McDaniels, Tebow and the “It Factor”

I was chatting with another member this afternoon, and he mentioned his discomfort with the article in today's Denver Post on the 'It' factor. He brought up a few very legitimate concerns, too. I understand his feelings. I agree with much of it, too. I'll tell you the good side that I see, though, for whatever it's worth. Please bear with me - it covers a few different areas, but there is a point to the journey, I promise.

As you might know, in my former life, I was a physician. One of the things that I learned was physio-postural analysis - how to see what was 'wrong' with the human form, posture and gait; to be able to break it down and analyze it in a way that leads to a better diagnosis and treatment. Many of my patients had conditions that were created or exacerbated by the way that they stood, moved and carried their weight. For example, I saw quite a few cases of what's called 'thoracic outlet syndrome', or just TOS. TOS is a nasty problem. It's a pinching of the nerves that come out of the neck (mostly the brachial plexus, which emerges from the openings of the 4th through the 7th vertebrae of the neck), down the shoulder, through the hole or 'outlet', down into the upper thorax of the body and from there out into the 4 main nerves of the arm. when this pinching occurs, the arm usually goes numb. In bad cases, the patient begins to lose use of the hand and/or the arm. The only western treatments at that time were PT and a choice of two surgeries, both of which are excruciating and neither of which works more than about 50 percent of the time. One was the removal of the 1st rib and the other a removal of part of one muscle in the neck - the splenius capitus, so the procedure is called a partial splenectomy, although it has nothing to do with the organ called the spleen. Removing that part of the muscle created, in theory, more room for the nerves.  We had a perfect record on curing those patients if we got them pre-surgery. Why? Because I could do the postural analysis that told me why they had the problem and I had developed the techniques  to fix it. I'm not smarter than other docs - I just had training that let me view from a different perspective.

When McD watched Tebow, from the very start of this draft, what he saw was a player with a problem that most everyone else saw as difficult or impossible to fix. That was why we heard so often about the mechanics issue (some people called it a 'release' problem - that was totally inaccurate. His release points were fine - it was the postural problem that ramified into weakening his throws, causing some to float, the long windup, etc. As McD watched and listened, he realized that he knew from watching exactly what was wrong, and those around him just plain didn't. he was hearing lots of negative comments that in his own mind were failing to see what the problem was and how to fix it. The longer he watched and listened, the more he became convinced that he had found a QB whose 'problems' were easily overcome. It came down to one simple thing - Josh McDaniels really does know more about the QB position and how it is played than most of the league. At this point, I think that this is fact, rather than conjecture. Some will hold their decision until they see how well Tebow does at the NFL level, and I think that's perfectly logical too. But, consider this:

There has never been any argument about Tebows 'intangibles', most of which are quit tangible. You often really do know when a guy is a leader, a winner, and when one is not. There are lots of leadership styles, but among NFL QBs, one factor that seems consistent in the best of them is that they know, from their toenails to their hair follicles, that they are winners and leaders and nothing that anyone ever does will change that. Some just have it inside - some seem to radiate it. Either way, you feel it when you talk to them or listen to them. I went through a similar experience some years ago - about a dozen years ago, it was. 

Finding the It Factor

Just over 12 years ago, I watched the Michigan football games a lot. A number of my friends had gone there, and we watched the QB struggle that Tom Brady went through. Brady was caught in what should never be part of college football - a political situation. There was a lot of pressure on the AD and therefore the coach to play a certain QB. He wasn't in Brady's class, really, but at the time, that wasn't as clear as it is now. Brady has improved a lot of his weaknesses. Even so....At one point, under pressure from the alumni, the coach was putting in Brady and the other QB each for a quarter, and letting the one who had the best quarter start the second half. At times, the coach would pull whoever started the second half and put in the other QB for the 4th quarter. It was insane. And, it often ended in Brady coming in to try to salvage the game, which he frequently did.

During that time, I caught an interview with Brady. It was short, but it was also obvious to me that he was one of those kinds of people who don't have any doubt about themselves or their purpose. He was sure that he was the best QB, sure that he was a winner, knew he was a good leader and nothing - not even the bizarre mechanistic doings of the coach, et al, was ever going to stand in his way. To most scouts, he was the guy who couldn't even beat out so-and-so. Then he was injured for Combine and couldn't perform. He fell to the 6th round.

But when New England took him, it was obvious from the start that he was different. Belichick didn't know how far it would go, but he knew that he had something rare. Then they had to cut a new key, because Brady kept working and training, arriving before the janitors and often leaving after they had closed down. In this respect, Denver has at least two player who are similar in their approach. Kyle Orton has always been first to arrive and last to leave. You can like him or hate his work, but you can't dis his work ethic. And to be fair, Tim Tebow seems to be exactly the same. I haven't heard that much on Quinn and Brandstater, but I doubt that they are far behind. All of them know what the stakes are. 

