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 overall 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.
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.
ALEX SMITH NAMED STARTER: Former University of Utah star Alex Smith is the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback yet again.
Coach Mike Singletary made the announcement on his regular KNBR radio show Tuesday morning, and the team later tweeted a reference to it.
The move comes a day after Singletary said he was contemplating the switch from Troy Smith back to Alex Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick, following a 34-16 loss at Green Bay on Sunday.
The 49ers (4-8) face a must-win game at home Sunday against NFC West rival Seattle.
HAYNESWORTH TO APPEAL FOUR-GAME SUSPENSION: Albert Haynesworth is surprised by his four-game suspension and plans to appeal it.
The Washington Redskins defensive lineman was suspended without pay for the rest of the season Tuesday for what the team refers to as "conduct detrimental to the club." Coach Mike Shanahan says Haynesworth refused to cooperate with coaches or follow their instructions.
Haynesworth's agent, Chad Speck, says he and his client "disagree with the Redskins' decision" and will appeal it. He says the accusations made by Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen are "vague and without merit."
MILLER DOUBTFUL: Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller is doubtful for Sunday's AFC North game against Cincinnati because of the concussion he sustained from a helmet hit by Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain.
McClain was not penalized, but was fined $40,000 by the NFL on Monday for an illegal hit to the head of a defenseless receiver.
FAVRE MAY RETIRE BEFORE INVESTIGATION IS FINISHED: A spokesman for the former New York Jets game hostess who allegedly received inappropriate phone messages and photos from Brett Favre says they are concerned that the quarterback will be retired before the NFL concludes its investigation.
The NFL said Tuesday it is continuing to work on a "complex" investigation that needs a great deal of "due diligence."
Jenn Sterger's manager, Phil Reese, says his client wants the investigation finished during the season because Favre has said he will retire at the end of this year, at which point he may no longer be susceptible to punishment from the league.
Favre allegedly sent Sterger the messages and photos when both worked for the New York Jets in 2008. The quarterback has not commented on the allegations.
Max Hall out for season
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals have placed quarterback Max Hall on injured reserve and signed former Washington Redskins third-stringer Richard Bartel.
Hall, an undrafted rookie out of BYU who started three games earlier this season, dislocated his left shoulder after relieving starter Derek Anderson in Sunday's 19-6 loss to St. Louis.
Arizona third-string quarterback John Skelton finished the game and could start on Sunday against Denver.