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Josh McDaniels Ties His and Broncos' Future to the Tim Tebow Project

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McDaniels is risking his and the Broncos' future on Tebow's ability to develop into an elite quarterback.
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
McDaniels is risking his and the Broncos' future on Tebow's ability to develop into an elite quarterback. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I just read Peter King's Tuesday Edition Monday Morning Quarterback which focused on Denver's choice to pick Tim Tebow with the 25th overall pick in the NFL draft and his chances of seeing playing time this season. After reading it I'm now convinced that Denver head coach Josh McDaniels is really setting himself up for a major failure of his making in many ways by trading the 40th, 70th and 114th picks in a deep draft to pick Tebow.

The 25th pick is worth 720 points on the chart every team in the league uses -- some more religiously than others. The 43rd pick is worth 470, the 70th worth 240, and the 114th worth 66. That totals 776. The Broncos paid 56 more points than were necessary by the chart -- equivalent to the 199th overall pick, a late fourth-rounder -- to get Tebow. Denver, obviously, wanted to make the deal badly enough to ratchet up the compensation.

Let's give McDaniels credit here for trading down from the Broncos' initial position at 11 to arm them with the ammunition necessary to get back into the first round. That's the last nice thing I'm going to say about McDaniels.

You can't afford to be trade away a second, third and fourth round pick to move back into the late first round unless you're getting a blue chip prospect that you're positive will be starting for your team from the moment he joins your team, especially a quarterback. Regardless of if you think Tebow's going to be successful or not, it's a unanimous decision that he's got a lot to work on in terms of mechanics and his reading of the game. There is little chance that Tebow will be under center when the season kicks off.

"When I went to Gainesville Monday to work him out,'' McDaniels said, referring to his hush-hush trip to spend the day with Tebow, "we spent about seven hours together. We went over a lot of things. Now, understand that our offense is pretty complicated, and the terminology and the scheme is totally different from what he did at Florida. But about midway through my time there, we're going through plays, and he starts using our terminology. He's so smart about football that he was able to begin to speak my language and talk apples to apples. He'd already translated what he knew of our scheme into my words. That's something that carried a lot of weight with me.''

McDaniels also said: "The football traits he has is the stuff you die for.''

Well I doubt McDaniels spent seven hours with any of the other quarterback prospects to ascertain if they picked up his terminology as well. There's a good chance Jimmy Clausen, who's already been exposed to a similar pro-style offense run by Charlie Weis, McDaniels' predecessor in New England, would have been capable of the same thing.

I'm not a Tebow hater. He was one of the greatest college players of all-time and lead his team to a national championship during his time there (being a back-up quarterback and coming in for spot duty during a championship run does not count as leading your team, but contributing to its success). He does a lot of charity work and whatever you think about his religious stances, he's really not a bad guy in any discernible way, at least that we know of.

What about his game really translates well to the NFL though? I don't want to hear about how he's a leader and that he brings intangibles that can't be measured to the table. That comes in to consideration after evaluating his ability to play quarterback in the NFL, which has been questioned by more than a few.

He played in a spread offense at Florida and never took a snap under center during his time there. He had a an awkward throwing motion that had a long wind-up and his footwork was never particularly good. His mental understanding of the game in terms of reading defenses and coverages is also not close to the pro-level. He had a poor Senior Bowl, where he missed open receivers and looked lost against the nation's top senior talent.

Tebow's been working on a new, shorter release that allows him to get the ball out of his hand faster and scouts have been impressed with his development in this, but what's going to happen in a game situation? Old habits die hard and when the pocket's collapsing on third down with defenders bearing down on him I'm not sold that the poor footwork and awkward throwing motion will disappear.

Either way McDaniels and Tebow are bound together now and will be judged on McDaniels' decision to revamp the No. 2 ranked offense in terms of total yardage gained per game that he inherited from Mike Shanahan.

In Jay Cutler's final year with the Broncos he finished 4,526 yards, an 86.0 passer rating, 62.3 completion percentage, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. The Broncos' woes had more to do with a defense that finished 29th in the league in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed.

Cutler is clearly far from perfect, but his talent is immense. For a former quarterbacks coach, turned offensive coordinator like McDaniels who helped turn a 7th round pick in Cassel who had taken 3 snaps in college into a competent NFL quarterback, helping Cutler capitalize on his potential should have been far easier. Instead McDaniels looked to replace him with Cassel, which ultimately lead to Cutler's acrimonious departure from Denver.

His relationship with Brandon Marshall turned sour immediately and while in that case Marshall must shoulder the majority of the blame for the tension between the two that lead to his trade to Miami, McDaniels must also take responsibility. As a head coach it's his job to keep players in line and make them feel part of the team, not alienate two of the most productive players on his inherited roster and eventually trade them.

So now the Broncos are left again recuperating from an 8-8 finish after a promising start to the season and have their hopes pinned on the success of a quarterback who's not close to being ready to start under center. I'm not saying Tebow's not going to be good eventually, but he won't be a difference maker for at least another year if not more.

With the loss of Marshall they're not surrounding him with any proven receiving talent. They took Demaryius Thomas, a receiver from Georgia Tech to replace him and Eric Decker in the third round (a real steal) to supplement that. Receivers usually fail to be productive in their first season, and regardless of who's the quarterback at the beginning of the year, be it Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn or Tebow, they will not be put in a position to succeed.

Coaches in the NFL have the toughest head coaching gig in sports from schemes and tactics, to dealing with a stringent salary cap and managing a 54 man roster. It's not easy and when you have that much on your plate, being strong-minded becomes paramount to a chance of success, but not at the cost of jeopardizing your team's future because you can't check your ego at the door.

I might be wrong, but if McDaniels heads down this path of coaching tyranny his career may closely mirror another Belichick disciple, Eric Mangini, another "my way or the highway coach". Mangini was labelled a genius after initial success with the Jets only to be unceremoniously fired and get hired again in Cleveland where his strict regime received much criticism from players and media alike.

While his demise came from meddling in front office affairs and stupid practice routines, the lesson should not be lost that in the ultimate team sport, working together as a team with players, management and ownership is what every successful coach must strive for. McDaniels has shown promise with a first season few thought would be as successful as it was, but that shouldn't excuse the immaturity he's demonstrated in dealing with players on his team and on others.

McDaniels is gambling his and the franchise's future on Tebow's ability to replace Jay Cutler and develop into a top-notch signal caller in the NFL. Make no mistake, when you draft a player in the first round and trade up a bevy of picks to acquire him, that's what the reality is.

If the experiment fails Tebow will get his share of the blame, but remember that the real mastermind behind this series of personnel moves within the last year is McDaniels and the pressure's on him now to deliver in a big way.