ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos wanted Josh McDaniels to bring the Patriots' winning ways with him to the Rocky Mountains when they hired Bill Belichick's brash, young disciple 22 months ago.
They got the ash-gray hoodie and their very own videotaping scandal — but not the same level of success.
McDaniels, 34, was fired Monday in the midst of the franchise's worst skid in four decades, not even halfway through his four-year contract.
Running backs coach Eric Studesville will be interim coach.
"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," team owner Pat Bowlen said in a statement. "In the end, I was not satisfied with the results and the direction this team was headed."
Players didn't know of McDaniels' firing when they left team headquarters after a conditioning run ended at 3 p.m. Shortly after, McDaniels was called into Bowlen's office and fired. McDaniels then met with his assistants. He didn't return a message left by the AP seeking comment.
The rest of his staff, including McDaniels' brother, Ben, who tutors the quarterbacks, will stay on for the final four games.
The Broncos (3-9) are eliminated from playoff contention. They are 5-17 since starting last season, McDaniels' first, 6-0.
McDaniels made a series of personnel decisions that backfired, notably trading Peyton Hillis, who has become a power running back in Cleveland, for Brady Quinn, who hasn't thrown a pass this season.
But the biggest blunder might have been hiring videographer Steve Scarnecchia, who violated league rules by taping a 49ers practice Oct. 30 in London. The league fined McDaniels $50,000 for failing to report the incident.
After the team told the players of the firing — via Twitter and texts — a post on running back Lance Ball's Twitter account read: "this the closest thing to Obama being elected president!!!"
Others were melancholy.
"It's tough. He's not out there playing," receiver Eddie Royal said. "The guys in the locker room have got to feel somewhat responsible."
Meanwhile, Denver linebacker Joe Mays (left knee) and tight end Dan Gronkowski (left ankle) went on injured reserve.
FAVRE LIKELY TO PLAY: If Brett Favre can throw, he'll go. Interim Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he'd be surprised if Favre doesn't make his 298th straight start against the Giants. Favre left Sunday's game against the Bills with a sprained joint in his right shoulder. Frazier said it was undetermined if Favre, 41, will practice. Favre declined comment. Also, the Vikings plan to sign former Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker.
RAVENS FINED: The league fined Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain $40,000 for his helmet hit that gave Steelers tight end Heath Miller a concussion Sunday night. McClain was not penalized for a hit that bent Miller's head and neck backward in the third quarter.
Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata was fined $15,000 for hitting Ben Roethlisberger's helmet and breaking the Pittsburgh quarterback's nose. Roethlisberger played the entire game, which Pittsburgh won 13-10. He had surgery Monday.
NO FLEX: The Dec. 19 Packers at Patriots game will remain on NBC in prime time. It could have been moved under the league's flexible scheduling policy.
COWBOYS: Rookie receiver and kick returner Dez Bryant had surgery to repair broken bones and ligament damage in his right ankle and will need as long as four months of rehabilitation.
JAGUARS: Starting safety Courtney Greene (left shoulder) likely will miss at least one game.
STEELERS: Punter Daniel Sepulveda is out for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee. He also was the holder for kicks.