Did I expect Tom Brady to be a Hall of Famer, based on what I saw? Not at all, but in retrospect, I'm not surprised. Did I expect that if he was given a shot, that he would be very successful? Yes, I did. He had that air. He also was a very good player - far better than the man he was in competition against - and I got to enjoy watching him quite a bit. The strange issues around the coaching and the pressure from the AD and the alumni is a matter of record, by the way, if anyone cares enough to check it. It's a strange story. This tale is also told briefly in the book Moving the Chains: Tom Brady and the Pursuit of Everything which was written by Charles P. Pierce. It's a pretty good read, by the way.

What McDaniels sees in Tebow

Right or wrong, what McD sees in Tebow is that same kind of air that Brady has. He also sees that with the proper coaching, which Josh believe he can provide, he has reason to believe that Tebow can be as successful at the NFL level as he was in college. I can see how he may well be right. The NFL game is very different from the college game, but there are big overlaps, too. Tebow is learning the NF game at a rapid pace, and it's becoming clear that McD's perception of the problem and his solutions to it have been precise and correct. That's huge. If Tebow had the kind of motion last year that he does today, he would not have lasted into the later 1st round. Denver would have been in a fight to obtain him.

I understand the issues that McDaniels making these statements in May will create, and I also worry about the effect of this on the team. It's not what I would have wanted, but I have to admit - I also understand. Just like those patients of mine who were looking down the barrel of a very large healthcare gun - painful surgeries with uncertain outlooks but who really weren't that hard to cure - Tebow was a great unknown to most coaches and a clear issue with a clear 'cure' for McDaniels.

What we're seeing here is just how good Josh McDaniels is at analyzing the movements that make up the QB position in the NFL. No other coach really understood that the problem was based in the compensatory motions of the right side and arm. It's that simple. It says a lot about McDaniels, things that those who dislike him may have trouble rectifying with their prior position on the subject. Time will tell.

Given McD's clarity on this issue, I don't blame him for being excited. He has found a player who learns almost immediately, who carries the air that some of the best winners carry, and who can be coached to his highest possible level by McDaniels himself. Josh is excited for Tebow, excited for the team, and most certainly has a little ego (perhaps, to be accurate, more than a little ego) about the fact that he was the one who saw what others didn't, and has obtained a player who may well be, for McD, what Brady was for Belichick. I'm NOT suggesting that Tebow will be that successful, but I also wouldn't put that possibility aside too quickly. McDaniels does have that kind of skill at coaching QBs. Like Orton, Tebow loves to be coached. Player who love to learn excite McD. To find that kind of skill, the 'intangibles' and to be able to obtain him because of a problem that others missed and he could fix quickly has to be exciting him beyond his normal boundaries. I can understand why he's making the statements that he is.

I'm not ready to proclaim Tebow the starter for this year, but if it happens, I won't be surprised. Regardless of how it affects the other QBs, McDaniels is also getting the other players ready for the fact that they are going to have a new QB soon, and that McDaniels himself considers the guy to be a winner who will lead the team to lots of victories. He wants the rest of the team to be a as excited as he himself is, and as Tebow has to be. Tebow, no matter how anyone felt before this was made public, has to be in heaven over this situation, if you'll pardon th phrase. He's found a coach who can fix the problem that was creating all the controversy, who believes in Tebow as much as Tebow believes in himself, and it's pretty much a perfect situation for the two of them. McD wants the team to see that, to understand it, and if Tebow is as successful in training camp as McDaniels expects, yes, he could start this year. Until the issue of his mechanical problems and their solution was made public, I wouldn't have been at all comfortable with this possibility, but given the facts as they are unfolding, I'm getting increasingly comfortable with the option. I'm not ready to claim that he's going to be ready to start this year, but if not, it won't be that long.

I feel bad for Orton. Another year of McD training would have put him on a much higher course, professionally. I hope that Denver can keep him as a backup, but I suspect that there are a few teams for whom Orton would be a much better option than the man they are playing with. Quinn is, to me, an enigma. He has done nothing professionally but play badly. He was, I fully agree, a heck of a QB in college, but so far, he's been nothing but a loser as a pro. Can McD work that same magic on him? I have no idea. Orton was learning quickly, but he's a quieter leader - very popular with the players, but not loud or arrogant. At the same time, Tebow's kind of leadership may be popular quickly as well. Tom Brandstater? Lots of teams keep a player like him - lots of potential, inexpensive, might be a good third option. and, again - McD may be able to fix the physical mechanics and footwork. He may turn into a valuable player - as third QB, 2nd backup, or as trade bait. Brandstater is, for the Broncos, a no-lose situation right now.

