On Monday millions of Americans were set to lose their unemployment benefits and on the same day Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels joined the ranks of the unemployed. The day after a 10-6 loss to the Chiefs at Kansas City owner Pat Bowlen decided to pull the plug on the second year, first time coach. As head coach McDaniels lost 12 of his last 17 games after starting 6-0 in his first year.
“My decision to relieve Josh McDaniels as head coach was not taken lightly,” Bowlen said in a statement. “I will always be appreciative of his passion, enthusiasm and hard work, and I thank him for his efforts. In the end, I was not satisfied with the results and the direction this team was headed. The decision to make a change was extremely difficult but one that needed to be made for this organization and our fans.”
The decision came 10 days after a cheating scandal was revealed involving a videotaping of an opponents practice prior to a game. The NFL fined the Broncos $50,000. for the incident and an additional $50,000. directly to McDaniels for not reporting the violation. The videotaping occurred during the Broncos trip to London prior to a 24-16 loss to the San Francisco 49’ers. For McDaniels it was his second involvement in a cheating scandal.
The announcement came prior to the Monday Night Football game amidst the news of the death of Don Meredith the former Dallas Cowboy quarterback and Monday Night Football announcer. Before the evening concluded the Broncos released a statement naming running back coach Eric Studesville as interim head coach. Studesville becomes the Broncos 4th interim coach, the13th head coach, and the first ever African-American head coach of the franchise.
“I am very appreciative of the trust that Mr. Bowlen and the entire Denver Broncos organization have shown in me,” Studesville said in a statement. “Although the circumstances that this opportunity resulted from are unfortunate, I am excited to lead this football team. We have a great group of players and coaches who are committed to finishing the season on a promising note and making our fans proud of this team.”
After the loss to the Chiefs the Broncos dropped to 3-9 on the season and were eliminated from any playoff contention. The Chiefs moved two games above the Raiders and Chargers for first place in the AFC West.
Sundays contest was a chess match that resulted in a close score unlike the 49-29 blowout against the Chiefs in the Broncos best performance of the season three weeks prior. With the Chiefs targeting the Broncos top ranked passing game Denver focused their attack with the ground game which resulted in a career performance by Knowshon Moreno. Moreno finished with 161-yards in the 10-6 loss.
The focus on the ground game came at the expense of the Broncos passing game. Kyle Orton started the game as the leading passer in the NFL and finished with nine pass completions for 117-yards, with no touchdowns on the day. Orton still ranks fourth in the NFL in passing with 3, 487 yards on the season.
As evidenced by the low score the matchup was defensive effort by both teams. Dwayne Bowe, leading receiver for the Chiefs, was shutdown by cornerback Champ Bailey. Bowe had scored a touchdown in seven straight games leading the league with 14 touchdowns and was held without a catch by Bailey. “He is a true pro,” said McDaniels of Bailey after the game. “A guy that is a big time competitor. (Bowe) is a receiver who we think is certainly one of the very best in this league and has had a great stretch.”
McDaniels became the third coach to be fired in the last 30 days in the NFL including Brad Childress from the Vikings and Wade Phillips from the Cowboys. McDaniels last victory and final loss were both against the Chiefs. Broncos players were not aware of the firing before they left the Broncos facility after Mondays team meetings.
“It’s tough. He’s not out there playing,” wide receiver Eddie Royal said of McDaniels. “The guys in the locker room have got to feel somewhat responsible. We didn’t play well enough to win these games. We haven’t had a good year. We haven’t played the way we should have. Our fans are upset, and I can understand that. We’ve got a lot better football team than we’ve shown this year.”
The Broncos have four games remaining, two road games in Phoenix and Oakland and two home games with Houston on Dec 26th and San Diego on January 2nd to close out the season.
“Everyone, myself included, is accountable for our disappointing season and is now responsible for restoring the culture of winning that has been established by this franchise,” owner Pat Bowlen said. “Our entire organization is completely focused on returning to the level of prosperity that our fans expect and deserve from the Denver Broncos.”
McDaniels released a parting statement: “I am very grateful to Pat Bowlen and the Broncos’ organization for giving me the opportunity to be the Head Coach of such a proud franchise. I would like to thank all of the people who helped us over the last two years. I am especially appreciative of the efforts of every player, coach and member of the personnel department who worked so hard every day. I wish Pat Bowlen and the Broncos’ organization nothing but the best in the future.” (Contact Lenn Durant at 303-349-7424 or SportsFlash@aol.com).