DENVER - Josh McDaniels’ trash talk is the talk of the league.
The Denver Broncos’ brash — some would say cocky — coach exchanged taunts with a group of San Diego Chargers linebackers during warmups Sunday, at one point telling them, “We own you!”
Then, he watched those very players lead the Chargers’ 32-3 beatdown that knocked Denver out of first place in the AFC West.
His words reverberated across the NFL, with fellow coaches saying they had never heard of this happening before and at least one star player suggesting they should be allowed to fight back with fists and not just their mouths when taunted by an opposing coach.
According to players who were either involved in the heated exchange or who witnessed it, the main target of the 33-year-old McDaniels’ taunting was outside linebacker Shaun Phillips, whose sack and strip of Chris Simms on his first dropback set the early tone for San Diego’s statement victory.
“As a coach, I hope he has that mindset, but to say you own us? You beat us one time,” said Phillips, who is five years younger than McDaniels. “How much has he really done in this league? He had a team 6-0 and now he’s looking up at us in second place.”
Denver rookie safety David Bruton said he didn’t see anything wrong with his coach jawing with the opponent.
“It shows that he cares and is fighting for his team,” he said. “Our coach is an emotional coach, he is a very fiery coach. He has a lot of passion for the game and for the Broncos. What he did wasn’t Woody Hayes. Hayes would reach up and hit you on the side of the head.”
Which is what Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark suggested players should be allowed to do when coaches taunt players from the other team.
“Honestly, my thought on that is, I would like to petition Mr. (Roger) Goodell and say, if a coach can talk to me like that, I should be able to fight him,” Clark said. “I don’t know where he’s from, but where I’m from, when somebody talks to you like that, they’ve got a problem with you. And we should be able to fight
Earlier this month, Goodell, the league’s commissioner, fined Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams $250,000 for making obscene hand gestures at Buffalo Bills fans.
But McDaniels’ trash talk won’t cost him anything in fines.
“No, it’s not anything we are reviewing,” league spokesman Greg Aiello told The Associated Press.
Penalty or not, Tennessee Titans linebacker Keith Bullock said coaches have no right to razz opposing players.
“The coach had his opportunity when he was younger to have his time out there and obviously it’s over,” Bullock said.
As if taking a cue from their coach, the Broncos let their emotions get the best of them Sunday, unraveling with silly penalties and sideline spats in a reversal of their 34-23 win at San Diego a month earlier.
After taking the league by storm with six straight wins, including one over his mentor, New England’s Bill Belichick, after which he did his best Tiger Woods’ fist-pump over and over, McDaniels finds himself trying to straighten out a team that’s lost four straight heading into the Thanksgiving night game against the New York Giants (6-4).
He acknowledged his team lost its poise last week but he declined to discuss his own pregame chatter with the Chargers. After the game, he told the Denver Post that he didn’t want to make an issue out of it and, besides, he said, they started it.
“The thing about Josh is that he’s a very competitive guy, too. He’s right there in that fire with us. When we go out on that field, he’s right in it with us. Emotionally, he’s as charged as we are, and as a player you love that in your coach,” Holliday said.
“I think that’s great that as a coach he can do that. I’m sure it’s probably frowned upon or somebody’s going to say something bad about it. But as a player, I didn’t know that had happened, but I wish I had seen it. It might have gotten me going a little more.”
Broncos fullback Peyton Hillis said, “I don’t think it’s any different from a player going up against another player. Before the game and during the game you are enemies. At the end of the day, the coaches aren’t going to shy away from an opponent.”
Coaches have been known to crack an occasional quick joke with opponents before a game, but they usually don’t put themselves in position to get razzed by a rival. And if they do find themselves targeted by taunts, they tend to walk away and let their players handle things themselves on the field rather than provide any more motivation for the competition.
Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini said he couldn’t recall a coach ever getting into it with opposing players during warmups, “and even if that was the case, you have a game to play, so you just focus on that.”
Some coaches said the bigger issue is when players spill onto the opposing sideline during play, which can lead to scuffles like the one earlier this month involving Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall and members of his former team, the Atlanta Falcons.
“The referees are great at running in there and (breaking things up), but there’s not a place for it,” Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress said. “Typically, those guys can tumble into your bench or sideline, but you’re more worried about getting ’em off the ground or finding out if any of your guys got hurt. It’s split-second stuff.
“It has to do with the emotions of the game, too. But as competitors, you have to be able to control that emotion. There’s not a lot of place for it. You get off-centered that way too easily.”
Titans coach Jeff Fisher, the elder statesman among NFL coaches, said he’s never heard of a coach taunting the other team’s players before or after a game.
“I personally feel like I have a great deal of respect for them. I’ll do a lot more of the other, just talking,” he said.
And what does he think of McDaniels’ trash talking opponents?
“Good luck in free agency.”
CSN: Even if Aaron Hernandez has nothing to do with his associate's murder, it's a story the "brand-conscious" Patriots want him far away from.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
Latest from ProFootballTalk
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Texans' Mt. Rushmore
ProFootballTalk: Erik Kuselias, Mike Florio and the fans agree that Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt, Arian Foster and Bob McNair belong on the Texans' Mt. Rushmore, but Frank Wycheck argues that Mario Williams deserves a spot.
Check out some of the NFL cheerleaders from across the league.