Legacy this, Legacy that. You know what? I'm sick of hearing all these bloviating talking heads go on and on about legacies. I don’t care if it’s Manning’s, Brady’s or Belichick's. Nobody will ever agree on them, so what’s the point?
And no matter who wins the AFC Championship, we're guaranteed to get more of it.
You know what I’d like to hear more about?
Good old-fashioned grudge settling. The kind of payback that gives the winner the warm and fuzzies for the rest of his days, because he knows he force fed his sworn enemy a side of gnawing, soul-crushing bitterness to go with a main course of devastating defeat.
That’s the kind of meal former Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels can serve up to the Mile High faithful today. And we all know it's absolutely the kind of thing Wes Welker would relish sticking in Bill Belichick’s face.
As I said back in the spring, Welker’s departure from Foxboro was largely a result of the way he was “valued” by Belichick. But there was always a hint of something else causing a rift there. Was it a feeling that Welker was getting older and more brittle? Was it that Belichick actually believed Danny Amendola could approximate Welker in the Patriots’ offence without falling apart like C3PO in Cloud City? Or was there something else that led to that now famous “stick it in Bill’s face” quote?
There were always signs that Welker was never viewed the same way as other Pats mainstays were. Troy Brown and Deion Branch were never actively written out of the offense during a contract year. Hell, even players that had legitimate beef with the Hoodie -- like Ty Law and Richard Seymour -- seemed to command a grudging, if adversarial, respect from Belichick. It never felt that way with Welker.
From the famous foot benching, to the early contract extensions granted to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, to the designed reduction in Welker’s offensive role at the beginning of last season, Wes seemed like he was not appreciated and very much a temporary part of the Patriots plans.
For Welker, today represents the opportunity to be the dependable short range Imodium in the Bronco offence that finally calms Manning’s postseason nerves. And a sure-handed performance as Peyton’s safety valve in an AFC championship victory would certainly be something Wes would like to inflict on a Patriot fanbase that pins recent postseason woes on his crucial drops.
But Welker would have to settle on sending his vengeance on Patriots Nation through an HD TV signal.
Josh McDaniels on the other hand, not only has the opportunity to serve up his revenge cold, but deliver it personally.
Pat Bowlen and the Broncos hired McDaniels to be Bill Belichick Jr. They wanted an on-field general who, thanks to his days as an understudy to the pro football equivalent of Sun Tzu, would espouse all the Hoodie's winning qualities. At the same time the Broncos thought they were also getting the coordinator who engineered the single greatest offensive season in NFL history (until this year), perfectly suited to run a team in the new offense-friendly NFL.
What the Broncos ended up with was a green coach and GM, too young and too eager to emulate his mentor. It wasn’t long after assuming the role of navy-and-orange generalissimo that McDaniels started rubbing most everyone in Denver the wrong way.
He shipped Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall out of town. He anointed Kyle Orton as the caretaker of the Bronco offence until his chosen heir, Tim Tebow, was ready to take over at quarterback.
Pat Bowlen finally removed his hand-picked successor to Mike Shanahan after McDaniels compiled a disappointing 11-17 record, alienated the entire fan base, and embroiled the Broncos in their own mini-Spygate videotaping scandal.
Now I’m not going to call McDaniels’ time in Denver “Valentinian.” As far as I know, he never claimed to invent the Chalupa. But, like Bobby V, his numerous failures, as well as some of his more successful decisions, set the stage for the Broncos' resurgence.
If Cutler was still in Denver, Peyton Manning’s enormous cranium would never have cast its considerable shadow on the turf at Mile High. And three of Manning’s quintet of weapons -- Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno -- were all drafted by the littlest tyrant.
Maybe the misguided McDaniels would have been better served by not assuming total control. Maybe if McDaniels was brought in with John Elway, like John Fox was, he would been sheltered by Elway’s presence and helped by his experience. In that situation he might have had the kind of success many had predicted for him. Maybe Josh would have been better served had he tried some more effective methods of cheating, like the salary-cap circumvention that Bowlen and Denver engaged in from 1996 to 1998.
But despite the groundwork he laid for the current Broncos success, McDaniels’ name is still reviled with a passion in Denver. So what would Josh cherish more than to win the AFC Championship at Denver’s expense and celebrate that revenge in front of 76,000 people that reveled in his firing?
If the Pats win in Denver, footage of Belichick passing the Lamar Hunt Trophy to Josh McDaniels would surpass the recording of the 49ers walk though as the most infamous video in Broncos history.