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?"
Ellis alluded to restoring the organization's integrity and earning back their fans' trust. When combined with most of the news reports of the past couple days, it's pretty clear that the videotaping incident in London was at the crux of this momentous decision. That brings up our first set of questions:
- If Josh McDaniels was fired for his actions/inaction/silence regarding Steve Scarnecchia and the Niners' walkthrough, then why did it happen Monday rather than a week earlier, when the NFL and the Broncos made public the findings of their respective investigations? After all, the narrative regarding McDaniels of the past week or so had switched back to the fact that he had dealt away Peyton Hillis and given up a fourth-rounder to get Laurence Maroney and a six. Broncos fans (almost) everywhere were calling for McDaniels' head long before the taping incident came to light, and it's safe to say they would have continued to until he brought another Lombardi Trophy to Denver. If Pat Bowlen was/is so ashamed and enraged by the attention brought to his organization by Scarnecchia and McDaniels, why didn't the axe fall a week earlier?
- Was the week spent trying to figure out if McDaniels could be fired for cause and if his contract could be voided? If so, then what was with the FanHouse interview?
- Certainly it could be that Bowlen decided late last week to fire McDaniels, and then it was simply too soon before the KC game to drop the hammer. But - what if the Broncos had won?
Last week is when the Denver Post began assembling the proverbial guillotine, laying out what McDaniels would have to do to hang onto his job. Woody Paige spent his Sunday column listing all of the scenarios for McDaniels' self-preservation, and the team's four-point loss in Kansas City knocked off a couple of them. If Paige was sharing some actual insight to Bowlen's mindset, then McDaniels' employment in Denver truly did hang upon the outcome of Sunday's game. In fact, Bowlen's now-infamous interview with FanHouse's Thomas George included the owner saying, "We've still got a chance to make the playoffs. People have been in a position like ours and it's been done before." While this rung a bit strange at first glance, it serves now to help confirm what Bowlen was thinking - which prompts the next questions:
- Was Josh McDaniels fired on Monday because the Broncos had lost in Kansas City? If that's the case, then McDaniels' gig not only hung upon the result of the game; it depended upon the Broncos' last true possession - when Kyle Orton was deemed "in the grasp" and when McDaniels chose to kick the ball away on fourth and 4.
- If he was fired because of the loss to Kansas City, then of course a win would have preserved McDaniels' job at least for another week, right?
- Wouldn't a couple of wins after the taping incident create too much distance for Bowlen to later fire him because McDaniels had supposedly brought shame to the organization?
- Finally, if wins by the Broncos could have saved their coach's job, then just how embarrassed was Pat Bowlen by the taping incident? Enough so that he would fire McDaniels for that reason alone? Or not?
They do say winning cures all, and perhaps that's what it came down to. But deciding upon the future of a franchise based upon the results of a few practically meaningless games seems crazy, to put it simply. So perhaps the problem was all of the losing that's been going on in Denver over the past 14 months after McDaniels' 2009 team started out 6-0. That begs these questions...
- If results matter 28 games in, if they matter in the second season of a new coach's tenure, why would anyone hire a 32-year-old who was never a head coach at any level?
- Not only that, but a coach who would install new defensive and offensive schemes? Switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme takes time - according to Pat Kirwan in his fine tome Take Your Eye Off the Ball, it's a two-year process.
- Really, what did you expect, Mr. B?
And now going forward...
- Ellis yesterday said the Broncos have a lot of work to do. But that doesn't mean a rebuilding process, does it? Because if a rebuild is necessary now, then what was Josh McDaniels hired to do?
- If it was McDaniels who was actually rebuilding the Broncos in Bowlen's eyes, then what was the owner watching this season? For someone who is focused on results rather than the process, then of course the 2010 season has been a disaster. But if rebuilding is what McDaniels was hired to do...
- Does Bowlen realize the roster is much stronger and deeper than it was in 2008? Does he recognize the immense value in having a young and talented offensive line that now has five NFL games together under their belts? What about the young and emerging secondary?
- More than anything, McDaniels has earned a reputation for being a fine teacher of quarterbacks. What now with Tim Tebow?
Lots of questions, and few (if any) answers. But that's the point here. I can't make any sense of why Josh McDaniels was fired on Monday - most of all the timing of it. Hopefully some more details will dribble out in the near future as to Pat Bowlen's thinking. Perhaps we'll even begin to understand it all at some point. Until then, I guess I'll keep chewing...and chewing...and chewing...