Dealing with the McDaniels debacle

Hey, folks. It’s been a very wild ride, this past day. I  sincerely hope that you’re weathering it well. Keep in mind that the consciousness of others - or the lack thereof - is not your responsibility. You won’t change the mind of the more hostile members of the fanbase. Long ago, it was written that against ignorance (other sources use stupidity, and there is disagreement on who said it first), the gods themselves contend in vain. It’s as true as it was then. Don’t bother - it just gives you heartburn. 

As you know, I believe that up until now there's been entirely too much rush to judgement on Coach McDaniels. From the time that he was hired, a large segment of the fan base that has tended to dump responsibility on him for the problems left by a former coach/GM:  he inherited a team that lacked talent, system, attitude and any rational plans to improve it for the future. Every move that he made was somehow a violation of something - much of it I can’t even fathom, much less explain. 

However - when informed of the issue that came up regarding illegal taping of the 49ers' practice in London, the Broncos front office had the good sense and proper attitude to discuss the best way to handle the situation and moved quickly to report the incident to the league. I was very glad to have learned that. It took the league office little time at all to find Coach McDaniels - and his director of video operations, Steve Scarnecchia - guilty of violating league rules and to issue fines. Given the fact that similar incidents happened in the past with the director when McDaniels was with the Patriots and that he hired the man knowing that there was a history of professional misconduct while Scarnecchia was with NE (and possibly other organizations) shows a crying lack of responsibility. He failed to put the Broncos organization before his personal feelings. That will, if history is any judge, follow him for a long time to come. 

While it pains me to say this, I also have to consider that he is an a priori repeat offender on this. The actions of the video director were known about by the head coach. Never mind their friendship - that’s not really the point, although I understand the emotional difficulty it caused. McDaniels never should have put himself in this position by hiring the man in the first place, and in hiring him, he should have been more aware of the delicacy of the choice.  McDaniels has been forced to deal with his mistake, rather than stepping forward to admit his role in this. He knew the league rules and he chose to break them. In doing so, he broke faith with the fans and the team. It isn’t a firing offense, but it’s an unnecessary and pointless distraction to a team struggling to win games. 

After the original Spygate incident, players and coaches around the league privately admitted that this was not as uncommon as some would have us believe. While that may have been true (I strongly suspect that it was), it should also have alerted McDaniels to the fact that his friend had a pattern of inappropriate professional behavior. He still hired him, and when the friend violated league rules and tried to give the results to McDaniels, he tried to cover up for his friend, whether he viewed the material or not. Both were serious errors in judgement.

I'm not going to mix this with other decisions. that’s been happening a lot, and I think that it’s uncalled for. This isn’t about player decisions or coaching decisions, and it shouldn’t be mixed with what the McX team did in the draft or free agency. He's done many good things for the team and although they often will be, they shouldn't be overlooked. Despite that, a large and vocal segment of the fans have blamed him for everything but changes in the weather (Headlines rage, “McDaniels Fails to Have Bowel Movement on Tuesday!”). The ugliest underbelly of the Denver fan base has been exposed over the past 22 months, and I’m not going to lump this in with other arguments. When I hear about the comments that are being made - and I no longer read them, as a sop to my own sanity - I’m often reminded of the absurdity of the fan who was insulting him at the start of the 2009 training camp on the bizarre basis that “He hasn’t done anything yet!” Gosh, really? How unusual...and he should have done what?

However - there are things that you simply don't do. Failing to man up is one of them. You cannot effectively discipline players when you yourself are caught breaking the rules in such a fashion. When you don’t follow the rules, it’s hard to demand that your players do so. The players may rally around him, or the team may lose some cohesion; I wouldn’t be so bold as to predict which. Locker rooms are one place where the decision to protect a friend and/or teammate is understood, even when the decision is wrong, and that may play in his favor. 

As a matter of simple fact, the Broncos organization was badly broken in several ways when Josh McDaniels took over. I've supported him, enjoyed the obvious depth of his knowledge and his skills as a teacher. As far as rebuilding the team goes, I strongly doubt that it could be done quickly, as I've stated many times. I also understand that many people feel that this is just an opportunity for the part of the fan base that never accepted him to jump on McDaniels, and I think that there is a lot of truth to that. That is part of what's going on, and if you’re reading it, it’s ugly, vicious and unwarranted. But we had to know it would happen when the news broke. It’s merely an excuse for the lower consciousness among us to vent - yet that doesn’t excuse what McDaniels did. 

There is also no getting around the fact that what he did does show a lack of maturity. There is a history here with Scarnecchia, and for McDaniels to permit his friend to remain with the club - difficult as taking action would have been - shows him, and could have shown the organization he represents, in the worst possible light. Obviously, other people were aware of the situation when it occurred, and it was Pat Bowlen and Joe Ellis who blew the whistle to the league after they were informed about it. 

While opinions will vary, it’s mine that when you head a team, you have to put it first. Ben Franklin once said that three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead. Coach McDaniels should have heeded those words, TJ’s (very funny) Sicilian references aside. The fact is - and Ellis and Bowlen understand this - that things always get out. I’m glad that he admitted his error, but it doesn’t excuse it. 

I'd like to just state my case simply and leave it at that: You don’t bring in a man with a history of inappropriate professional conduct, friend or not, and then cover up the fact that he’s continued that pattern. Whatever the organization chooses to do, including nothing, will have to be sufficient. To say that I'm disappointed in Coach McDaniels is an understatement, but it will have to do. He has embarrassed the organization, and that’s not a small thing. I’m also well aware of the degree of fan overreaction. The remarkable number of people who have waited for any opportunity to lay more blame on him were thrown some raw meat, and that bothers me just as much as watching him having to face his error. When you’re the head coach, you have to set an example. This time, he failed the Broncos. It’s no more - and no less - than that. 

All the best to you this holiday weekend, and through the solstice season to come. Be safe, and stay warm. Along with it go my hopes for today's game. If they lose, I recognize that it's going to be increasingly difficult for the team. I am concerned about the team holding it together, but if there was ever a good time for an ‘Us against the world’ attitude, this is it. Go, Broncos - and show the fans that you can rise above human fallibility and hold together as a team. .

Warm Regards to all, 

Doc

Learn to laugh at yourself. You will be ceaselessly amused. - Sri Gary Olsen

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