Sunday, March 15, 2009

People Management 101 - Why Josh McDaniels and Denver are a mess

The situation in Denver has continued to disintigrate and it's hard to imagine how much worse it could become. Assuming Cutler does not show on Monday, the Broncos will have some very tough decisions to make and soon.

But the source of this isn't so much about football, though the details take place in that world.

It's about people management. It's about being able to handle the people you have working for and with you with tact and getting them do do what you want without causing a fight.

So far I can't say I see any of those skills in Denver Head Coach Josh McDaniels.

The source of this trouble is likely not his fault. Denver got trade offers, Denver listened to trade offers, Denver rejected trade offers. Not calling Jay Cutler and his agent immediately was an error in judgment, compounded by Cutler learning about it by seeing the story on ESPN and his agent hearing about it from other agents, not the Broncos organization.

Ultimately, that's not necessarily McDaniels' fault. The GM, the team president, the owner - they should have called Cutler or his agent before it got out. A simple 'hey we got this offer, we had to listen to it, but you're our guy and we aren't actively shopping you' might have prevented this whole thing.

Maybe not. I won't call Cutler a child, but he's playing the spurned lover right to the hilt. He's been no more giving or understanding than Denver's front office and asking for an extension at this point is just this short of ridiculous.

But the honest truth is when McDaniels had an opportunity to smooth things over, he didn't. Instead, he choose to push.

Now, if you are a boss - I don't care what kind - and you were having an issue with an employee - one of your best and most important - would you chose to take the conversation you were supposed to use to smooth things over and instead use it to take him to task for errors he had made and improvements he needed to make?

When Cutler, his agent and the Broncos organization met and talk things out, Daniels really only had one thing to do.

He didn't need to kiss Cutler's tail, just make nice. Again, a simple 'Jay I know how things looked, but we had to give any offer a listen'. Allegedly, he told Cutler that nobody was untradeable, but we'll never know for sure exactly how he said that. But he even could have added that to the discussion in a way that wasn't antagonistic.

'Jay, we had to listen. There's nobody on this team that is untouchable. It would need to be a whole heckuva lot to get you from us. You're the guy. But we have to look at every offer, any offer that could improve the team.'

Would that have made Cutler happy? Probably not.

But you know what I KNOW won't make him happy right after you talked about trading him and were in a conversation to smooth things over?

Criticizing him.

I just don't get what seemed smart about using this meeting - the one to make it all better or at least try - to point out what Cutler does badly. To tell him he has a ton of work to do.

Even if it's true. Even if Cutler is far from a Hall of Fame quarterback, this was a peace-making mission. Why say something you darn well know will antagonize the people you are trying to get along with?

Yeah, I get he's the coach. It's his job to get Cutler to play better. But now? During a meeting to diffuse tension?

McDaniels seems to think that because he worked with Bill Belichick, he can throw his weight around like him. Well, sorry Josh, like much of America, your line of credit just isn't that good.

You need to earn the right as well as the respect of your players. Going hard at the face of your franchise is a poor way to go about earning that credit. I don't care if you are the boss. You need to handle your people. And McDaniels didn't do that.

You may think that Cutler is in the wrong. That he's being far too sensitive and he should have just taken his criticism and liked it. And maybe there's truth to that.

But a boss of any kind has to know how to handle people. Especially those who might have an ego that could be bruised, too easily or not. And especially when a situation is already tense, even if the source of the tension is a misunderstanding or just flat out silly.

Instead, McDaniels chose to aggravate and antagonize. To prove he was the bigger dog in the yard.

But you have to wonder whether he realizes all he has at stake. With a tough season ahead, he already risks losing the locker-room.

It's not like he has close ties with the players there. And he's just assaulted their leader, at least on the offense. Players have already come out asking that the two sides mend fences.

But McDaniels is too busy breaking his bucking Bronco to really spend time worrying about what this fight is doing to the locker room chemistry. Or if he is thinking about it, he doesn't seem to care. But the locker room is feeling the pressure as well and players acan't be very happy that their new coach came in with guns blazing.

Again, right or wrong, instead of diffusing and improving a situation McDaniels has tossed gas on a fire.

The two met again this weekend and as was th case before, we're hearing bad news from Cutler's camp. That McDaniels told him he wasn't sorry about trying to trade the young quarterback and that Cutler feels McDaniels wants his own guy at quarterback and that he can't trust the coach. The Broncos quarterback feels antagonized and attacked.

And yes, as has been the case this whole time, Cutler is playing the diva a little hard. Woe is me.

But frankly, it seems to me as if McDaniels is uninterested in patching things up. My way or the highway kid, buck up and go.

McDaniels has yet to show me he has any feel for handling people, an incredibly important skill for a head coach to have. Again, a guy like Belichick or Bill Parcells earned their leeway and ability to call a player out the way they are known for. McDaniels is a young coach and in a new situation. As such, he needs to work with his players, not just clash with them.

Especially over something as ridiculous as this non-trade.

It's People Management 101 folks. And so far, I'm giving McDaniels a failing grade.

In the end, this may end in divorce. And if that's the case, the days immediately following the trade or release will be telling.

McDaniels will once again have the chance to work with players and smooth things over.

Whether he has learned anything from this Cutler mess will be seen in the way he deals with the fallout, some of which will be extremely negative, and the players left behind.

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