Josh McDaniels may right about now. But even a three-game road trip through Kansas City, Arizona and Oakland starting next Sunday might not exactly be what he had in mind.
Denver has no shot at the postseason, thanks to eight losses in the last 11 at Invesco Field at Mile High and counting.
The Broncos have been crushed by division opponents Oakland and San Diego, and despite a resounding win against Kansas City in the first meeting this season, seem to be falling backward in a weak AFC West.
Cornerback Champ Bailey, the team's top pending free agent, appears to have one foot out the door after the team yanked a midseason contract offer.
And now comes an off-the-field scandal - the Mountain time zone version of Spygate. McDaniels was fined $50,000. The franchise was nicked for another 50 grand. But it's the stain left on the organization, combined with all the other factors, that will make the coach's future a hot topic over the next five weeks.
"The funny thing is Mr. B represents the organization. He's the man. And that's nothing like him," Bailey said, referring to team owner Pat Bowlen. "I feel bad for him more than anybody because this is not what he wants, especially here."
The Broncos won't make the playoffs for a fifth straight season, the longest span since before Denver's first Super Bowl appearance in its initial postseason foray in 1977.
And even with all his successes and faults, Mike Shanahan didn't have to deal in his Denver career with the kind of scrutiny that's upcoming for McDaniels, who has proven less over the long term than his predecessor.
"Josh didn't do anything wrong. Josh is a great coach and we've got his back and he's got ours," defensive end Justin Bannan said. "Obviously things are tough right now, but what are you going to do? What we're going to do is come out and play better football."
While COO Joe Ellis said the videotaping incident in London was not a fireable offense, a 5-16 record in the last 21 and a core of young players that doesn't jump off the page could ultimately be the last straw.
"The negativity is fine and it's deserved. We made the bed. As players, that's how we're playing out there. We made the bed. Now we have to lay in it," wide receiver Brandon Lloyd said. "We have to do our best to win our games and we can't control what you guys (the media) say. We can't control what the organization does. We can't really control anything but how we play and prepare. That's how I approach it." NOTES, QUOTES
TRENDING: Denver scored a touchdown Sunday on a 4-yard Knowshon Moreno run on the opening possession, marking the third straight game the team has culminated its opening drive with seven points. Only New Orleans in Weeks 1-3 has equaled that early production. Ironically, Denver had only seven total first-quarter points before the current run.
LINEUP WATCH: With wide receiver Demaryius Thomas wearing a boot on his injured left ankle, fellow rookie Eric Decker stepped in and received increased reps in both three- and four-wide sets. Decker caught two passes for 48 yards, including a 38-yard grab that helped pull Denver within a field goal late in the fourth quarter.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--S Brian Dawkins left the game in the second half with a knee injury and didn't return. Denver already was missing his backup Darcel McBath (thigh) and was forced to play safety/corner hybrid (and usual nickel corner) Nate Jones in his place.
--QB Kyle Orton (24-41, 347, three touchdowns) became the fifth quarterback in Denver history to throw for at least 300 yards and three TDs without being intercepted. John Elway did it three times; Brian Griese twice and Craig Morton once.
--OLB Robert Ayers made his return for the first time since the Oct. 10 game in Baltimore. He finished with two tackles. He subbed in the game with Jason Hunter moving to a reserve role at the position.
--ILB Joe Mays was given his third straight start at MLB, as Denver opted to open the game with Mario Haggan at outside linebacker. Mays finished with seven tackles, including two for loss and added a quarterback hit.
--S David Bruton had two special-teams stops against the Rams and also deflected a punt that traveled just 22 yards. It gave Denver an opportunity to kick a tying field goal, but Chris Long sacked Orton and then hit the quarterback on fourth-and-16 to essentially end the game.
--WR Brandon Lloyd's All-Pro caliber season continues, with four catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns. His 41-yard score was the fourth touchdown reception of 40 or more yards this season.
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