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Ding-dong, the Witch Is Dead.
Josh McDaniels' coaching career has inspired that remark. Former Broncos GM Ted Sundquist had a podcast a decade ago and had me as a guest. The producer of that show was Brandon Thorn, the future creator of Trench Warfare, the preeminent content creator of offensive and defensive line play available to the public.
After our show, Sundquist told us a story about one of McDaniels' first interactions with the Broncos organization in his new capacity as head coach. If you don't remember, long-time head coach Mike Shanahan and Denver parted ways after Jay Cutler's second year in the NFL.
Sundquist explained to Brandon and me that Shanahan originally wanted Matt Leinart but agreed on Cutler as the team's second choice if they couldn't trade up to get Leinart. Cutler did well as a rookie in relief of Jake Plummer and built on that performance with a sophomore effort that earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Despite coming off a Pro Bowl season, Sundquist said that everyone in the Broncos' organization prior to McDaniels' hiring understood that Cutler was not a finished product. They had a multi-year development plan in place for their first-round pick, and they were optimistic after seeing Cutler have initial success.
McDaniels ruined that plan in 15 minutes.
According to Sundquist, he and McDaniels had an introductory phone call scheduled with their starting quarterback. Sundquist, Cutler, and Cutler's agent met at the facility, and McDaniels joined by phone.
When it was McDaniels' turn to speak, he immediately unleashed a long uninterrupted diatribe on Cutler's game without so much as an introduction. He broke down Cutler's game in as harsh and as derogatory of a manner as one could imagine.
Again, Cutler was a Pro Bowl performer in his second year and a first-round pick the team traded up for with the plan for long-term development. When McDaniels finished napalming Cutler's game and hung up, Cutler looked at the other two stunned parties in the room and said, "I'm not playing here. Trade me."
Sundquist made a deal with the Bears, who were under the impression Cutler was a finished product and the deterioration of Cutler's development began in earnest on a dysfunctional Chicago organization.
Thanks to his association with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, McDaniels has a reputation as a budding football genius. There may be some truth to this idea schematically, but his interpersonal skills are off-putting.
Vince Lombardi had a similar problem as an offensive coach with the New York Giants. Lombardi and Tom Landry were both bright young minds on the Giants, but the players took to Landry's approach quickly. Lombardi was insecure about his players buying into his knowledge and overcompensated, trying to prove he was the smartest person in the room.
Eventually, a few Giants veterans paid a visit to Lombardi's hotel room during a road game and beat the crap out of him. I'm kidding. They told him that the team respected his knowledge but that he needed to ease up on the way he was delivering it because he was trying too hard and it was alienating the players.
Lombardi listened and became one of the greatest coaches of all time. McDaniels has not and may never again get a chance to be an NFL head coach.
So, here are the Raiders in the aftermath of Mark Davis' disastrous hiring of McDaniels, including the condition of replacing GM Mike Mayock with Patriots' director of player personnel, Dave Ziegler. It's vital to note that Mayock and interim head coach Rich Bisaccia led the Raiders to the playoffs prior to McDaniels' hiring — something Davis might not have seen or heard while holed up at P.F. Chang's sporting a bowl haircut that made him a dead ringer for one half of the Dumb and Dumber franchise.
But hey, Davis got a real haircut befitting the front-facing leader of a $6.2 billion organization and got rid of McDaniels. I don't know if the two things are connected, but I like to think so in this crazy world of sports entertainment called the NFL.
What we do know for sure is that the Raiders made the right call to give Antonio Pierce, a player's coach, an interim opportunity, and they're giving a rookie Aidan O'Connell an extended look as the starting quarterback for the rest of the year.
How good is O'Connell? Does this offense have players with fantasy value that will actually increase? What are the short-term and long-term outlooks for the Raiders' offensive options?
That's the focus of this week's Gut Check.
Diving Into O'Connell's Film
The best place to begin with an offense, besides the offensive line, is the quarterback position. I studied O'Connell for the 2023 Rookie Scouting Portfolio and reviewed 150 snaps of his Raiders' film over the course of three games — the Chargers, the Bears, and last week's start against the Giants.
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