It’s been nearly 12 years since McDaniels was run out of Denver after just 28 games. Not much went right for the 33-year-old head coach. It was so bad, in fact, that even to this day, many are still highly skeptical he is head coaching material. To McDaniels’s credit, the now 45-year-old recognizes where things went wrong.
“Yeah. When I went to Denver, I knew a little bit of football. I didn’t really know people and how important that aspect of this process and maintaining the culture and building the team was,” McDaniels said in his introductory press conference as the Raiders’ new head coach. “I failed, and I didn’t succeed at it.
“Looking at that experience has been one of the best things in my life in terms of my overall growth as a person, as a coach. What do I need to do different, how do I need to handle my role, if I have another opportunity, and do better at it. I feel like that’s really an area that I’ve tried to grow in with our staff in New England.
Our offensive staff, working together, collaborating, supporting one another, impacting them, serving them, helping them grow as coaches, as players with our guys that we’re coaching, I would say that’s the biggest area for me, and I know how important it is as a head coach to be able to do that.”
McDaniels noted a couple of times that he is the son of a football coach and was attending football practices from the age of five. He said he makes no apologies for that. And undoubtedly many of his mistakes were thinking he was smarter than anyone else. While also simply not inspiring his players.
In Denver, he lost his team very quickly. Jon Heath from Broncos Wire explained to me how it fell apart so quickly.
“He didn’t know how to manage people. As soon as he arrived he wanted to trade for Matt Cassel and Jay Cutler (coming off a Pro Bowl nod) got wind of it and McDaniels was never able to mend the relationship and traded him.
He was good at getting the most out of a QB, but he couldn’t handle players. It was his way or the highway and the results weren’t there so players — including Champ Bailey — turned on him. Getting caught for cheating was the final straw and they fired him.”
Yeah, when you lose Champ Bailey, it’s over. Even from the outside, McDaniels’s experience there was one that can leave a permanent bad impression of him. He falls right in line for the countless brilliant football minds that are simply not head coach material because being a head coach is about so much more than just being smart.
It’s about connecting with players and dealing with people. Something McDaniels says he has learned in the more than a decade since his unceremonious exit from the head coaching ranks.
“The last 10 to 12 years I’ve really had an opportunity to grow as a person, as a coach, as a man, and try to figure out after my experiences in Denver and St. Louis who I am, how I wanted to be defined in my career, what I wanted to represent, and how I would lead the next time if I got another opportunity to be a head coach,” McDaniel said. “It’s crystallized for me. I’m clear in the vision that I have for this role, for this job, for this team, and I’m going to be myself.”
“A wise man once told me that when you’re young, you try to accumulate and advance, and when you get older, you figure out that it’s a lot more about serving and impacting others, and I think I’ve gone through both phases. I learned a lot through my experiences, and now I’m excited to have that opportunity to consistently impact other people.”
Certainly saying these things and doing them are two different things. But it’s clear McDaniels has been humbled by his previous experience as a head coach and his return to offensive coordinator in the 11 years since. His words carry a degree of wisdom he clearly did not possess at the age of 33. If nothing else, he deserves a chance with a clean slate.
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