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Broncos' late-term abortion: How much blame does Josh McDaniels deserve?

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As I was signing off prior to two weeks worth of vacation, everything seemed to be going the Broncos' way. Their next opponent, the Oakland Raiders, was in hilarious turmoil, choosing to skip over their much-ballyhooed number one draft choice, JaMarcus Russell, to start third-stringer Charlie Frye at QB. No way the Broncos would lose that game -- not on this planet. And even though a matchup with the Eagles in Philadelphia looked like a loss, the final game of the season was against the laughably woeful Kansas City Chiefs, who Denver had dismantled less than a month earlier to avenge the mistreatment of the late, lamented Barrel Man by the Chiefs' mascot, K.C. Wolf. Playoffs? Destiny!

Hell to the no. Three humiliating losses later, the Broncos' future smells as sweet as a ruptured colostomy bag -- and coach Josh McDaniels had a lot to do with it.

Why? The play-calling in the Raiders game was an absolute joke, resulting in too many field goals when touchdowns were a requirement. If McDaniels had made bolder choices earlier, the Raiders wouldn't have been able to complete their unlikely (and infuriating) comeback, which was aided and abetted by a defense that's gone from bend-but-don't-break to bend, bend some more, and then break at the worst possible moment.

Philly? The Broncos willingly climbed into a hole that got deeper and deeper and deeper, and although the team showed some heart down the stretch, a moral victory meant squat, and precipitated the sort of unraveling that gave fans an early season flashback.

Suddenly, Brandon Marshall, who'd been on his best behavior for weeks, was called out and publicly benched shortly after being named to the Pro Bowl -- and Tony Scheffler quickly followed. Hard to say if McDaniels had a choice in these matters, given how much all parties have spun the sitch. But the moves suggested that McDaniels knew the Broncos wouldn't be making the playoffs, despite still having a technical chance of doing so, and therefore decided to make macho points in the hope of proving once and for all who's got the biggest swinging dick on the squad.

Problem is, this penis-length contest sent a message to the team that McDaniels was already looking toward next year -- and yesterday, they played like it.

What next? The probable departure of Marshall, and of Kyle Orton, too. Being a game manager, as Orton is, only works if the rest of the outfit is stronger than this one -- and he showed that he's all but incapable of taking the team on his shoulders when everything else is sewer-bound. As for McDaniels, he's once again looking like the immature, hair-trigger type he did during the whole Jay Cutler fiasco. A drama queen with a crew cut.

Yes, an 8-8 record is a lot better than I or anyone else expected this year, and I suppose we should be grateful for that. But that's a hard argument to make when the team started out 6-0 before going on to lose eight of the last ten. Point blank, the Broncos are an even hotter mess than they were six months ago, and the person in charge seems better at creating problems than fixing them. Happy New Year!

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