2009 season could see that their surprising winning ways were owed to the defense. Mike Nolan had turned them from the second-worst unit of the decade into a top-five unit in the NFL.
The offense at the time was mediocre at best, and aside from Brandon Marshall, it probably would have been a disaster.
Slowly, it improved, and this season the offense has consistently moved up while the defense has steadily plummeted. Some attribute that to key injuries to players like Elvis Dumervil and Brian Dawkins (as well as virtually everyone else at one point or another), but most experts attribute it to the fact that Josh McDaniels and "Wink" Martindale were/are unqualified.
Dismal defense has been a six-year long theme in Denver now, as the revolving door on coordinators surely won't stop at the end of this year.
Overly excitable fans have been speculating on who the next head coach in Denver will be, even though Pat Bowlen and the front office have made it clear they are first focusing on fixing the operations side (see bringing in John Elway as the new VP of football operations).
Make no mistake, following the Josh McDaniels disaster, Pat Bowlen has learned that his coach needs to be separated from personnel matters, and he has finally realized its time to bring in a defensive guru. He also knows he is going to be on a small time coaching budget, as in 2011 he will be paying three head coaches (Mike Shanahan, Josh McDaniels and the new guy).
Fans can quit thinking about Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden. That isn't going to happen. They cost too much money and will want personnel control.
While the Broncos still have to figure out what to do about a general manager (rumors have Brian Xanders sticking around which is a mistake) they should look at bringing back Ted Sundquist. He brought the team players that were distinctly Denver, and was shockingly fired after 2007 for what can now be seen as Mike Shanahan's mistakes.
Ted Sundquist would be the perfect first step.
But as far as a head coach is concerned, it seems clear that Mike Nolan stands far above the rest.
He has head coaching experience, and many NFL guys don't become successful in that spot until their second time around.
He has the defensive knowledge that the front office covets. And even better (something I think puts him above other candidates) he knows the Broncos current personnel.
That's really a good thing too, because he is one of the few candidates who would be willing to accept having a limited say in personnel matters. That is going to be essential.
Mike Nolan will be affordable (for now). Simply put he won't command the type of money that Gruden, Cowher or even Leslie Frazier would (which by the way, Minnesota isn't letting Frazier go). He has the recent experience with the team and defensive expertise that a guy like Gary Kubiak doesn't.
And ultimately he was liked by the team while he was around. Until Josh McDaniels crossed the line into tinkering with Nolan's defense last year, it looked like Nolan wouldn't be leaving Denver for a long time.
Now the Broncos have a perfect opportunity to bring him back.
A John Elway, Ted Sundquist, Mike Nolan trio has a strong, natural feel to it in Denver. The franchise wouldn't be reaching to be something different as it did when Pat Bowlen hired Josh McDaniels.
Yet it would be bringing in a crew with a history of success. In short, such a squad is a highly practical Denver dream team.
The last time the Broncos had a solid defense they finished a season above .500. They even went to the playoffs.
That seems like ancient history, but its worth remembering how they got their success.