The Departure Of Peyton Hillis Still A Mystery

We didn’t watch the Denver Broncos lose yesterday, but that didn’t make Sunday any easier.

If you weren’t aware, Peyton Hillis jumped, spun, and bulldozed his way to 184 yards and 2 touchdowns in a win against the New England Patriots.

Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis celebrates his touchdown run in the first quarter of a game against the New England Patriots on November 07, 2010 in Cleveland. UPI / David Richard Photo via Newscom

“Hometown Hillis” was a fan favorite in Denver and he’s certainly become one in Cleveland as well. The city has traded in its Lebron attire for brown and orange #40 jerseys. Fans here in Denver still wear his jersey with pride and wonder what led to the demise of Hillis under Josh McDaniels.

If you step inside Dove Valley, there may or may not be a “Peyton Hillis Memorial Doghouse”. Back in the beginning of the 2009 season, a tasty treat was thrown inside the kennel, and the door was shut and locked for most of the season.   

A little Hillis history shows that in 2008, the former Razorback was a big time up-and-comer. Under Mike Shanahan, the Broncos running back regime was busted and bruised. That’s when we first got to see the emerging brilliance of Hillis. In 12 games that season, he had 343 yards on 68 carries (5.0 avg.) along with 5 TDs, and some nice receptions. He hurdled, ran through, and dragged defenders for every extra inch he could get. The people liked the fight in the kid.

As McDaniels took control of the team, the new head coach’s eyes were on focused on a different back. McDaniels drafted Knowshon Moreno with the #12 pick in the first round of the 2009 draft. He also brought in a veteran back in Correll Buckhalter. At this time, there was still hope that Hillis would get plenty of action based off of his production during the previous season. Instead, in 14 games Hillis carried the ball just 13 times for 54 yards (4.2 avg.) and 1 TD.

The Denver crowd chanted his name, but to no avail, McDaniels kept him glued to the bench for most of the season. McDaniels didn’t see Hillis as a regular option in the backfield or as a blocker. He wasn’t thrown in during 3rd and short situations, and frankly, fans wondered what the hell Hill?

During the offseason, Hills was traded to the Browns for Brady Quinn. Forget about Brandon Marshall or Tony Scheffler’s departure. The people protested Hillis’ departure with the same kind of grit and guts that Hillis showed on the field.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

As the Broncos are currently ranked last in the league in rushing with 67.3 yards per game, and Hillis’s performance has made national headlines, all eyes have turned once again to the former Bronco. Hillis is currently sandwiched between Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice, ranked 11th in rushing with 80.5 yards per game. He’s got 7 TDs on the season while the entire Broncos rushing core has 5 TDs.

A helping of Hillis would’ve obviously done the Broncos good this season.

As the team returns to the practice field this week and Coach McDaniels takes to the podium once again, a question about Hillis could be looming. Will McDaniels duck and cover or accept responsibility for an apparent mistake that’s put the entire team in the city’s doghouse? 

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Tags: Cleveland Browns Denver Broncos Josh Mcdaniels Peyton Hillis

  • Daniel Tyler

    Its not a mystery. McDaniels only saw Hillis as a fullback because of the color of his skin, couldn’t see beyond that and realize that he was a talented feature back and then drafted a smaller/slower back in Moreno. Since McDaniels scheme rarely uses a fullback he had little use for Hillis, his scheme also rarely has pass catching tight ends, notice how Dave Thomas barely had any catches when he was with New England, now is doing very well as both a blocker and pass catcher with the Saints.

    Bottom line, is McDaniels doesn’t know how to utilize the talent he has. A good coach has a good scheme, a great coach can tweak his scheme to fit the skill of his players, which McDaniels has done the opposite of, especially with the oline

    I was ready to forgive him with the selection of Tebow. Before the 07 season, Bellicheck sent McDaniels down to Florida to learn Urban Meyer’s spread option attack and incorporate it into the Patriots offense, he did that , (well just the passing aspects) and set records that year. I figured he didn’t incorporate the running aspects of Urban Meyer’s spread option because Brady is lanky and runs like a 5 second 40, but then he drafts Tebow, and says he has packages for him, yet Tebow is barely being used and the run game is suffering. He should be using Tebow the same way he was used at Florida. It CAN work in the NFL if they are willing to try, the only downside is that Tebow can only do this for 3 or 4 years before you have to worry about wear and tear, then he would have to be more of a traditional pocket passer. It is like the Wildcat but better, for the Wildcat to work you need a big guy that can run up the middle AND pass, that is why it has become less effective in Miami, Brown can’t pass, BUT Tebow CAN, and is a big guy that can run up the middle.