McDaniels' Ohio Roots Run Deep

The newest Broncos coach has close ties to Ohio, making this Sunday's clash even more meaningful...

For NFL coaches – especially the young ones – it doesn't get any better than it is right now for Josh McDaniels.

In fact, he may have to pinch himself – if he hasn't already done so – to make sure it's actually real. He could retire right now and say, with accuracy, that he's accomplished a lot in the league and that it's been a great, thoroughly enjoyable ride – a dream come true, as it were.

A lot of coaches spend a lifetime in the NFL trying to just get to a Super Bowl, let alone win one, and McDaniels has no fewer than three Super Bowl rings, all earned within a four-year stretch in the first half of this decade while he was he was an assistant with the New England Patriots.

At just 33, an age when most coaches would be willing to give their right arm to simply be considered for a coordinator job, McDaniels has already spent three years as an offensive coordinator and, more importantly – much more importantly -- is a head coach.

And not the head coach of just any team, but rather one of the league's premier clubs, the Denver Broncos, whose long tradition of success is only too well-known by Browns fans.

But it doesn't end there. Not at all. Not even close.

Last Sunday in the first game of his first season, his team pulled out a one-for-the-ages win, 12-7, over Cincinnati when a Kyle Orton pass intended for wide receiver Brandon Marshall was deflected by Bengals cornerback Leon Hall into the hands of wideout Brandon Stokley, who raced into the end zone with just 11 seconds left to complete the 87-yard play. It's the longest game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of a game in NFL history.

Other than all that, it was just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill pro contest.

The game was played in Ohio, a state where the last name of McDaniels resonates in football circles, particularly in high school, like the banging of a gong. His dad, Thom, is in his first season as an assistant at Solon High in suburban Cleveland, but is much better known as a prep coaching legend at Canton McKinley, Warren Harding and Massillon Jackson.

Josh was a star quarterback and kicker at McKinley for his dad in the early 1990s and then went on to John Carroll University in Cleveland, where he was a wide receiver.

Following Josh at quarterback at McKinley was his little brother, Ben, who, with Thom still serving as head coach in 1997, helped lead the Bulldogs to the Division I state title. Thom stepped down to watch Ben play his senior year, and McKinley repeated as state titlist.

Ben played in college at Kent State and has joined his brother's staff at Denver as a coaching assistant after having served as an assistant at Jackson, McKinley and Harding.

But there's one more chapter – so far – to Josh McDaniels' Ohio connections and the special nature of the opening of his rookie season as a head coach. It's that his first home game with the Broncos, on Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High, will be against the Browns, the team located closest to Canton, where he grew up.

"I wasn't a Browns fan, per se. I was more of a college football fan," he said during a conference call with the Cleveland media on Wednesday. "But when the Browns made the playoffs, I followed them, just like everybody else in Ohio was doing."

The Bengals, then the Browns on the schedule.

"What a neat thing to be playing both Ohio teams at the start of my career," McDaniels said.

Neat? It sounds more like it was orchestrated by a higher power, like maybe the ghost of Paul Brown, who, of course, is indelibly linked to both clubs and was an Ohio high school coaching legend himself 70-plus years ago. Brown is the man Thom McDaniels and other prep coaches in the state will forever be chasing.

A dramatic victory.

"We're very fortunate to be 1-0," McDaniels said.

You think? A finish like the one in Cincinnati happens in a coach's first game once every millennium or so.

"Who's writing your scripts?" a reporter jokingly asked McDaniels.

For not just that one game, but his entire coaching career. Really, no movie producer or book agent would buy a script of the story of his life in football, because it sounds as if it's been made up.

If we were smart, we would have McDaniels buy all of our Mega Millions lottery tickets. We would ask for his advice on the stock market. We might even ask him to come out and bless our house.

Indeed, this young guy is riding the wave.

And he credits it in large part to Thom.

"My father has had a great deal of influence on me in football and in life," McDaniels said. "All those experiences I had in growing up the son of a football coach were so important. Really, his markings on me, you can see every day."

You can also see the markings of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on McDaniels – and for that matter, first-year Browns head coach Eric Mangini, who coached with McDaniels in New England for five years.

"All the guys who have coached under Bill, he has given them a great handbook on how to be successful," McDaniels said.

And so far, Josh McDaniels has completely absorbed every page – so much so, in fact, that if all this continues, even at a much less sensational pace, it will be him writing a handbook on success one day for his protégés..

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