BOSTON (CBS) — Eric Decker’s time playing for Josh McDaniels in Denver was brief, but it came at a critical time in the receiver’s career.
It was in 2010 that McDaniels — entering his second season as head coach of the Broncos following an 8-8 campaign — drafted Decker in the third round with the 87th overall pick. Along with Denver’s top pick Demaryius Thomas as well as quarterback Tim Tebow, it was a draft class that brought a lot of excitement to the Mile High City.
Those visions didn’t exactly pan out — not for McDaniels, at least. The head coach was fired after Week 13, with the Broncos sitting at 3-9.
Both McDaniels and Decker have gone on to success, with McDaniels reviving his career as Patriots offensive coordinator and Decker establishing his career both as a member of the Broncos and the Jets. Now, the two are reunited in New England. And though Decker stressed that he’s in the process of getting to know his teammates and the playbook, the receiver took a moment on Tuesday after practice to offer a bit of praise for McDaniels.
“Josh drafted me in Denver, gave me an opportunity,” Decker said. “Obviously I’ve got all the respect for him. Probably the smartest football coach I think I’ve had in my career. Guy knows his X’s and O’s, he’s good with relationships, good as far as getting things going offensively. So it’s been fun being back with him.”
Decker also said that when it comes to some of those X’s and O’s, some of it looks familiar to his first NFL playbook.
“There’s obviously things that change over time, but there’s some carryover that I was able to take and quickly learn,” said the 31-year-old. “And then there’s a lot of new stuff too that I’ve got to catch up on and get ready to go.”
Decker also said he’s getting to know his new quarterback. Though Decker never knew Tom Brady personally before, he’s found Brady to be as advertised thus far.
“It’s important between receiver and quarterback to understand each other, to build that trust. And that’s something that over time, we’ve just gotta keep working on,” Decker said. “I mean he’s one of the best if not the best, just the way he goes about his business. Detail, takes care of himself, on the field detail-oriented, commands in the huddle, pushes people, keeps them accountable. Things that you want in a leader. It’s been fun to be his teammate these last few days and kind of learn how he cares and stuff as a pro and things that I can take to help myself. Just a good guy. I expected what I kind of got. Just a good guy, good teammate, fierce leader, big-time competitor, and a guy we depend on a lot.
Having spent four seasons with the Broncos and three with the Jets (prior to his one year in Tennessee), Decker has spent the majority of his career being a chief AFC rival of the Patriots. But having been in Foxboro for less than a week, Decker has not been surprised to see from the inside the way the Patriots operate.
“They do it the right way,” he said. “There’s no question why they consistently win, why they’re consistently on top. Just the way they work. Every detail, everybody throughout the building does their job to the best [of their ability]. It’s quite fascinating to be a part of it and just try to fit in.”