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Josh McDaniels Needs To Work On His People Skills

Head coach Josh McDaniels of the Las Vegas Raiders speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Raiders added one target for new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, then traded away another. After agreeing to a deal with former Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers, Las Vegas shipped tight end Darren Waller to the Giants for a third-round pick. This wasn't totally out of the blue, since Waller had been available for the right price at the 2022 season's trade deadline, but the move came with the feeling that he and head coach Josh McDaniels weren't the best of friends.

If you're paying attention to the Vegas sports scene, or in a group chat with Maitreyi Anantharaman, you knew that Waller is in a relationship with Kelsey Plum, all-star guard for the Las Vegas Aces. It's true: Love can be found within Mark Davis's org chart. What wasn't known is that the couple had plans to get married on March 4, a piece of information inadvertently revealed by McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler at the NFL combine days before the wedding. The Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote about the news on March 1, and according to The Athletic, "Waller was upset with McDaniels" over that, because "the couple had not publicly announced their plans to get married." Many people were still surprised: Waller and Plum shared wedding photos on Instagram a couple of days after the ceremony, and not everyone reads the Review-Journal, as seen by the number of sweaty replies to Plum's post.

In pro sports, pretty much anyone can be traded. Nonetheless, it's a bit cold to send one half of a Vegas power couple to the East Coast just days after they tie the knot. Waller and Plum will now have to plan their 2023 schedules around the Giants' road game in Vegas and the Aces' two games in Brooklyn. Hours after the trade news broke, the bride had her own comment on the trade and McDaniels:

As a longtime bandwagon Aces fan and more generally as a person who is sick of Josh McDaniels's face, I'm enjoying this. It tracks that Waller and Plum would have an icy relationship with him, since that visor-wearing doofus doesn't seem to win anyone over and very much seems to coast on his prior success with the Patriots. He flopped in his (not even) two seasons with the Broncos a decade ago, he ditched the Colts at the last minute in 2018, and he turned in a 6-11 record in his first season with the Raiders, who are more contractually obligated to him than they were to Derek Carr.

In light of all this, it feels relevant to revisit the scattered thoughts of former Broncos lineman Tyler Polumbus. In September, the offensive tackle shared some stories of what it was like to play during the McDaniels era in Denver. A couple of choice excerpts, via MassLive:

1. After trading away the young nucleus of our offense including Jay Cutler, Josh said to the entire team “Fellas don’t worry about the QB situation, I can turn a HS QB into an All Pro.”


3. Every single day began with a 10 minute bad football reel from the day before where he would DOG cuss you and your coach for any bad play from practice 24 hours ago. Set the tone for a real positive day in front of entire team.

4. We had about 25 slogans painted on the walls. God Forbid you forget what the slogan was above the door entering the cafeteria…Josh would call players out in team meeting & ask what each slogan said. If you forgot a single word…Ass Chewing…

There's also the case of former tight end Nate Jackson, who wrote about his brief time with the Broncos in his book Slow Getting Up (and also for Deadspin). He primarily played under Mike Shanahan, and when McDaniels took the head coaching job, Jackson was one of the roster casualties. It's mentioned in the book, but here's the relevant part from a few years ago:

The reason the Broncos fired McDaniels in 2010 wasn't too hard to figure out: The team stunk and no one liked him. Now, you can argue these examples of interactions with players are just illustrating the cold realities of pro football, but I have a feeling that McDaniels didn't learn any humbling lessons within the failures of his first head coaching job. Good luck to Garoppolo and Meyers, though. It'll be like they never left the Patriots.

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