Last week I ripped the Broncos fan base for being spoiled, and I included myself in that cohort. We are exactly that, because in team history, it has never rebuilt. It initially built for a long time, did well for 30 years, faded, and now needs to be rebuilt for the first time ever. We’ve covered this, and I feel like my continually talking about the perils and stupidity of unannounced rebuilding has spread the word to others, who are also talking about it.
I believe that Monday may have been the darkest day in franchise history. That occurred to me within minutes of learning of the firing of Josh McDaniels, and I’ve now spent over 24 hours considering whether I’m being overly hyperbolic. As I said on Twitter Sunday, my words count in perpetuity, so I’m careful-ish of what I say. I don’t think I am overdoing it, friends. Let’s consider what really just happened.
Yesterday, we talked about the state of the offense - what the new coach will have to work with, and areas where we might be strong or weak. Today, I’d like to talk for a moment about defensive concepts and options, and then take a look at our players and consider what might need to be done.
I’ll come clean - I love the tales of offensive strategy, and learning its history. Stories of the birth of formations and systems that are often a century or more old -- and yet are new again, rearranged, adapted and yet vital and still effective -- are a pleasure to learn. It’s a long series of remarkable lives, about men who changed the game and the sagas of so many great legends: both those among the living and those who came before. The stories never cease to amaze me. There’s really nothing like it, with the endless competition, the human interest, the quest for mastery in every season and the constant drama. It’s a game that has a certain percentage of outcomes within a mathematical certainty that people like TJ and Doug can quantify, yet carries with its outcomes an endless percentage of disciplined chaos that changes, puzzles and constantly entertains me. At its heart, it’s still a more civilized form of unarmed territorial warfare. It’s not a coincidence that they refer to the contest in ways that connote battle.
Broncos COO Joe Ellis on Tuesday said of the prior day's coaching change that "Our goal is to finish the year on a promising note and make our fans proud of our team. That's what we intend to do...(Studesville) will do his best to make this organization proud, to make our team, our town proud over the next four weeks."
Chew on that for a moment, if you will. What could the Broncos possibly accomplish over the next four weeks to make Denver proud? Is Eric Studesville going to lead the Broncos on a four-game winning streak? If so, does a four-game audition prove that someone who's never been more than a position coach is qualified to become the next steward of the Denver Broncos Football Club? One would have to imagine the answer to all of those questions is "No." Granted, Studesville is merely the interim coach of a franchise now in disarray - expectations will be low, and moral victories will surely be touted in the DP after close losses under Josh McDaniels meant he was a failure.
So what did Ellis mean? Were those just the canned words Denver's PR department put together for him? Four weeks is nothing in NFL terms, certainly not when viewed through the prism of a man's career or the wellbeing of a franchise. Yet Pat Bowlen and Ellis felt they couldn't afford Josh McDaniels but four more weeks to finish out his second season as the Broncos' head coach. There's been a lot to think about since Monday evening, but one question keeps coming up - "Why now?"
Good Morning, Broncos fans. Two fine writers shared their thoughts on the McDaniels firing:
Not sure if Mike Lombardi is interested in getting back into the player evaluation business, but he wrote another column yesterday that just shows he "gets it" more than anyone else in the national media (is that a backhanded compliment?). I could point to about eight different paragraphs, but this one stands out...
In any sport, losing is extremely difficult -- it's hard on the mind, body and spirit. It challenges every prior belief an organization holds true, forcing constant evaluations of the path, the direction and the journey chosen for the organization. It is human nature to second-guess every move on a losing path. Few, in most sports, are willing to brave the losing, the criticism of the media, or the wrath of their fans. Believing in principles and having the courage to stand alone is a rarer quality than bravery in battle or superior intelligence. Yet it is the one essential for teams that desire to win Super Bowls.
Ted Bartlett examines the role of the Denver Post in Josh McDaniels' firing and says the future doesn't look so bright for us anymore...
The Denver Broncos entered into a full-scale reconstruction of the franchise in January, 2009. Literally everything changed, much of it for the better. The Broncos built a systematic approach to scouting, for the first time in memory. They rid themselves of me-first players, and actively sought out team-first guys. They ignored conventional wisdom, which over a long enough timeline, is always a good thing to do. But they didn’t communicate that they were rebuilding, or ask for patience, or probably even admit to themselves what the situation really was...There are no shortcuts to setting yourself up to be good even on a mediocre day. It’s a long process, and it never stops. The Patriots continue to set the standard in that way.
