As a first-time head coach in the NFL, Josh McDaniels has found early success thanks in large part to a strong defense, even though he was hired for his work as a "genius" offensive coordinator. Sound familiar? It should, because it's happened before. It's early, of course, but McDaniels may just be the latest NFL coach to get bailed out by his defense -- is he really just the next Brian Billick?â†µ
[McDaniels] was brought to Denver to spice up their offense and make them a scoring machine. At this point in the season, Denver ranks 22nd in scoring (although, they are 6th in yardage). Last season they were 16th in scoring offense.â†µ
At the same time, Denver’s defense has been amazing this year. They rank first in points allowed (second in yardage), where they were 30th last year. McDaniels is not heavily involved in the defense, which is left mostly to new coordinator Mike Nolan.â†µMcDaniels’ success reminds me of another offensive genius hired to bring scoring firepower to his new team, only to be bailed out by his defense – Brian Billick. The Ravens hired Billick in 1999 after serving as the coordinator of the record-setting Minnesota Vikings’ offense. Billick never managed to make the Ravens into anything more than a middle of the road offense, and was successful only on the strength of his defense. Eventually, the Ravens’ defense couldn’t support Billick’s mediocrity, and he was fired following the 2007 season.
But Billick isn't the only example of a "coach to have been hired for his expertise on one side of the ball, only to have his team flourish at the other end." Marvin Lewis is a defensive specialist, but Cincinnati has found success with their offense. Brad Childress was supposed to bring points to Minnesota, but instead, it was the Vikings' defense that had to save his job.â†µ
So how does this story end? Billick was fired, and Lewis and Childress seemingly spend every year on the proverbial hot seat. Maybe we shouldn't hand McDaniels the Coach of Year award just yet.