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Once considered a failure in Denver, Josh McDaniels can find small measure of redemption in Broncos’ success

01.30.14 at 12:43 pm ET
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McDaniels had a stormy run on the Denver sidelines in his first head coaching stint. (AP)

McDaniels had a stormy run on the Denver sidelines in his first head coaching stint, but did well when it came to constructing the roster. (AP)

This has to be a strange week for Josh McDaniels.

On Sunday, the Patriots offensive coordinator will sit and watch the Broncos face the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. And while he’s still remembered around the Rocky Mountains as the guy who drafted Tim Tebow — and inspired some of the strangest Photoshop jobs of all-time — he’s also responsible for putting many of the pieces together for the current AFC champs.

In 2009 and 2010 drafts, McDaniels and the Broncos front office were responsible for the drafting or signing of several key players who remain on the roster. Wide receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, running back Knowshon Moreno, defensive end Robert Ayers, offensive lineman Zane Beadles and punter Britton Colquitt were all brought in on McDaniels’ watch, and all have played a sizable role in helping Denver reach the Super Bowl.

In all, of the 53 players on Denver’s active roster, 10 of them were acquired while McDaniels was head coach. That includes a major part of the passing game — three of Peyton Manning‘s top 5 targets this season were acquired by Denver while McDaniels was head coach. In all, 239 of the 461 passes completed by Manning this year went to McDaniels’ draft picks in Thomas (92 catches), Decker (87 catches) and Moreno (60 catches).

“He did draft me, and I’€™m very thankful that he gave me the opportunity to be playing in the NFL, especially with such a great organization like Denver,” Decker said of McDaniels. “I’€™ve got a lot of respect for him as a coach. He’€™s a brilliant mind, offensively. I’€™m sure, like any coach, he’€™s excited and he’€™s happy for the guys that he drafted.”

Beadles has been a Pro Bowl offensive lineman, and played a major role in helping clear the way for Moreno, a back who has been a work-in-progress over much of his first five years in the league. The 12th overall selection in the 2009 draft, he struggled in 2011 and 2012 before enjoying a career renaissance this season, where he posted his first 1,000-yard season. He ended the year with 241 carries for 1,038 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

This week, he paid tribute to McDaniels for taking a chance on him when he recalled what things were like for him on draft day.

“€œThat was a special moment, just to be able to celebrate that with my family and friends. We were all there hanging out watching it on TV, so just for them to experience that definitely meant a lot to me,” Moreno said. “Just for Coach McDaniels giving me the opportunity to play in the league and try to fight for a position. Even though you make it, even though you get drafted or whatever it is, maybe you’€™re not drafted, you’ve still got to compete. You’ve still got to get better each day just to have a spot on the team. I’€™m really thankful to (have gotten) the opportunity.”

McDaniels had more than his share of missteps while in Denver. He clashed with quarterback Jay Cutler, as well as wide receiver Brandon Marshall, and was the first champion of the Tim Tebow Experiment. But even in many of those instances, he was able to make something positive out of a bad situation: With one of the picks he acquired in the trade of Cutler to the Bears, he acquired Ayers, a defensive end who had 5.5 sacks this past season with the Broncos.

Ultimately, McDaniels tenure in Denver had more negative than positive, as he finished with an 11-17 mark and was fired midway through his second season as head coach. And the fact joshmcdanielssucks.com is still up and running, as well as a “Fire Josh McDaniels” Facebook page (with 323 likes) is still operational, speaks to the level of dislike there is out there in the Rockies for McDaniels and his time with the Broncos. But if Decker, Thomas and Moreno are among those celebrating amidst the confetti at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night, the man who made it possible for them to be with the Broncos in the first place needs to be acknowledged, at least with a new Photoshop.

Read More: Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Josh McDaniels, Knowshon Moreno Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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