Anytime a successful coach abruptly leaves, there are questions. Usually unanswered ones. So it was with the news that Broncos defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was leaving Denver a year after transforming their defense into the 7th ranked unit after finishing 29th in total defense the previous season. Nolan quickly landed on his feet in Miami as the team's new defensive coordinator, but for Broncos fans, the question remains: why?
According to Ron Borges of the Boston Herald, the answer may have to do with Nolan's defensive philosophy, specifically blitzing too much in head coach Josh McDaniel's estimation. From the Herald:
[McDaniels] called in defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and told him in no uncertain terms his Broncos would not be blitzing next season like they did this year.
Either way, as much as we may need a reason for Nolan's departure, we may never get a good one. He may have left Denver because he's an East Coast guy. He may have left because he wants to work with Bill Parcells. Perhaps he left because he's a closet Jennifer Lopez fan.
That seems about right (well aside from that Jennifer Lopez bit). And indeed, the indomitable Adam Schefter confirms that Nolan's move had "nothing" to do with blitzing preferences, but merely that both McDaniels and Nolan had better options. McDaniels is largely expected to bring in ex-Pats defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who he presumably would be more comfortable with, while Nolan gets to strictly coach the 3-4 under his old boss, Bill Parcells.
The problem for McDaniels is that the media is latching onto a new narrative that he is inflexible and acts, in the words of Borges, like a "petulant child." The Jay Cutler trade, the Brandon Marshall preseason brouhaha, the late-season Marshall and Tony Scheffler benchings, and now Mike Nolan's precipitous departure all contribute to the image of McDaniels as difficult to get along with. Was he in wrong in any of these cases? Probably not. Cutler and Marshall both have...prickly personalities, and the Nolan situation may just be a matter of two coaches doing what's best for them personally. But with the Broncos' late-season collapse, these events are put into sharp relief as evidence that McDaniels isn't ready to lead a team.
As Mile High Report points out, the key for the team now is to get past recriminations and whys and get back to playing tough defense and actually winning games. Because as soon as McDaniels can get back to doing this, the sooner these types of questions will disappear.