Josh McDaniels, much like Kyle Orton, came to Denver as a symbol of the post-Shanahan era with a few question marks. The biggest knock on Pat Bowlen’s new hiree was his age. Another was his specialization in offense, given the team’s defensive futility in 2008. Nonetheless, Pat Bowlen, analysts, and many Bronco fans all overlooked these criticisms in favor of the coach’s penchant for winning. McDaniels bragged that he had never participated on a losing team in his life, going all the way back to his eighth grade basketball camp.
And yet, when the stage got a little bit bigger, McDaniels’s winning ways didn’t translate. In hindsight, it seems that McDaniels was in a little over his head (a 6-0 start to his head coaching career probably didn’t help in that respect), perhaps due to his young age. Don “Wink” Martindale’s defense of 2010 looked and played a lot like Bob Slowik’s defense of 2008, too, maybe a sign that an offensive coach wasn’t the best hire as Shanahan’s successor. It would seem that those questions of inexperience and best fit for the organization might have been important, after all. But one question remains: why do some coaches and quarterbacks suddenly lose their lifelong knack for winning? And what does this all mean for Tim Tebow?
Well, I’ll offer a bold theory: winning in the past doesn’t matter. Circumstances are usually too different to compare. Win-loss records deserve no more consideration in player or coach evaluation than academic performance, because, as we’ve seen, these are very weak indicators of success at the next level. In fact, I think it’s bold of league observers to even mention something like a middle school basketball camp in their evaluation of competitors at the elite level. How do competitors like McDaniels and Orton suddenly lose their knack for winning? Easy. They get granted more responsibilities, and they can’t handle them.
Josh McDaniels winning as a head coach with countless responsibilities proved much more difficult than winning as a coordinator under Bill Belichick in New England. You just can’t compare the two. Similarly, Orton winning with all the responsibilities of a pocket passer on an average team proved more difficult for him than succeeding with a top flight rushing attack and the 2006 Bears defense (not to mention Devin Hester) scoring points for him. And rest assured, wins now will come harder for Tim Tebow than they did with the Gators.
This is by no means a prediction of Tebow’s failure. Far from it. Tim Tebow seems to understand he has work to do—to the tune of three-a-day workouts (lifting, throwing, and cardio every day, from what I gather) even during a lockout-stalled offseason that many other players are treating as a vacation. I wonder how many all-day workouts are currently being logged by Vince Young (who, by the way, many writers champion as a free agent option for quarterback-needy teams due to his 30-17 career record…the guy “just wins”).
The fact is, Tim Tebow may very well one day bring the trophy back to Denver. If he does, it will be because he studies the Broncos’ losses and displays an unforgiving work ethic to learn NFL defenses. Just don’t pull out his Gator, high school, or flag football championship trophies as evidence when Tebow finally graduates to become an elite winner.