The Denver Broncos plight has fans 'disgusted'

Broncos Coach Josh McDaniels, left, the successor to Mike Shanahan, is 5-16 after a 6-0 start to his tenure. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Broncos Coach Josh McDaniels, left, the successor to Mike Shanahan, is 5-16 after a 6-0 start to his tenure. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 1, 2010; 12:09 AM

Things haven't always gone smoothly for Coach Mike Shanahan with his new team. The Washington Redskins enter December with a losing record and have endured national attention over their first-year coach's handling of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and quarterback Donovan McNabb.

But consider the franchise Shanahan left.

The losses are piling up for the Denver Broncos and their second-year coach, Josh McDaniels, who was hired after owner Pat Bowlen fired Shanahan following the 2008 season. The Broncos have a 3-8 record this season and have gone 5-16 since winning their first six games last season under McDaniels, the 34-year-old former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots.

Now there is the taint of a videotaping scandal along with the lack of on-field success. The NFL announced last weekend that it had fined McDaniels and the Broncos $50,000 each because a team employee taped a portion of the San Francisco 49ers' practice the day before the two clubs played a Halloween game in London.

There is considerable unrest in Denver about the city's marquee team.

"I've been out here since 1995 as a player and an analyst," said former Broncos offensive lineman Mark Schlereth. "I have not seen a time when the fans were more livid, frustrated, upset, angry. It's not even close. People are disgusted."

McDaniels initially looked like he would be the coach to recapture the Broncos' glory days-their Super Bowl wins under Shanahan in the 1997 and '98 seasons that sent quarterback John Elway triumphantly into retirement.

McDaniels's 6-0 start last year, achieved while Shanahan spent a season out of the league, matched the third-longest string of victories by a rookie NFL head coach to start his career since 1930. But the Broncos soon reverted to struggling, even more than when they went 24-24 in Shanahan's final three seasons.

"Denver has had a real history of success," said another former Broncos coach, Dan Reeves. "It's been one of the better franchises since they joined the league. They expect to win, especially with Mike Shanahan winning those championships there."

During McDaniels's tenure, the Broncos traded away disgruntled stars Jay Cutler, the starting quarterback, and Brandon Marshall, a Pro Bowl wide receiver. They also parted with running back Peyton Hillis in a trade that got them backup quarterback Brady Quinn, and Hillis has thrived this season with the Cleveland Browns.

"People look at the decisions that have been made," Reeves said by telephone this week. "I know the fans there well enough to know they're definitely not happy."

The Broncos lost the Oct. 31 game to the 49ers, 24-16, at Wembley Stadium. According to the results of an NFL investigation announced Saturday, Steve Scarnecchia, the Broncos' director of video operations, taped about six minutes of the 49ers' walk-through the previous day at Wembley Stadium, then offered the tape to McDaniels.

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