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Paul Klee: Josh McDaniels fiasco, anthem protests are examples why the NFL misses Pat Bowlen right now

By: Paul Klee
February 10, 2018 Updated: February 11, 2018 at 11:38 am
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FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2012 file photo, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen watches as the Broncos warm up before an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Denver. Bowlen is giving up control of the team as he battles Alzheimer's disease. The team announced Wednesday, July 23, 2014 that the 70-year-old Bowlen will no longer be a part of the team's daily operations. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

DENVER — Robert Kraft is the real villain in the Josh McDaniels-Colts fiasco. With great power comes great responsibility, and no owner uses his for self-serving interests more frequently than the Patriots’.

Some of the NFL’s most prominent issues — national anthem protests, distrust between players and owners, the fallout from continued and necessary CTE studies, all that — are a direct result of the league’s knee-jerk reaction to almost anything that threatens to tarnish the shield. I call it the CYA plan. Instead of working together to advance the greater good with a sensible solution, the men in charge seek to cover their own backside.

The anthem protests are the perfect example. The NBA quickly and successfully identified a solution in the form of a blanket decree that all teams must stand for the anthem. And when’s the last time you read a report on anthem issues in the NBA? There haven’t been any. There’s been zero blowback from a league roster that’s 70 percent black. The NBA’s all good. This isn’t hard.

Meantime, the wishy-washy NFL tried to appease this group ... and that group ... and that other group ... and the end result has been distrust from players and alienating a sizable chunk of its fandom.

Nobody follows the CYA plan — ignoring what’s best for the league in order to help itself — better than  Kraft. That brings us to McDaniels, who reneged on a promise to join the Colts as coach. Know who changed McDaniels’ mind, according to reports? Bob “CYA” Kraft.

The whole ordeal was another bad look for the NFL.

Yes, McDaniels was a five-alarm fire here. His version of the Patriot Way — from tearing down photos of Broncos alumni (build your own future!) to the videotaping scandal, a Foxboro special — crashed and burned. But the Broncos’ power structure at the time didn’t help, either. Pat Bowlen’s good health had begun to fade, Joe Ellis wasn’t yet in an elevated position, and there was no clear power structure at Dove Valley. The Broncos were very much in a gray area and at a crossroads. Denver’s mistake was not pairing a seasoned general manager with the 32-year-old McDaniels. McDaniels wasn’t ready, but the Broncos weren’t ready for him, either.

What I'm saying is McDaniels still could be an excellent coach, especially with a quarterback like Andrew Luck, and what’s best for the NFL is sharp, innovative coaches. There’s not a hotter commodity than a 41-year-old offensive mind who helped 40-year-old Tom Brady win league MVP.

But instead of doing the right thing — reminding McDaniels he had given his word and wishing him well in Indianapolis — Kraft did the CYA thing. 

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something. The CYA plan is tackling the NFL, one self-serving decision at a time.

It's also another reminder how badly the NFL could use a reasonable voice like Pat Bowlen right now. His ability to galvanize the suits in charge, with an eye on the big picture, was a memorable trait.

Nuggets

Big week ahead for UCCS legend Derrick White: Tuesday, his Spurs visit the Nuggets, the first time White has played at Pepsi Center since “The Show” in 2012 (excluding a quick stop at the Nuggets’ practice gym for a pre-draft workout last June). Saturday, White has his No. 14 jersey retired at Gallogly Events Center when the Mountain Lions host Metro State.

The 23-year-old CU grad is getting a look with San Antonio’s veteran roster, which wasn’t a given during his rookie season. He’s played in 13 games for the Spurs’ G League squad in Austin as the Spurs monitor how he handles the pick-and-roll. So far, so good: last week against the Suns and Warriors, White played 40 minutes, made 6 of 11 3-pointers and scored 21 points.

Hey, Pop: how about some playing time for the local guy in his return home?

Broncos

I think it's fair to say no one on a football staff spends more time with the roster than the strength coach. So it’s no surprise Broncos players were ticked when longtime strength guru Luke Richesson, who’d been around Dove Valley through three coaches, jumped ship for a promotion with the Texans.

“It makes me sad,” linebacker Brandon Marshall told Troy Renck of Denver’s 7News.

Well, guys, what did you think would happen when you lobbied for Vance Joseph’s return? After a 5-11 season it was inevitable the Broncos would tweak — if not overhaul — the rest of the operation, with Joseph shaping his staff with “his” guys. Even though the Texans had blocked the Broncos from interviewing Wes Welker for the wide receivers gig previously held by Tyke Tolbert — another guy the outspoken players loved — the Broncos allowed Richesson to walk for two reasons: it’s good business, and the Broncos sought to streamline all corners of the wellness program, most notably the strength program with the nutrition program. Can’t have it both ways, fellas.

Rockies

April 6 — Coors Field's opening day — can't come soon enough for this Rockies season. Hard to believe, but the season gets rolling this week: Monday the players report to Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Tuesday they undergo physicals. Pitchers and catchers hold their first workout Wednesday.  

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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