The announcement about McDaniels came from the Denver Broncos' website which said McDaniels had been relieved of his duties after the Broncos lost their latest game in Kansas City to the Chiefs on Sunday.
The move came while the team is in an apparent free fall, having won only three games this season and only one game on the road.
McDaniels was spotted leaving Dove Valley on Monday night. He did not comment to the media but did smile and honk at the cameras that were assembled outside of Broncos headquarters.
McDaniels did release a statement to the media on Monday night:
"I am very grateful to Pat Bowlen and the Broncos' organization for giving me the opportunity to be the head coach of such a proud franchise. I would like to thank all of the people who helped us over the last two years. I am especially appreciative of the efforts of every player, coach and member of the personnel department who worked so hard every day. I wish Pat Bowlen and the Broncos' organization nothing but the best in the future."
9NEWS caught up with Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton on Monday evening.
"You never want to see anybody get fired, you know. Coach worked hard. As players you feel bad," Orton said. "We haven't played well enough all season to win games, but having said that we're excited for the last four games of the season and we'll go out and play well."
"It's the NFL, I guess nothing really surprises you to be honest, but everybody's accountable, and I'm accountable and everybody in the organization is accountable, just going to try and continue to work as hard as I can and win football games," Orton said.
Rookie QB Tim Tebow reacted through Twitter on Monday evening: "Thank you for everything you did for me Coach McDaniels, including drafting me into this great organization. I wish you nothing but the best."
The interim head coach of the Broncos will be running backs coach Eric Studesville.
Bowlen released a statement on Monday evening:
"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. 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."
Bowlen was spotted having dinner with Hall of Fame Broncos quarterback John Elway at Elway's restaurant in Cherry Creek on Monday night. A 9NEWS staffer and a source confirmed the two were at the restaurant on Monday night, but it is unclear what they were discussing. Some have speculated that Elway may take an administrative role with the Broncos.
Studesville also released a statement on Monday: "I am very appreciative of the trust that Mr. Bowlen and the entire Denver Broncos organization have shown in me. 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."
"I think Eric's a really good coach. Kind of new, but I think he's a really good coach. He's a positive person and a good choice to right the ship for the next four weeks and get this thing going in the right direction," Orton said. "I'm sure it's going to affect the team. You know, a lot of these guys have been brought in by Josh and like playing for him. I like Josh personally. He was my play caller and head coach. So I spent a lot of time with him and enjoyed working with him."
"We fully support Coach Studesville... He will do a great job in his new position and will make Broncos fans proud of this team!" Tebow said in another tweet.
Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd defended McDaniels, but also understood why he bore the brunt of the blame for the decision.
"He did prepare us. He did have it mapped out for us. He did all the work for us. We don't have to go home and watch a million hours of film because he's doing it. So he's the best coach when it comes to that and he's learned from the best. And so when the players don't perform, now listen to me - it's not the coach's fault. It's not McDaniels' fault. But at the same time he picked the players, you hear me? It's a double-edge sword. When you're picking the players and calling the plays, you're the one responsible for the players' miscues. You're responsible for the bonehead decisions that these guys make when they're put in one-on-one situations. You're responsible for when these guys don't perform in crunch time," Lloyd said.
The Broncos are set to play in Arizona this weekend against the Cardinals.
McDaniels was hired in 2009 and after going 6-0 to start his rookie season, he went 5-17 and was involved in a series of personnel mistakes. He was caught up in Spygate II a week and a half ago.
Players didn't know of McDaniels' firing when they left team headquarters after a conditioning run ended at 3 p.m. Shortly after that, McDaniels met with Bowlen and was fired.
McDaniels then met with his assistants. He didn't return a message left seeking comment.
At his weekly news conference four hours earlier, McDaniels reiterated that he wasn't focused on his job being in jeopardy.
"I'm not worried about that. I'm going to coach as hard as I can because that is my job and that's somebody else's decision," McDaniels said.
Studesville and chief operating officer Joe Ellis will meet with the media Tuesday. There was no word on whether McDaniels would hold a farewell news conference.
McDaniels becomes the third coach fired during the season, all in the past month. The Dallas Cowboys fired Wade Phillips on Nov. 8, and promoted Jason Garrett to interim coach, and two weeks later, the Minnesota Vikings fired Brad Childress and promoted Leslie Frazier to replace him.
The two new coaches have a combined 5-1 record since taking over, and the Broncos (3-9) are likely hoping Studesville can inject some life into the team to close out this lost season.
"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."
Studesville, 43, was in his first season in Denver after coaching the running backs in Buffalo from 2004-09 following a three-year stint (2001-03) in that same capacity with the New York Giants. He began his NFL coaching career in 1997 with the Chicago Bears after working six years at the collegiate level.
The players learned of McDaniels' firing via Twitter, where the Broncos announced it, and text messages.
"Guys are trying to figure out if it's true, if it's not true, what's going on," wide receiver Brandon Lloyd said on his weekly radio show on Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan in Denver. "The second thing we started thinking about is now who can be the coach?"
Even though the Broncos are mired in troubles, including their worst stretch since 1971-72, the timing of McDaniels' firing caught everyone off guard.
"I didn't think it was going to happen, not now, not at this point in the season," Lloyd said. "I didn't think it was going to happen. Come the offseason, yeah, anything can happen. They shuffle players, shuffle coaches. At this point in the season, I did not see that coming."
McDaniels had nearly $7 million left on his contract, and Bowlen is still on the hook for millions more he owes Mike Shanahan, whom he fired last year. That means he'll be paying three head coaches next season unless the organization decides to withhold salaries for 2011 and '12 based on a violation of the deal, such as a morals clause.
After winning his first six games his rookie season, McDaniels, a disciple of New England coach Bill Belichick, lost 17 of his last 22 games with the Broncos in his first NFL head coaching job.
He had plenty of off-the-field issues, too, including the videotaping violation and linebacker D.J. Williams' drunken driving charge that caused him to get stripped of his captaincy.
Before he was fired Monday, McDaniels said he was reticent to turn to rookie Tim Tebow even though the Broncos had been eliminated from contention with a 10-6 loss at Kansas City, their seventh loss in eight games.
McDaniels made a series of personnel decisions that backfired, notably trading away Peyton Hillis, who has become a power running back in Cleveland, and he also was fined $50,000 by the NFL for failing to report a subordinate who violated league rules by videotaping a San Francisco 49ers practice in London on Oct. 30.
A week ago, Bowlen issued a statement that said McDaniels would be evaluated at season's end just an hour after telling AOL FanHouse, "I'm not interested in making a coaching change."
Although the Broncos haven't been to the playoffs since 2006, Bowlen has never in his 27 years as owner had a team dealing with the double-whammy of front office and on-field issues like he does now.
The Broncos have usually been competitive into December even in their down years.
The franchise was busted for salary cap violations during its Super Bowl years in the late 1990s, but while there was some outrage around the league, there were no calls for Shanahan's ouster or fans voicing their discontent by bolting the stadium early or leaving seats empty altogether.
With thousands of empty seats at their last home game, the Broncos didn't announce actual attendance but only paid attendance, which at 72,736 was the lowest since Invesco Field opened a decade ago. By the time the Broncos' fourth-quarter rally fell one drive short in their 36-33 loss to St. Louis, most of the seats were empty.
(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)