Apparently it is possible to see a mirage in the Rockies.
Earlier this season after the Broncos started 3-0, I wrote that the Broncos and their fans were buying into what Josh McDaniels was doing with the team and, to steal a line from McDonald's, I said they were "lovin' it."
Well, 13 games later, I think it is safe to say both the team and its fans are "hatin' it." Even yours truly admits he was dead wrong. In a season of low expectations, the Broncos took advantage of no one taking them seriously and surged to a 6-0 start.
Then the wheels came off and the Broncos finished a putrid 2-8 and becoming only the third team since the AFL-NFL merger to miss the postseason after starting the season 6-0. This collapse is worse than the three-game losing streak the Broncos had to end the 2008 campaign, due to that they played poorly for ten games versus three.
Mike Shanahan got fired for that three-game collapse last season, so logic dictates McDaniels should suffer the same fate. Will it happen? Probably not this year. That said, Bowlen has even more just cause to fire McDaniels than he had to fire Shanahan.
First, as can be seen in the 44-24 thumping they took at home to the 3-12 Chiefs, McDaniels has lost control of this team. Just when fans thought it couldn't get any worse than being beaten by JaMarcus Russell at the last second, it does.
For example, McDaniels had the gall to make a more boneheaded move than Shanahan ever did by benching two of his best three pass catchers for "attitude problems," for a game that had playoff implications. Anyone who saw today's game would have been able to see that Marshall's height and Scheffler's hands would have helped the Broncos.
Marshall's case is sketchy at best, but as a former problem child who had been on his best behavior all season it makes McDaniels' move that much more puzzling.
On top of that, McDaniels has proven himself to be such a big liar that it would make Bill Belichick cringe. Case in point, McDaniels said today that Marshall's benching had nothing to do with the Pro Bowl receiver missing a treat session for his purported injured hamstring. However, earlier in the week the head coach told Ed Werder of ESPN that missing a session was a primary reason for Marshall's benching.
Which one is it coach? I understand that coaches mislead members of the media a lot with statements that aren't necessarily true yet not entirely false, but this was an out and out lie that wouldn't have been such a big deal had McDaniels told it one way or the other.
Such an outright lack of integrity even has me questioning how much of what McDaniels said about the falling out with Jay Cutler is true, but as they say "there is no use in crying over spilled milk." We likely will never know what really happened there, but recent events should cause some Broncos fans to re-examine who the real villain in that situation really was.
Owner Pat Bowlen is learning what Cleveland (times two with Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini) and Notre Dame have come to terms with recently: the "Patriot way" of running an NFL works nowhere outside of Foxboro and even there, Belichick's methods are starting to show signs of strain. Fudging on injury reports is no longer tolerated and Belichick's monotone press conferences are beginning to become the laughingstock of the NFL.
Players and fans alike want to see their teams run with integrity and class, a way in which the Broncos were run just one year ago. Taking out shortcomings on defense and struggles to finish off seasons, no one can say that the Shanahan regime wasn't classy. Shanahan's final press conference is an example of that. He didn't get it done and openly admitted it.
What does McDaniels do? He throws two of his best offensive players under the bus. If you have an issue with some players' attitudes, that's fine. McDaniels said the word of the week was accountability, and he held Marshall and Scheffler accountable.
Now, following another embarrassing defeat, does the coach hold himself accountable? McDaniels said after the game, "Obviously, something is wrong and it needs to be fixed." Look in the mirror, coach. McDaniels went on a power trip this past week and now he needs to learn the true meaning of the word "accountability."
Mr. Bowlen, for the sake of your franchise, please fire this man. You don't have to (and shouldn't) bring back Shanahan, but please hire a proven winner.
Bill Cowher would be a good start.