At this point, I suspect that there is any doubt of how this will play out. I'm trying to get used to it. Any way you look at it, right now we have nothing but reports from the coach. They often are made for some effect, and you have to take all with that grain of salt. This is the coach who was praising Chris Simms on his work ethic and progress the day before releasing him from the team. Not all is probably as it seems. However - one thing is obvious.

Josh McDaniels thinks that he's found his QB. He's going to work that fellow as hard as he can, and Tebow is the type who will welcome that kind of demand. They are entwined. I don't claim that McDaniels career is lined to Tebow's - injuries happen, things go sideways, and anything can still happen. Brady Quinn might really be developing as we've been told. Orton is still the starter going into camp, and anyone who thinks that Orton will give up the starting job easily just doesn't know the man. Brandstater is an afterthought, mostly through a total lack of info on him, which may be a statement in itself. Time, and camp, will tell.

But as a fan, I am happy for McDaniels in this. If half of what he's telling the media is accurate, and I think that in this case it's likely, McDaniels has done something that is fairly rare and extremely positive. All of his work, throughout his life, has been aimed at becoming the head coach of a professional football team. He's worked toward it. He's sweated, he bled, he studied and he picked the brains of some of the best mind in football, college and pro. He seems a likable guy, in a profession that tends to be very insular. Coaches tend to spend time with other coaches. They talk football, they argue and agree, they trade information on plays, schemes, and palyer. somehow, McDaniels has learned about the QB position. He's learned to break down mechanics. some people just have that knack - I taught Oriental Medicine to a doc who also had studied applied kinesiology, and he was able to show me Western ways of analyzing the body that were remarkable. McDaniels, somehow along the line, understood much the same thing that I had to study. Some people just are naturally good at it - others work very hard. My own belief is that both are part of this outcome, but that's just one opinion.

Even so - Denver fans should be congratulating McDaniels on his level of understanding of the mechanics of that position. They might also recognize that this was the guy who claimed that Tebow's problem was jut the 'he dipped it a bit". Like all coaches, he knows when to lie with a straight face to influence the outcome he wanted to produce. Because he didn't let on, Tebow was available late in the 1st - a value pick, really - and McDaniels' knowledge led to a dedicated young man overcoming a problem that had many teams and pundits writing him off as a bad investment. Not one observer saw what was really happening, except a coach who many still claim to be too young, too arrogant and too inept to be in the job he holds. That's worth thinking about.

It should give those who still are sure that he's going to be a disaster for the Broncos a little pause. Apparently, this guy really does know some things. He even knows some that a lot of other coaches missed on. Will Tebow go on to Brady-like success? I'm not there yet - frankly, not by a long shot. There's too much work to do, and as anyone who's been around for some decades knows, a lot can go wrong that we never really think about in advance. But let's give a little credit where it is due - If he's as successful with Tebow as is being reported, he's done something very rare. He's proved that he really is as knowledgeable as his reputation when it comes to QBs and mechanics.

It has also shown that he can manipulate the draft to his liking - even with the medical concerns, D. Thomas was rightfully the first pick in the draft for Denver. His ability to stretch the field vertically will be a delight for fans and QBs alike. Like many, I get flashes of Eddie Mac when I watch film of Decker. The linemen? They will have to prove themselves, but I like what I see so far - men who have played a lot of games and can cover multiple positions. I loved heading Beadles commenting on how it's better to learn the entire playbook of all line positions, so that you'll always know what everyone else is doing. Perrish Cox may turn out to be a diamond in the rough - we got him at a very good value. I'm already a fan of Jammie Kirlew, and I look forward to seeing if young Syd'Quan Thompson can return the way he did in college. It was a good draft.

And I loved this from our second round pick:

Having such a large group -- no pun intended -- of newcomers to the Broncos offensive line will help the transition for each player, according to Beadles.

"All offensive lineman are the same -- we always get along, no matter where we're at," said the second-round pick. "To be able to come in with these guys and build some camaraderie and work together and learn together (is great). Learning together is a huge thing. It's just better bouncing things off multiple guys and that's a definite advantage for us."

It's time. The old ways left with the players who couldn't get on board. Those who didn't have the right attitude are out, and they were even set up with new teams that fit their own desires, which was a classy thing for Denver to do. The new are in, and what I'm hearing is the quiet buzz of the beginnings of a new way of doing things. OTAs will start shortly. Does anyone not remember that Ryan McBean was the starting LDE in the first OTA, and many, myself incuded, thought that it was just an OTA, and things would change. He stayed at starter through training camp and most all of the 2009 season. Keep a close eye on the OTAs. Many things will be revealed that will tell us where this team is going. And while this can be a dry time for new information, it's going to be a great time to get acquainted with all of our new players. With the writers on this site, we'll be meeting someone new several times a week.

Personally, I can't wait. Go Broncos!

Originally posted at MHR

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

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