4:15 PM ET, December 12, 2010
U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
The Denver Broncos admitted giving Josh McDaniels too much responsibility and power when they hired the then-32-year-old to replace two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan in January 2009.
Now, they desperately want to move past that mistake.
Playing their first game since McDaniels was fired, the slumping Broncos will try to deliver a solid performance under Eric Studesville on Sunday in Glendale against an Arizona Cardinals team that will likely use its third starting quarterback this season.
Hired after three seasons as the offensive coordinator in New England, McDaniels appeared to have Denver well on its way to its first postseason berth since 2005 with a 6-0 record to open 2009.
The Broncos, though, finished 8-8 for the second straight season and dropped 17 of 22 since McDaniels' unblemished start.
Besides poor performance on the field, McDaniels' questionable personnel decisions -- trading Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Peyton Hillis -- and last month's scandal that cost video operations director Steve Scarnecchia his job and McDaniels and the Broncos $50,000 apiece for a walkthrough video taken of San Francisco prior to the Oct. 31 matchup in London, were too much for the organization to deal with.
The Broncos (3-9) fired McDaniels on Monday after the players had left the facility.
"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," Broncos chief operating officer Joe Ellis said. "And we certainly need to assess that and look at that moving forward."
The 43-year-old Studesville, the club's former running backs coach, takes over on an interim basis.
"I want to get the excitement back in the players and get them completely involved and committed to going forward and finishing up this season in the strongest possible way," said Studesville, who will hand over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike McCoy while Don Martindale will continue to lead the defense.
Quarterback Kyle Orton, who had his worst game in two seasons with the Broncos in last Sunday's 10-6 loss at Kansas City by going 9-of-28 for 117 yards, said there's only one way to fix what has happened to a once proud franchise.
"The only way you lift anything is to win football games," he said. "I mean, if you want to feel better as a player, if you want to feel better as an organization, if you want to feel better as fans, you've got to win."
Studesville said he will stick with Orton at quarterback, despite calls for first-round pick Tim Tebow, whom McDaniels spent three picks on in April, to make his first start.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said rookie quarterback John Skelton will get his first NFL start Sunday as Arizona (3-9) looks to avoid its first eight-game skid since Sept. 17-Nov. 12, 2006.
With Max Hall placed on injured reserve this week with a dislocated left shoulder suffered in last Sunday's 19-6 loss to St. Louis, and Derek Anderson suffering a concussion in that defeat, Whisenhunt is giving the fifth-round pick a chance.
Skelton will lead a Cardinals offense that has no touchdowns in the last eight quarters and one in the last three games. Arizona is 31st in the NFL with 16.7 points and 265.3 yards per game.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald needs one reception to set the franchise record with 587. The four-time Pro-Bowler caught five passes for a team-best 77 yards in a 37-20 loss to Denver on Dec. 17, 2006, in the teams last matchup.
Denver rookie cornerback Perrish Cox has traveled with the team to Phoenix, but his playing status remains questionable after his arrest Thursday night for investigation of sexual assault. Cox, who has 42 tackles in 11 games, could be punished by the team for missing practice and meetings Friday while being detained.
The Broncos have won seven straight versus the Cardinals since a 17-17 tie in 1973.
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|Avg Points Allowed||28.9||27.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||DEN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||DEN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Denver leads 3-1|
|Dec 17, 2006||DEN 37, @ARI 20|
|Dec 29, 2002||DEN 37, ARI 7|
|Sep 23, 2001||DEN 38, @ARI 17|