Lets be perfectly clear: Josh McDaniels fate was pretty much sealed up following the egregious smack down the Raiders dropped at Invesco Field back on October 24. Sure, the McSpygate incident added reasons, but fans had turned on McDaniels before that; if you were going to point to a specific day that really meant Josh's demise, it had to be then.
But the first question fans are asking has to be: Why now?
Josh McDaniels was likely fired now as a shrewd management decision by Pat Bowlen to make a rather unattractive head coaching job look more attractive in the future. The owner doesn't need Josh McDaniels out there trying to get a few wins (which he might have gotten over the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans) and hurting the Denver Broncos draft stock. And by that, I mean the Broncos are better off losing out.
Why else would Pat Bowlen name Eric Studesville, the running back coach from the league's worst rushing attack, as interim head coach?
The names "Wink" Martindale and Eric Studesville hardly strike fear into the hearts of other NFL teams. They sound more fit for roles in 1970s adult films than at the high perch of an NFL franchise.
But the Broncos job, highly sought after upon Mike Shanahan's firing, has lost a lot of its luster. Josh McDaniels drove the high profile players out of town, and the team isn't within 10 miles of sniffing playoffs, or even a perpetual .500 record. In order to attract the next head coach, Bowlen is sowing the seeds for a high draft pick.
Were you surprised the Josh McDaniels was fired during the season?
It wouldn't be surprising if Studesville was instructed to start Tim Tebow, Demaryius Thomas (if healthy) and Eric Decker for the rest of the year. The rookies might as well get some playing time.
It isn't coincidental that Josh McDaniels was fired the day after the Broncos were officially eliminated from the playoffs. Pat Bowlen could see the season was officially lost; there was no opportunity for recovery.
The next question fans are asking is how much more housecleaning can be expected?
Most of the coaching staff will be remolded, but that won't become official until a new, permanent head coach is installed. I expect a new GM to be brought in for the team; who that will be exactly is a bit up in the air.
However one thing fans can get excited about is the high probability that John Elway will now return to the team in some sort of official capacity (other than occasional, "when I feel like it" adviser). Pat Bowlen and John Elway have a good relationship, and there have been rumors about his interest in getting involved with the team heating up over the past few weeks (as the McDaniels ship crashed into an iceberg).
While Elway has always wanted to get back with the team, he refused to work with Mike Shanahan. Now that Shanny is out of town and the franchise is in desperate need of righting, expect Elway to take a big position with the team in some capacity.
What position would you like to see John Elway in with the Denver Broncos?
It was, after all, Elway who spoke to the team before they went out and throttled the Kansas City Chiefs coming out of the bye week. Josh McDaniels being fired now only seems to strengthen the probability that Elway's return is imminent.
The final question fans are asking is who will the next head coach of the Denver Broncos be?
The answer, without giving a specific name (which isn't possible right now), is a big name defensive guru.
The Denver Broncos have been struggling on defense for far too long. Pat Bowlen was going to hire a defensive master after Mike Shanahan but he was struck by McDaniels, feeling he was the second coming of the mastermind.
Now, since the Broncos have struggled through five consecutive seasons of different defensive coordinators, none of whom could put the right defense together, expect Bowlen to wise up. Despite what many people think, the Denver Broncos have a functional NFL offense (and a spectacular passing game).
All they really need on that side of the ball is consistency. And even that won't lead to sure wins.
Pat Bowlen won't take a chance on another unknown coaching prospect. Sure, Josh McDaniels was a hot name back in early 2009, and there will be other tempting names, but Bowlen is going to be paying three head coaches in 2011.
He won't be comfortable shelling out the extra bills on another coaching project.
There are a lot of questions floating around in Denver right now, but fans can be happy about one thing: the team has hit the bottom, and firing this head coach was the first step towards recovery.
The other major questions will sort themselves out in time.