Broncos glad to put bad season behind them

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 3 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Denver Broncos running back Lance Ball (35) flips through the air after tackling San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle in the first quarter of an NFL football game between the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011, in Denver. Weddle had intercepted a pass.

Barry Gutierrez, Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Well, the Denver Broncos are glad that's over.

Now that the worst season in their 51-year history is in the rearview mirror, the Broncos are eager to get on with the rebuilding project after Josh McDaniels' 22-month reign of error.

"To say I'm glad it's over is true but it doesn't take away from the disappointment of a 4-12 record and a lot of the stuff that we went through as an organization on and off the field," chief operating officer Joe Ellis said. "The feeling that leaves you with is not a pleasant one.

"But we've got to get over it, get over it quickly. We've got to get better. We owe that to our fans, we owe it to the community. And hopefully starting very soon we're going to take some steps to do that."

The Broncos, who own the second overall pick in the draft following their devastating season, are expected to introduce Hall of Famer John Elway as their chief football executive on Wednesday, and his first order of business will be to launch a coaching search.

First in line for an interview is interim coach Eric Studesville, who went 1-3 after being promoted from running backs coach when McDaniels was fired on Dec. 6 in the wake of a videotaping scandal and amid the team's worst slide in four decades.

Studesville is considered a long-shot but he could still have a future in Denver as an assistant after providing the reeling Broncos with just what the organization needed: a friendly face who answered all the tough questions with none of the aloofness or brashness that defined McDaniels' tenure.

"He did a great job under adverse circumstances," Ellis said. "And he brought a lot of positive energy. ... He lived up to our expectations. He did a fine job."

The Broncos acknowledge they shouldn't have given McDaniels so much responsibility so soon by naming him coach and de facto general manager, two jobs he'd never had, at age 32.

So, they were determined to restructure the organizational chart, and they're going to empower general manager Brian Xanders, who was basically relegated to serving as a consultant to McDaniels. With final say on all personnel matter, McDaniels made a series of decisions that backfired.

After feuding with Jay Cutler and shipping him to Chicago upon his arrival in Denver, McDaniels last year sent Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall to Miami, where he had his fourth straight 1,000-yard season. He also shipped running back Peyton Hillis and two draft picks to Cleveland for quarterback Brady Quinn once he'd already decided to make a move for Tim Tebow on draft night.

Quinn didn't take a single snap and Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Browns.

McDaniels was still celebrating his selection of Tebow when he got a call on draft weekend informing him that All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady had blown out his left knee playing hoops.

Clady's play slipped dramatically, but at least he got to play. Pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil wasn't so fortunate. Just days after signing a mega contract after leading the league with 17 sacks in 2009, he tore a chest muscle in training camp and went on injured reserve.

Rookie offensive linemen J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles were overmatched as immediate starters, leading to a one-dimensional offense that would get Kyle Orton hit too much and eventually knock him out for the year.

Linebacker D.J. Williams was stripped of his captaincy following his second drunken driving arrest and rookie cornerback Perrish Cox was arrested in a sexual assault case.

In October, the Broncos retracted a contract extension offer from their best player, perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, who said he'd like to stay in Denver but is eager to test free agency.

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