NEWARK — Josh McDaniels’s time as the Broncos head coach didn’t last long and didn’t go too well, but he was responsible for drafting four of the team’s offensive standouts as well as two defensive reserves.
The Patriots once-and-current offensive coordinator was in Denver for the 2009 and ’10 drafts. And though just six of the 19 players the team took in those two years remain on the roster, the six have made an impact: running back Knowshon Moreno is enjoying a career year; Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker were the team’s top two receivers this season and combined for 179 receptions, 2,718 yards and 25 touchdowns; Zane Beadles has started every game at left guard; defensive lineman Robert Ayers had 5.5 sacks in 15 games; and safety David Bruton played in all 16 games as a backup safety and special teamer.
“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. “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.”
Decker was a fourth-round pick out of Minnesota in 2010.
Moreno, who was McDaniels’s first-ever pick (taken 12th overall in 2009 out of Georgia), was asked about his draft-day memories and mentioned his former coach.
“That was a special moment, just to be able to celebrate that with my family and friends,” he said. “We were all there hanging out watching it on TV, so just for them to experience that definitely meant a lot to me.
“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 [get] the opportunity.”
McDaniels even brought the Broncos the man who is now their offensive coordinator: Adam Gase. When McDaniels was a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1999-2000, he worked with Gase, an MSU alum and also an aspiring coach. McDaniels hired Gase to be his receivers coach in Denver.
When John Fox became head coach in 2011, he promoted Gase to quarterbacks coach, and Gase was promoted again, to coordinator, before this season, after Mike McCoy left to become the Chargers’ head coach.
Gase was asked at Media Day Tuesday how he got to where he is today — still just 35, he drew interest from teams in need of a head coach this month — and credited “a little bit of luck. A little bit of meeting the right people at the right time.”
He mentioned Nick Saban, whom he worked with at Michigan State and Louisiana State, Mike Martz, whom he worked with in Detroit and San Francisco, and McDaniels.
“Lucky enough to meet Josh McDaniels when I was 21 years old, and he became a head coach nine years later,” Gase said.