Luckily for the Denver Broncos' rookie head coach Josh McDaniels there is no penalty for excessive celebration after a win in the NFL. If there was, the referees would have inundated him with a flood of penalty flags on Sunday. Normally, NFL head coaches are visions of stoicism. That is certainly true of his mentor, the New England Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick, a man who no one is quite sure has a personality let alone the kind of emotion that bubbled out of McDaniels after his upstart, undefeated Denver had beaten Belichick's three-time Super Bowl champions, 20-17, in overtime.
McDaniels worked eight years for Belichick, beginning as a kid out of college and becoming Belichick's trusted offensive coordinator before moving to Denver last winter. After a rocky start in which he got into a public argument with the Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler, McDaniels traded him to the Chicago for the maligned Kyle Orton. Then he got into a similarly public row with his Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who demanded to be traded and then sulked until he was suspended.
The Broncos had yet to play a game and people were wondering if McDaniels, 32, knew what he was doing. Not everyone is convinced yet but after a 5-0 start, there are far fewer doubters than there used to be. "I'm really excited for him,'' said Marshall, of all people, after scoring two touchdowns in the win. After five wins to open the season, things seem to have settled down in Denver. At least they did until Matt Prater's 41-yard field goal at 10:09 of overtime gave his coach a victory in something he said all week was just another game.
"I lied," McDaniels admitted after running up and down the sidelines, blowing kisses toward his family in the stands and pumping his fist like Tiger Woods after holing out to win another major golf tournament. And this was major, as major to McDaniels as anything he has done in coaching. It was more than a win. It was validation at the expense of his mentor. "It was a little bit more special to me because I knew how hard it would be to beat them," McDaniels said. "They don't beat themselves. I knew we'd have to be incredibly prepared as a staff. Our players would have to be really in tune with the game plan and play extremely hard for 60 minutes.
"It's a great challenge to coach against Bill and his staff and play his team with all those great players. It is a hard team to play against and it requires you to do a lot of things well." Not the least of those things was to outthink the most successful coach of his time. Not many people believed young McDaniels was ready for that despite his knowledge of the Patriots approach, and when the Broncos fell behind 10-0 after the first two New England possessions it appeared the student was about to get his comeuppance.
But by half-time it was 17-10 to New England and when the two teams came out for the second half McDaniels had every answer. The Patriots did not score again while the Broncos scored three times, marching 98 yards to tie the game on a pass to the man McDaniels suspended two months ago, Marshall. The two exchanged a hug when it was all over. "I was really happy and he would have been really happy had they won," said McDaniels. "Bill taught me a lot. I owe him a tremendous amount of my success and will always be indebted to him. I have great admiration for him but I don't think he would have expected anything less of me than to compete against him."
Josh McDaniels did more than that. He outcoached him. firstname.lastname@example.org