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 McDaniels looks beaten, man!

By Mark Kiszla
The Denver Post
Posted: 11/29/2010 01:00:00 AM MST
Even this hoodie-donning fan maintains that Josh McDaniels is not his coach, and a vote of unconfidence is rendered. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)

It's a losing battle. With every misstep he makes and every embarrassing loss he takes, Josh McDaniels moves closer to the unemployment line.

In this football-crazy town, coaching the Broncos is a public trust that McDaniels has broken. He might be the most reviled man in Denver.

At the end of a weird 48 hours during which his integrity took a $50,000 hit to the wallet and his team was kicked in the gut by a 36-33 loss to St. Louis, I asked McDaniels if getting busted for secretly videotaping an NFL opponent's practice had undercut his authority with Denver coaches and players.

"I have no idea," McDaniels replied.

On another dark Sunday for the Broncos, McDaniels looked to be a beaten man.

How does McDaniels regain the trust of Bronco-maniacs?

He appears to have no clue.

The Broncos are a leaguewide joke. If you are going to cheat, as Denver did when it broke league rules by filming a San Francisco practice in London last month, you had better win.

McDaniels has lost 16 of the past 21 games.

Cheating is a forgivable sin. In a world where sportsmanship is often dismissed as a quaint anachronism, it's called seeking an edge.

But losers are absolutely not tolerated in professional athletics.

You can bet that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and chief operating officer Joe Ellis don't want to fire McDaniels, hired less than two years ago to replace legendary coach Mike Shanahan. Admitting a mistake so quickly would be a huge embarrassment for the franchise.

But I frankly wonder if McDaniels would still be employed at Dove Valley this morning if his players had not demonstrated faith in their beleaguered coach. It would have been very easy to quit on McDaniels when the Broncos trailed St. Louis 33-13 in the third quarter and disgruntled fans fled Invesco Field at Mile High, emptying entire sections of the stadium with each pass completed by St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford.

To suggest the Broncos rallied to save McDaniels' job, however, would be imagining motivation for players who were merely trying to avoid their own embarrassment.

"You just get that out of your head. There's nothing I can do about it. There's nothing our team can do about it. What we can do is go out and win a ballgame," Broncos defensive lineman Justin Bannan said, after a furious fourth-quarter comeback fell one scoring drive short.

Has it really come to this for a Denver team stuck with a 3-8 record? Should the Broncos be happy with refusing to quit?

"No, it is not a moral victory," said quarterback Kyle Orton, who threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns.

Remove all the emotion, and the decision to retain or dismiss McDaniels will come down to a simple matter of dollars and sense.

McDaniels will be owed approximately $6 million on his contract going forward, and Bowlen must also pay Shanahan in 2011. Revenue streams for the Broncos figure to be difficult to project, with the possibility of labor strife shutting down the league for at least a portion of next season. A new coach would be tempted to blow apart the Denver roster before quarterback Tim Tebow is even given a chance to lead the team.

If McDaniels is so bad for business, however, that the thousands of no-shows for the St. Louis game multiply for the final home dates against Houston and San Diego, then the math changes for the worse. The Broncos would be forced to do some serious calculation on how much the city's ill will toward McDaniels is impacting the bottom line.

When the comeback against the Rams fell short, after nearly all his players had dressed and departed, McDaniels walked through a silent Denver locker room. He wore a backpack and a ball cap. A cellphone was stuck to his ear. Before going out the door, McDaniels stopped to scavenge the pizza boxes stacked on a table.

If you didn't know better, you would never guess this man was the coach of an NFL team.

 
November 29, 2010  01:53 PM ET

The above article was written by Mark Kizla of the Denver Post.

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