ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The last several weeks of Bronos football have been defined by plotlines that are outlandish, unexpected and borderline surreal.
So what’s one more — in the form of the Broncos’ unexpected path-crossing with former head coach Josh McDaniels?
“It’s just crazy how the season’s been going, with certain situations that we run into,” Denver running back Lance Ball said. “Kyle (Orton) comes in (with the Chiefs), then Josh.
“But it’s all fun. We take it as fun. We can’t just sit back and worry about them; we’ve got to worry about us. That’s our main goal.”
Everyone around the Broncos seemed more than a bit aware of McDaniels’s return to the New England Patriots, but no one really wanted to talk about it.
“I’ll stay away from that altogether because that’s out of my hands,” said offensive lineman Russ Hochstein, who came to Denver in the same offseason as the ex-head coach but remained with the Broncos, making the roster under John Fox because of his ability to back up at a majority of positions on the offensive line.
The view was similar on the other side.
“I haven’t thought about that at all,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose daily routine would likely be the most affected by McDaniels’s arrival as offensive assistant for the rest of the Patriots’ season, and then his restoration as offensive coordinator after three years spent with the Broncos and St. Louis Rams.
But no player is more at the center of the McDaniels maelstrom than Tim Tebow. The Broncos’ trade up and selection of the quarterback was one of the defining moments of the McDaniels era, but he didn’t finally start for the Broncos until after McDaniels was fired.
Like Brady, Tebow wasn’t going to say much beyond embracing the moment and those around him now.
“I’m very thankful for him having the confidence in drafting me, but I’m very excited about the coaches that we have here in Coach (Mike) McCoy, Coach (Adam) Gase and Coach (John) Fox,” said Tebow. “Those coaches have done a great job and I’m very thankful to be playing for those coaches.”
The opinions about McDaniels aren’t universally negative in the Broncos’ locker room. Yes, there were plenty of losses and, with the videotape scandal in London, one gargantuan lapse of ethics that made the 2010 season the Broncos’ worst embarrassment in four decades and hastened the end of his tenure.
But many players owe their place in Denver to McDaniels. Ten of the Broncos’ 22 starters against Pittsburgh were drafted or acquired under the deposed coach’s watch — most notably Tebow and Demaryius Thomas, whose four collaborations for 204 yards were decisive in extending the Broncos’ season into mid-January for the first time in six years.
“I wish him nothing but the best,” Tebow said. “I’m happy for him and his new situation. I want to congratulate him.”
“I appreciate him bringing me in here, bringing other guys in here,” said Ball. “But it’s part of the NFL; guys come and go.
“It’s just a coincidence we have to play him this week. He’s on the offensive side, so we (offensive players) are not really worried about it.”
Denver wide receiver Eddie Royal didn’t even want to expound upon how the Broncos had changed since McDaniels was fired.
“That’s up to them to figure out,” he said, smiling.