Manly House: Fantasy players should learn from McDaniels

  • By Nick Bakay Special to NFL.com
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Well it looks like we don't have Josh McDaniels to kick around anymore, but as fantasy football owners we have a lot to learn from his mistakes.

We may not be able to tape our rival's practices to gain insight into their game plan, but if you're desperate for intel I suppose you could hire a genius-level Icelandic hacker to break into his laptop, track his every move, and post them Wikileaks-style.

Then again, any league website worth it's salt already does that for you by posting his starters, his bench, and his waiver moves well before kickoff. Not to mention that nifty helmet logo he built by merging Bronko Nagurski's face with an angry wolverine.

No, the McDaniels lesson is all about keeping your ego in check when it comes to the care and handling of elite talent. I mean wowsville, has anyone taken the blue chip player bag and tossed it into the river faster than this dude did?

He came out of New England as a hot coordinator du jour (wait, we've seen that formula crash and burn before with Bill Belichick assistants, haven't we?) and despite the fact he was the youngest head coach in the NFL, dude systematically told a slate of hugely talented contributors to hit the bricks.

Mike Nolan is widely considered one of the best defensive coordinators in the league, but he wasn't good enough to stick in Denver. McDaniels proceeded to purge the roster of what you can argue were a pretty sweet set of triplets. Give me quarterback Jay Cutler, receiver Brandon Marshall, running back Peyton Hillis and I am ready to do some serious damage.

Apparently they weren't McDaniels guys.

Then again who was a McDaniels kind o' guy, quarterback Brady Quinn? It would be one thing if he used those discarded chips to add some major talent to his team, and mind you quarterback Kyle Orton has done a terrific job, but when you realize that essentially the only other asset they netted from all that movement was Quinn, we started to wonder if the boy genius has a clue.

When he proceeded to draft Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, it became fairly academic McDaniels didn't have much confidence in Orton, either. No doubt Kyle would have been dumped in good order had this madness been allowed to continue. The fact is, you never know how these first-time coaches are going to handle the gig, and this also relates to you: The fantasy owner heading down the stretch of your run to the playoffs.

The lesson to be learned? Just because super-talented players frustrate you, don't bail on them unless you're sure you can upgrade. Look, you wouldn't be involved in this pastime if you didn't think you were a little smarter than the other guy.

It's okay to admit this -- it's the fuel that fires fantasy up. Now that crunch time is here, I just urge you to keep your inner-McDaniels quiet and not ruin your team thanks to enough hubris to fill a wheat silo.

Are you ready to show patience and stick with the right blue chip guys?

Year in and year out, elite fantasy stars will have you pulling your hair out. It's part of the game. Think about it -- someone reading this traded Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew after Week 6, just missing his return to form and start racking up big Sundays like you expected from him week in and week out. No, it isn't what you hoped for when you picked him at number three, four, five -- but it's a hell of a lot more than what you probably got in return.

Star players need patience. I know it's wrong, it pisses you off, they should show you some damned gratitude for putting your butt on the line selecting them, but it just doesn't work that way. An angry owner who trades greatness for reliable, middle of the road point-getters isn't going to win anything.

Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald is arguably the poster child for the boulevard of busted balls -- a first round/early second round pick who has been rendered barely solid by heinous quarterback play and a team in disarray that can't run the ball. You figured he'd be like his Lions counterpart, Calvin Johnson, and get it done no matter who is throwing him the ball, but you were wrong.

Me too -- I've got him on a team that is sitting squarely on the bubble of greatness.

Larry has delivered his owners single-digit point totals in seven out of twelve weeks. Say hello to a cowboy boot right in the plums. Enough to sink most teams he's on because you paid dearly for him, but guess what? You have to start him. He's capable of 100 yards and a touchdown every week, and I doubt you found a better replacement.

