Denver Broncos: Josh McDaniels' Firing Moves GM Pat Bowlen To the Hot Seat

Jesse SchafferCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2010

DENVER - SEPTEMBER 3: Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen looks on during warm-ups prior to the NFL preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at Invesco Field at Mile High on September 3, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Less than two years after Josh McDaniels was hand-picked to succeed the legendary Mike Shanahan, he's already been handed his pink slip.

From the day the brash young coach was selected by the Broncos brass to yesterday, when Pat Bowlen decided to cut his losses, this entire situation was rather bizarre and was constantly frustrating.

You can say McSpygate was the biggest factor in McDaniels getting canned, but with everything else that was going wrong, the end may have been nigh anyway. A string of bad personnel decisions and over-matched, over-aged players cost the Broncos 17 of their last 22 games, and it didn't appear that there would be a stop to the bleeding anytime soon.

The players that McDaniels brought in weren't nearly as talented as the ones he chased away.

Knowshon Moreno plays well against the Chiefs, but Peyton Hillis has been tearing it up all year for the Browns.

Kyle Orton has great stats, but Jay Cutler's Bears are 9-3.

Brandon Lloyd looks good on the highlight reel, but the game-changing plays that Brandon Marshall once brought to the table are nowhere to be found.

Don't even mention Alphonso Smith. I'm still trying to pretend that the Lions killed him when he got to Detroit and replaced him with someone who is actually good at football.

The only way McDaniels could have kept his job (as I wrote in my last column) would have been to start Tim Tebow for the remainder of the season. And seriously, when your team is 3-9, how does refusing to start Tebow because Orton giving your team the best chance to win an acceptable excuse?

Maybe Eric Studesville will have more common sense.

What's done is done. McDaniels is gone and now the Broncos will try to move forward. The only question is, when exactly will they make any forward progress?

When Mike Shanahan was fired, the Broncos just needed a defensive boost to get back into contention. Now they need serious help.

The thing that perplexed me the most when McDaniels was chosen, and one that still confuses me to this day, is why Bowlen was so committed to taking his team back from the grasp of Shanahan if he was just going to hand it over to another coach.

He wanted to try and replicate the success that the Dolphins and Falcons had in their rebuilding efforts, but if that's true, why did he hire McDaniels instead of choosing a general manager first?

Last I checked, Mike Smith and Tony Sparano got their jobs after, not before the front office executives were chosen. The results speak for themselves.

If Bowlen really wanted to do things the Patriot way, why didn't he aggressively pursue Scott Pioli and let him mold the Broncos in that fashion?

If he really wanted to take advantage of the strengths of his team, why didn't he appoint a defensive-minded coach to bring a mental toughness to Dove Valley? Steve Spagnuolo and Leslie Frazier, the two candidates available at the time who best fit that description, are doing exactly that for the Rams and Vikings.

The answer to my question is simple: Bowlen's franchise saw its greatest seasons with Dan Reeves and Shanahan as head coach. He gave them the keys to the franchise and let them run the show however they wanted.

He's convinced that this approach still works and it's a big reason why he picked McDaniels.

However, the game is a lot different now than it was when Reeves and Shanahan were in charge. Look at all the top teams in the league today—almost every one of them has a general manager putting the team together and a coach who strictly coaches.

That's the real model of success that Bowlen should follow, and if he wants to give Broncos fans the team they deserve, he needs to recognize that and evolve along with the game.

As big of a disaster as the McDaniels era was, the road back to prominence in the NFL for the Broncos could become even harder if Bowlen doesn't make the right hires here. If he screws up this decision too, who's to say that he isn't the new Al Davis?

Bowlen's legacy is as much at stake as anything else.

It's coincidental that the day Jon Embree was welcomed to Colorado as CU's new head coach, McDaniels was shown the door. Broncos fans better hope it's the last time a coach has to be ushered out anytime soon.