Ed Andrieski, Associated Press
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos kicked Josh McDaniels out of a job. They're not going to throw him under the bus.
Speaking on behalf of team owner Pat Bowlen, chief operating officer Joe Ellis said Tuesday the organization was at fault for giving McDaniels too much power at too young an age with so little experience.
"I think the responsibilities that he was burdened with, it's fair to say that we probably burdened him with too much of that and we were unfair to him in that respect," Ellis said. "And we certainly need to assess that and look at that moving forward."
Ellis said that while a new front office structure isn't even in the blueprint stages yet, the next coach probably won't have as much say in personnel matters as McDaniels did.
McDaniels, 34, was fired Monday amid the team's worst slide in four decades, an 11-17 record, and a host of off-the-field troubles, including a series of personnel decisions that backfired and the Spygate II videotaping scandal that tarnished the franchise.
McDaniels was replaced on an interim basis by running backs coach Eric Studesville, 43, who will get a crack at the full-time job when the Broncos begin their search for the franchise's 14th head coach next month.
"Surprised and humbled and honored," Studesville said of his sudden ascension.
After determining that two-time Super Bowl winner Mike Shanahan had amassed too much power, the Broncos pledged they wouldn't give McDaniels the same amount of responsibility when they hired him as Shanahan's replacement in January 2009.
Yet, that's exactly what they did.
"I think it kind of evolved and grew into that and as I said, I take some responsibility on behalf of Pat for allowing that to happen," Ellis said. "... And it's very likely that the plan will not empower the next head coach with the kind of authority that Josh was probably unfairly put upon him. And it's also fair to say that we'll stick to that plan."
McDaniels, who was 32 when he was hired, had no head coaching experience at any level and had never made personnel decisions when he was handed the keys to the franchise. A few months later, he was allowed to hire videographer Steve Scarnecchia, whose secret tape of the San Francisco 49ers' practice in London got McDaniels in hot water and would weigh heavily in his dismissal five weeks later.
Ellis said he told McDaniels upon his firing Monday afternoon that he still believes in him.
"I said, 'I'm disappointed that it didn't work out for you but you're going to be a good coach. Unfortunately, it's going to be somewhere else,'" Ellis recounted. "I think he'll grow from this and learn from it and you know his intellectual mind when it comes to football is ... superior, it's terrific."
The Broncos (3-9) lost 17 of their last 22 games under McDaniels and he sent some talented players packing, most notably Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Peyton Hillis. He also traded away several draft picks in deals that backfired, resulting in a run-of-the-mill roster whose lone star, cornerback Champ Bailey, is probably playing his final month in Denver.
Bowlen still owes Shanahan $3.5 million next season and McDaniels is owed $6.7 million over the next two years, although the Broncos could try to reduce that amount by contending McDaniels was fired for cause, something Ellis declined to comment on. McDaniels' agent, Bob LaMonte, didn't return messages Tuesday.
The Broncos don't have a timetable for hiring a new coach, they haven't begun a search and they're not even sure who will do the hiring. It could be a general manager will be hired first and he'll make the call.
Ellis said he still thinks the Broncos' head coaching position is a plum job in the NFL, and Studesville will be the first one lined up for an interview.
"Eric's got a four-week audition," Ellis said.
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