The Breakdown: Josh McDaniels and the Temple of Doom
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So, I was watching “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” the other day ” wait for it, I promise this has to do with sports ” for what must have been the 127th time in my life. But, this time around, I took a much different meaning out of the ending of the film.
For those who haven’t watched that movie religiously since the time they were 4 years old, here’s a nut-shell roundup of the climax: Indiana, along with his father and his buddies Marcus and Sallah, found the location of the Holy Grail in the middle of the desert, but were followed by a horde of Nazis. Then a Nazi shoots his dad, and Indy had to navigate through the booby traps set up to protect the Grail in order to bring the cup back and save his father. So, he ducks out of the way of what looks like a giant pizza cutter, then crosses over a brick path without falling through it to his death, then finds an invisible bridge to cross a huge crevice.
But it’s the last test that got me thinking. Once inside the room with the Grail, and the creepy 900-year-old knight, Indy has to pick out and drink from, among what must be a few hundred goblets, the true “Cup of Christ.” If he picks right, he’s (sort of) granted eternal life. If he chooses poorly, he dies.
OK, so here’s the relationship to sports, the decision presented to Indy is pretty similar to what’s facing the Broncos’ first-year head coach Josh McDaniels.
I swear this makes sense, just stay with me.
On Tuesday, the Broncos officially announced that they will actively try to trade their Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler after a month-long soap opera in the media. So, in his first season at the helm of a storied franchise, McDaniels will likely begin his reign without the team’s most-talented player.
But, now the decision comes with what McDaniels and the rest of the front office is going to try to get in return for such a high-demand signal caller, and how they expect to win after pulling the trigger on a deal.
In terms of his career as a head coach in the NFL, and especially with the Broncos, this is McDaniels’ life-and-death decision.
He’s not coaching the Detroit Lions, the Cincinnati Bengals or any other perennial cellar-dweller where losing is accepted. He is coaching the Denver Broncos, a team that is only 10 years removed from its second Super Bowl title in as many years. He’s coaching a team with one of the most dedicated fan bases in sports, where John Elway is a god and Mike Shanahan is still looked upon as a genius.
There won’t be any free passes, especially when you’re a coach that’s younger than a handful of your players.
Since becoming the Broncos’ head guy, McDaniels, along with general manager Brian Xanders, have completely overhauled the team’s defense, signing free agents and cutting a number of starters.
On paper, the decisions look solid, but the facelift to the defense will ultimately only matter if the offense continues to perform the way that it has in the past few seasons ” with Cutler under center.
Sure, McDaniels and Xanders will be able to get great valuable for Cutler ” whose incredible immaturity is only overshadowed by his incredible talent ” but will it help the Broncos win? Can the fans and ownership deal with taking top draft picks for a top QB if it doesn’t help the Broncos win the lowly AFC West?
I understand that the team is backed into a bit of a corner ” mostly by their own doing ” but I’m not sure any trade scenario the Broncos listen to will make their offense better for this season than if Cutler were still their QB.
So this is where the life-and-death decision for McDaniels’ career comes in.
Just like Indy, there are plenty of options to pick from, many that might seem like the right choice, but you’re not going to know until you take that first sip.
Maybe McDaniels can have the same luck as Indy, but, then again, he doesn’t exactly have as good of track record.
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