Vance, you’re a great guy. We met and chatted, so I can see your appeal to John Elway and your players. However, what do they say about nice guys?
I’ve watched a few teams turn their records around and have noticed some key trends. I’m not sure if you can change, but I figure that it’s worth a shot offering you some helpful advice.
Unless you’re Sean McVay with a way of thinking outside the box in game calling (you’re not), or being a QB whisperer (you’re not), you can make some other moves to improve. That starts with not being your players’ friend.
You coached in Miami, so you think you know heat, but honey, you don’t know Jacksonville heat. That city is surrounded by water and marshes and where the practice fields are, it can be stiller than a closed box. The heat rises up from the soggy ground and becomes a merciless beast. It reaches inside your chest and squeezes the air out of your lungs, practically drowning you in that suffocating humidity. Comedian Katt Williams, who’s from Atlanta, remarked that there’s everyone else’s sun and then there’s Jacksonville’s sun.
Doug Marrone had his team practice at noon all summer in it. He told his men they’d see this pay off. This prison guard didn’t let his inmates run the show, he made them obey. Under that sweltering Jax orb he forged a team that was melded together through sweat, agony and pickle juice. He made them tough.
Vance, you’re not going to have that heat here in Denver, but you’re going to need to find its equal. This team is soft.
You must set the tone. That begins by leading when you lose. Marrone blamed himself when Bortles had a 5 TO game. He said he got greedy in making him throw so much. That says to his team, we don’t cast blame. I accept the bad times, learn from them and forge ahead. You’re allowing your players to throw their teammates under the bus.
I make my practices real hard because if a player is a quitter, I want him to quit in practice, not in a game. – Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant
Step one: stop trying to be liked. Be tougher. Act like a Marine Drill Sargent. If your locker room has gotten too far away from being a brotherhood, you need to clean house. Negativity spreads like the plague, it infests and it causes more losing.
This team is your reflection. Right now, it says you’re soft. You’re allowing your players to undermine your authority. By them begging for another QB, it says you can’t coach and they’re hoping some new ready-made guy can win in spite of you. They don’t trust you can coach up any of the four men your boss drafted.
The Jags won two playoff games with Bortles who was ranked 30th-worst last season and the beginning of this one. Minnesota players didn’t complain when they ended up with a quarterback who was benched for Jared Goff who went 0-7. Nor did Eagles players complain when they went from a potential MVP QB to a guy who was bounced around and didn’t have a job. Those coaches run tight ships. Time for you to do the same.
A team’s character and its leadership shows up after a loss.
Step two: stop talking. There is no reason to say so much, plus, when you do, you set yourself up to look like a hypocrite or can’t be trusted because you contradict yourself. Watch Belichick’s pressers. Your job isn’t to give the media work, your job is to win. Not be their friend. Who cares if they hate covering you?
If you want to talk, then do a weekly video show with Phil Milani and only say what you want. Make it a weekly rah-rah episode and keep pressers to, “I don’t want to talk about that.” It’s not that difficult.
Step three: K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid. Find an identity and stick to it. The teams who made it to the playoffs, went by being teams who were balanced and aggressive. We’re not going to play minds games, we’re going to beat you with talent. If a play works, we’re going to keep at it until it doesn’t.
You wanted to be a passing team, and then you chose the QB without the necessary passing skills forcing you to have to change into a run-first team. Why did you allow a playbook not fit for any QB to go on for months? When you decide on a QB, fit it to him and the talent on your team, not what you wish for.
If our defense is made to play man, play man. Sign and draft players that fit the identity you want. And cut/trade a player midseason if he’s not fitting in. NE* does it all the time.
Build your team around the QB position, don’t build for him. That means if you want to be an Air Coryell type team, that’s light on RBs and TEs, but QB2 can’t throw a deep out, you’re screwed if he gets hurt or stinks. So, begin on the line and flow out to running back and tight end. Then slot, then wide out. The smash mouth guys, first. If your QB has the arm, he’ll find the open guy downfield, anyway. If he doesn’t, he’s got the guys who can get YAC. We had no real slot or TE and obviously our line needed help.
Step four: never say they had a good practice, unless you start winning a bunch. On behalf of all of Broncos Country, even the ones who despise everything I think, step four is a universal refrain.
There’s your Coaching 101 Guide, good luck, we’re counting on you!