Patriots Way Leads To The Hiway In Denver

No matter how he tried to mold his new team like the one he experienced so much success with in New England, Josh McDaniels couldn't get over the hump. A brutal stretch of losing brought an abrupt end to the youngster's head coaching debut in Denver.

The Broncos are playing out the string for an interim coach that likely has little chance of earning the job full time.

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen fired coach Josh McDaniels with Denver going 5-17 since a 6-0 start to his tenure in 2009.

What will be interesting to see is if interim coach Eric Studesville has been given any special instructions, such as seeing what rookie quarterback Tim Tebow can do over the final four games of the season.

Studesville was overseeing the league's third-worst run defense, which makes his elevation to the head job - albeit on an interim basis - an interesting one. His prized pupil, 2009 first-round pick Knowshon Moreno, has just two career 100-yard rushing games - both in the past four weeks.

Can Studesville motivate a reeling team that knows he doesn't wield a powerful stick over the final month of the season? Studesville's coaching career began at Wingate in 1994, and he broke into the NFL with Chicago in 1997. He joined McDaniels' staff this year after six years in Buffalo.

"I am very appreciative of the trust that Mr. Bowlen and the entire Denver Broncos organization have shown in me," Studesville said in a statement. "Although the circumstances that this opportunity resulted from are unfortunate, I am excited to lead this football team. We have a great group of players and coaches who are committed to finishing the season on a promising note and making our fans proud of this team."

McDaniels failed to receive a strong endorsement from Bowlen as the season spiraled out of control, and the Broncos' 22-game stretch is their worst since the franchise went 3-17-2 during the 1970-71 seasons.

"My decision to relieve Josh McDaniels as head coach was not taken lightly. I will always be appreciative of his passion, enthusiasm and hard work, and I thank him for his efforts," Bowlen said in a statement.

"In the end, I was not satisfied with the results and the direction this team was headed. The decision to make a change was extremely difficult but one that needed to be made for this organization and our fans.

"Everyone, myself included, is accountable for our disappointing season and is now responsible for restoring the culture of winning that has been established by this franchise. Our entire organization is completely focused on returning to the level of prosperity that our fans expect and deserve from the Denver Broncos."

Denver will miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year, its worst stretch since waiting from the franchise's 1960 berth until its Super Bowl run in 1977 to even make the playoffs.

McDaniels lasted less than two full seasons in Denver after being hired by Bowlen to replace coach Mike Shanahan. The former Patriots offensive coordinator was just 32 years old when he was hired by Denver.

The Broncos will begin playing out the string with games at Arizona and Oakland before finishing at home with Houston and San Diego.

The Kansas City loss Sunday embodied Denver's season. The team holds the Chiefs to a touchdown and stifles the passing attack, but Kansas City's run game helps control the clock with 39 carries for 185 yards and a 15-minute edge in time of possession.

The Broncos get a career day out of Moreno with 23 carries for 161 yards, but Kyle Orton completes just nine passes for 117 yards and no touchdowns.

"It's been that kind of season for us," wideout Jabar Gaffney said. "We haven't been very consistent and it shows. That's why our record is the way it is."

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