All of us in Bronco Country knew that McDaniels was treading on thin ice after last weekend’s loss to the Chiefs, which mathematically eliminated them from the playoffs, as well getting caught cheating in London when a member of the Broncos was caught spying on the 49ers during practice. With 17 losses in the past 22 games, I must say that McDaniels deserved to get canned. I just didn’t think it would come this soon.
Even though he was leading one of the worst Bronco teams since the 70s – Hell, even Wade Phillips had a better winning percentage during his two-year coaching tenure in Denver – McDaniels had everything going for him to not get fired. He is only half way through his four-year contract and has just over $7.5 million left on his contract. The Broncos are still paying off former coach Mike Shanahan’s contract for another year. The decision to fire McDaniels would effectively mean that the organization will have three head coaches on its payroll next season. It’s a situation that no owner wants to be in.
Obviously Bowlen weighed this scenario and decided that McDaniels had to go.
Having a losing team with a young, inexperienced coach is one thing. But having a losing team that has been caught cheating is quite another. Just a week before he pulled the plug on McDaniels, Bowlen said he planned to stick with him, and that now was not the time to be looking for a new coach. I am not sure what changed in that week, but I suspect that Bowlen finally decided that he couldn’t put his organization’s reputation on the line for McDaniels’ blunders any longer. He was tired of the embarrassing downward spiral of the Broncos.
“In the end, I was not satisfied with the results and the direction this team was headed,” Bowlen said on Monday. “The decision to make a change was extremely difficult but one that needed to be made for this organization and our fans.”
For me, McDaniels will always be known for his questionable personnel decisions. First it was the Jay Cutler trade. (I still like the decision, as I hate Cutler, but many still question it.) Then there was the Brandon Marshall trade to Miami. That one hurt. During the last off-season, McDaniels got rid of running back Peyton Hillis for quarterback Brady Quinn. This decision hurt the worst. Hillis is lighting it up right now for the Browns and is the hard, smash-mouth runner every team wishes it had.
Then, of course, there was last year’s NFL draft when McDaniels decided that the defense was strong enough to give up three draft picks to grab quarterback Tim Tebow – “The Chosen One.” Now the Broncos have three big-name quarterbacks in its quiver but no pass rush. Everybody outside the state of Florida questioned that call. During all of this, Bowlen stuck to his coach. They were head-scratcher decisions and Bowlen stuck to his young coach for good or ill.
Well, it wasn’t good. With all of McDaniels hair-brained trades and player personnel decisions the next head coach is going to have a tough job of rebuilding a team that was once the cream of the crop. I also heard from a friend who works within the Broncos organization, who will remain nameless, that McDaniels was a pain to work for. While player morale is one thing, staff moral is another. Apparently everyone from coordinators to scouts to trainers didn’t like Josh’s attitude and found it tough to work for him. That’s just what I heard. Add that to the Internet rumors that Hillis was traded because McDaniels thought Hillis was hitting on his wife, and you certainly have to question what kind of circus McDaniels was running. I am not sure he was mature enough for such a big role.
I do think he has a good knack for running an offense. He does show signs of brilliance in his play-calling ability. Hell, he could still be a good head coach as long as he is not in charge of player-personnel decisions. Being both the coach and in charge of personnel, McDaniels was way in over his head.
This rebuilding will begin with running backs coach Eric Studesville, who has been named the interim head coach. From there, who knows who will be the next coach in Denver? And who knows how much the organization will be able to pay the next coach?
What Denver can’t afford is another hack like McDaniels. Denver needs a proven coach. Jim Harbaugh? Jon Gruden? Maybe it’s time for Bill Cowher to get off the halftime set and back onto the sidelines. And, of course, there is John Elway. The God of Denver and the real Chosen One. What role will he play? Coach? Head of player personnel? It is an exciting time in Bronco Country. I can only hope we get a defensive minded coach. It’s time to bring back the Orange Crush.