March 28, 2010
Despite his lifetime adherence to an almost military level of discipline, Vince Lombardi understood that different players must be treated differently, and that quarterbacks are a different breed of cat. Early in their time together in Green Bay, Lombardi let Bart Starr have an earful over an interception that he thought Starr was responsible for. Starr corrected the coach, telling him that the ball was tipped, and let him know what he could do with that earful. It was the last time Lombardi raised his voice to Starr. Quarterback and coach went on to win five NFL championships and two Super Bowls together.
Current Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, who fancies himself quite the disciplinarian, emerged from the Bill Belichick school with the idea that all players must be held to the same standards at all times, under any circumstances. This notion led to McDaniels going through personnel in his first year in Denver like a bull in a China shop. From jettisoning Jay Cutler(notes), to dumping the zone blocking that had been a Denver staple for over two decades, to benching Brandon Marshall(notes) because he was too hurt to play (as we mentioned then, this was a slightly redundant gesture), McDaniels showed that he was not a negotiator. You either did things his way, or you were eradicated.
Lest you think that McDaniels went that way only when he had the power as head coach of a team ... well, think again. Courtesy of PFT, here's an interesting story from Mike Klis and Lindsay H. Jones of the Denver Post. In 2005, McDaniels' first season as New England's offensive coordinator, he and Tom Brady(notes) once went three weeks without speaking to each other. The two obviously made their peace, especially in the 2007 season when Brady had perhaps the single best quarterback season of all time, but at what point does McDaniels' "no matter what" approach to player relations cost him? It's understandable if Belichick wants to put Brady under this thumb to whatever degree he can -- as a three-time Super Bowl-winning coach and one of the best defensive coordinators of all time, he's earned the credibility.
"He comes from New England seed," team owner Pat Bowlen said of McDaniels. "He uses a lot of the experience he had there. And that doesn't bother me. He wants people to toe the line. He expects his coaches to be working hard. It's not like you have a veteran coach in there who's comfortable with his position and happy with all his staff. You've got a young coach trying to make his mark."
And that continues to be the question with McDaniels. What's more important to him -- winning, or making his mark? The Brady story indicates that the question goes back further than we may have imagined. Will he learn what Lombardi learned in time?
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