Let's say you nabbed a receiver like Jacksonville's Mike Thomas and got some double-digit games out of him, then got real excited when teammate Mike Sims-Walker went down and the Jags started to win again. Cut to: Four catches for 31 yards last week. Insert mouth-fart here. Stick with your studs -- they may be unspectacular, but you don't want to be the guy who benches them during their breakout week.

Is Colts quarterback Peyton Manning the new Mr. Pick Six? No running game and an offensive line that has completely validated Bill Polian's post-Super Bowl chagrin has owners with a large interception penalty passing blood in their gamederpants.

Take a deep breath -- you are not going to bench him unless you really think you're going to do better with the scrap heap options available at this late date… are you ready to take on the world with Alex Smith? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Cowboys receiver Miles Austin hasn't killed you but he hasn't killed any dragons either. Well guess what -- he's rounding into form just in time for the money weeks. The Cowboys are revitalized from the coaching change, Kitna is getting it done, and no Dez Bryant is good news here.

Bengals running back Cedric Benson is another case study -- it was all starting to look mediocre, then bam! Two touchdowns and hope is renewed. Suck it up and dance with the guys you loved way back at your long-forgotten drafts.

Of course, not every crisis is in line to be rescued by a Hail Mary.

Are you ready to cut bait on the right guys?

For every exercise in patience, there are some guys who are just over for 2010. No hoodoo, no gris gris, no nothing is going to breathe life back into their pathetic stat lines. Your results may vary but if I'm looking at my roster and see some of these names staring back at me, I am sending the Turk their way and moving on with my life.

Titans receiver Randy Moss: He's had 70 yards, zero touchdowns in his last five games for two different organizations? It is so bad you're better off freeing up the roster spot and carrying two kickers.

Marshall: Chaos at quarterback, injuries -- keep the roster spot but for God's sake start someone else.

Cardinals running back Beanie Wells: I labeled him the most overrated fantasy player in 2010 and for once, I was right.

Lions running back Jahvid Best: Sadly, here is the story of a huge plus turned bad with turf toe. I just don't vibe this situation returning to asset mode.

Are you ready to take the big risk with late-season wonders you never heard of a month ago?

Yes, he delivered one big play last week, but in the big picture I believe the Saints' Chris Ivory is a playoff running back because he runs between the tackles and that's where games are won down the stretch. Meanwhile, I vibe the Saints are over Pierre Thomas, and Reggie Bush is easing his way back too slowly to matter.

Cowboys running back Tashard Choice is a guy I stashed on my WCOFF team which flat lined long before he came to be valuable, but he's the goal line muscle now, he's auditioning to be Marion Barber next year, and the 'Boys are winning.

Lions quarterback Drew Stanton. No doubt Matthew Stafford in an awesome young prospect, but over the course of his injury-plagued career it has become increasingly clear that whoever starts at quarterback in Detroit is going to get it done for you.

Do you dare to brave the deciding part of your season with a third-string quarterback? If you put all your chips on Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne or Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, you just might.

Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount. I know, I know, who? Well check the stat line and pray he's available.

It's time to sack up and be a man about your stars, your has-beens and your crazy reaches. Listen to your heart and shut down your ego.

Remembering a legend

Before I close, I feel compelled to pile on to the deserved appreciation for the late Don Meredith.

If you weren't around for the heyday of Monday Night Football in the 1970s, you missed out on a unique experience as a football fan, and you could make a strong case that Dandy Don was the essential ingredient. Funny, charming, accomplished, and most importantly relaxed, he was the antithesis of today's over-produced yet under-salted booth analyst.

Meredith knew the game as well as any man, and he understood that he was also there to entertain us, and the contrapuntal notes he struck with Howard Cosell were the essence of great broadcasting.

It was a magic moment I was lucky to enjoy, it had a profound effect on my love of NFL football, and Meredith realized the ultimate success of anyone on camera -- he made you feel like you knew him, and without a doubt you loved him.

RIP to a marvelously unique player, broadcaster, actor, and man.

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