BEREA - It shouldn't be a surprise that Josh McDaniels is head coach of the Denver Broncos at the tender coaching age of 33.
Growing up with a successful high school football coach for a father, McDaniels may have been designing plays in his crib. By the time he accepted a job as a graduate assistant at Michigan State University in 1999, he was well on his way to bigger and better things.
McDaniels owes much of his success to his father Thom, who was the head coach at Canton McKinley High School when Josh quarterbacked the Bulldogs in 1993. Thom coached Warren G. Harding High School from 2000-06 and is now the quarterbacks coach at Solon High School.
Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels
"My father had a great impact on me and my life, not only in football but in every other area," Josh said. "He's obviously the guy I've seen and witnessed the most coach his players and his teams. All those things I was able to witness were invaluable as being the son of a football coach. His workings on me I see every day, and I speak with him often during the course of the week.
"He's very happy doing what he's doing as an assistant coach in Solon. He loves coaching football. He also loves following his sons and our careers here in Denver."
Josh became the sixth youngest NFL head coach ever (32 years, eight months) when the Broncos named him to the post last Jan. 12.
His younger brother Ben, who was McKinley's quarterback when the Bulldogs won the Division I state championship and mythical national championship in 1997 (Thom's final season as coach at the school), is a coaching assistant.
Youth is being served in large helpings in the new-age NFL. Browns coach Eric Mangini was 35 when he was named coach of the New York Jets in 2006, and he's now 38 in his second opportunity to run a team.
Being young can be a disadvantage for a coach at the outset of his career as a head coach. Not all players want to be told what to do by someone not much older than them.
"It's no different of a challenge than every other coach has," Josh said. "I learned a long time ago if you prepare and find ways to make players better, find ways to give your players a better chance to win, every player listens. I always tried to do that in New England, and that's all I brought here.
"I'm going to work hard and be prepared. Hopefully, our staff is going to do the same thing. When you give them an opportunity to be better players, they listen to you. Everybody kind of ignores the age situation."
Josh didn't get off to a great start in Denver because of a well-publicized falling out with quarterback Jay Cutler, who wanted to be traded when he thought that Josh wasn't sold on his talents. There was a report Cutler refused to answer phone calls from Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, which might have sealed his fate in Denver.
After entertaining several trade offers, the Broncos decided to trade Cutler to the Chicago Bears for quarterback Kyle Orton and a first-round draft choice. Josh was criticized for the way he handled his first major issue as a head coach.
"That's just one of many things that occurred here in the offseason - the good, the bad, the indifferent - that we had to deal with and move on from," he said. "Really, your focus is challenged by a number of little things. Some may be bigger than others. Ultimately, your goal is to win games, and if you do that I think everybody is content with the results."
Josh and Mangini worked together as assistants for Patriots coach Bill Belichick from 2001-2005. Mangini was the defensive backs coach from 2000-04 and the defensive coordinator in 2005. Josh was a coaching assistant from 2001-03, the quarterbacks coach from 2004-05 and the offensive coordinator the last three seasons.
Mangini isn't surprised by how quickly Josh has moved up the coaching ranks.
"Josh is a really smart guy," Mangini said. "He's very intuitive. He was never afraid to make suggestions. Looking at the offseason and acquisitions they made, I thought he did a really good job. I called him to tell him. It's difficult making that transition the first year."
The game Sunday in Denver between the Browns and Broncos will be the first involving two of Belichick's proteges. Mangini and Josh might be different in some ways, but both strongly adhere to the Belichick coaching doctrine.
"If you pay close attention to the things Bill does, you know there aren't many things he did when I was there that didn't correlate to winning games," Josh said. "You try to take his philosophies and his approach, and you try to apply them to your team. He gave every person in that organization a great opportunity to see firsthand how you win games and build a championship team.
"Hopefully, we all took good notes and that's our tasks now with our own organizations. I know he gave us a tremendous foundation, and I will be forever indebted to that."