ENGLEWOOD • There was a purpose in how Broncos coach Josh McDaniels handled the announcement that receiver Brandon Marshall wouldn’t play Sunday.
McDaniels could have just said Marshall’s hamstring was too injured for him to play, and it would not have become a big deal. But by deactivating Marshall, publicly questioning the severity of his hamstring injury and wondering about the accountability of players like Marshall and tight end Tony Scheffler, he sent a message for the future.
He wants it to be clear that things are changing in Denver. Benching Marshall and Scheffler — the Denver Post said he has been informed he won’t play — could hurt the Broncos on the field Sunday, and a loss could keep them out of the playoffs. But McDaniels has a bigger picture in mind.
“I think its important when you’re building a team and talking about winning and losing as a team, and that’s going to be your philosophy, that you need to stick with that and put that out there and you need to make sure nobody in the organization — players, coaches, fans, owner — they understand that’s what you’re trying to do and anything less than that is not going to be acceptable because that’s what we believe in,” McDaniels said. “And if that’s what our belief is, and that’s what it is, we’ve got to make sure we give our team Sunday the best chance by following through.”
Tight end Daniel Graham, a captain of the Broncos, spent time in New England, where McDaniels was a longtime assistant. McDaniels is trying to instill many things he learned under Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and Graham sees the parallels.
“It’s a no-nonsense mentality,” Graham said. “We’re professionals, we’re all here to work, he expects everyone to come here and work, and it’s his decision and what he feels is best for the team.”
Marshall and Scheffler are holdovers from Mike Shanahan’s tenure as head coach, and on a couple of occasions McDaniels mentioned there will be a certain culture as long as he is head coach.
“It’s never going to be acceptable while I’m here and while this staff is here and while we’re trying to build our team with this philosophy,” McDaniels said. “I don’t know if it was acceptable before, but it isn’t going to be now and it never will be.”
Marshall said he was hurt, and his deactivation “has nothing to do with accountability.” He wondered if McDaniels was taking “personal shots because of the way the season is unfolding.”
To McDaniels, the reason for deactivating Marshall was pretty simple.
“This isn’t about sending a message,” McDaniels said. “It’s about fielding a team that wants to go out there and win and gives us the best opportunity to do that.”