Okay, enough with all that reason and clear thinking. Let's get to the silliness...
Well, whatever else may be the case, the Josh McDaniels era is over in Denver. Left in its wake is a team in the middle of a multi-year rebuilding process that has been interrupted for a second time, a process that could create as many issues as it solves. I watched Eric Studesville’s press conference, and while I’m uncertain that he could be a long term solution (I believe that a coach with experience is essential), he’s an engaging and obviously bright, passionate individual. I enjoyed watching him.
When the news came down, I found myself more interested in the future than the past. There are no shortages of articles from every conceivable viewpoint on what McDaniels and Brian Xanders did - and didn’t - do over the past 21 months; the members have done a remarkable job of putting together the history of the events accurately. Rather than chewing old soup, I’d like to talk about some basic issues for the future. Where the team goes from here is going to be dependent on going on from here to developing success.
Forgive me if I'm not blown away by Joe Ellis' press conference today.
Although I understood the words that were coming out of his mouth, I ended up missing most of the meaning.
Let me see if I can get this straight. Ellis admitted that the organization burdened Josh McDaniels with too much responsibility; he admitted that the organization had not intended to give McDaniels so much power, but that it somehow had "evolved" to that point; he admitted that McDaniels would end up being an excellent and successful head coach in the league; he admitted that McDaniels was in the top of the league in game-planning; he admitted that the organization needed to do more to help McDaniels with all the responsibilities that came with being a head coach.
So the best course of action was to send the guy packing.
I guess Ellis was correct when he said, "We don't have a plan for moving forward."
Joe Ellis and Eric Studesville will meet with the press today at 1PM ET/11AM MT. Watch and listen live at the official site; discuss it here.
Good Morning, Broncos fans. Let's hope today will be better than yesterday was in Broncosland, although it should be simply by default. In case you've chosen this to be your first visit after a 14-hour blackout, well thank you very kindly. Unfortunately, we've got some wild news for you - Josh McDaniels has been fired by the Broncos, just 28 games and 23 months into his (unannounced) rebuilding process. There's even some talk that the team could attempt to withhold the balance of McDaniels' contract under the cover of a morals clause following the recent taping incident. RB coach Eric Studesville has been named the interim head coach, while rumors are flying that Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier, Air Force coach (and former Mike Shanahan/Gary Kubiak assistant) Troy Calhoun, and possibly even Kubiak himself, are the leading candidates. Meanwhile, there is plenty of speculation that Pat Bowlen will look to John Elway to fill some sort of front-office role; the two reportedly dined last night at the legendary QB's namesake steakhouse.
Broncos COO Joe Ellis and Studesville will speak to the press today at 1pm ET; the press conference will be streamed live via the team's official website. We'll provide an open thread at that time for your discussion. Frankly, I have a lot of thoughts about what happened yesterday, most of them not good. But it's probably best to reserve judgment until after today's presser and more details emerge. Oh, and it's late. FWIW, I"d love to see Jeff Fisher ride into town...
Mike Lombardi of the NFL Network is reporting that the Broncos will speak with John Elway about a potential position within their front office. According to Lombardi's sources, current Texans coach and former Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak (also Elway's longtime backup QB) would be Pat Bowlen's first choice to replace Josh McDaniels should Kubiak be relieved of his duties in Houston.
McDaniels, who was fired earlier today, released the following 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.
UPDATE 12:15AM ET According to Denver's 9NEWS, Bowlen and Elway dined Monday night at the local restaurant bearing the latter's name. No word on what they discussed...
Everyone and their dog is now reporting that running backs coach Eric Studesville has been named interim head coach for the rest of the season.
I'd give a long bio of the guy, but to be honest, the story isn't about a guy who is going to be around for 4 more games.
It's about where the Broncos go next. With all due respect to Studesville, he is simply filling a gap.
Here was some measured perspective (link corrected) from Michael Lombardi on what the Broncos might be thinking.
Let the speculation begin. Gruden? Cowher? Kubiak? Patches O'Houlihan?