Only the timing of Josh McDaniels' firing came as a surprise, that being with four games remaining in the regular season. Yet being eliminated from playoff contention a week after an embarrassing video-taping scandal was disclosed apparently cast too much shame on the organization and its proud owner, Pat Bowlen.
Why now, though? In real estate, it's all about location, location, location. In coaching firings, timing is everything.
The Broncos might want to get a jump on recruiting Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher. I threw that theory past a source close to McDaniels shortly after McDaniels was fired. He agreed.
Michael Lombardi reported Monday night on NFL Network that the Broncos might reach out to John Elway for a front office position, and current Texans coach Gary Kubiak would be at the top of their list if he were to become available.
Whoever the next coach might be, Bowlen would give him all the power he desired. He gave it to Mike Shanahan and McDaniels. Why wouldn't those big names be interested? They would probably tear the current roster to shreds, but it could give them time to begin evaluating which players would stay and which ones would go.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder pretty much did the same thing when he stripped Jim Zorn of his play-calling duties halfway through the 2009 season. Shanahan, who sources have said already was in line for the job, was able to get a jump on luring assistant coaches and scouting players on the collegiate and pro levels.
ESPN's Gruden and and CBS' Cowher have even a better perch watching, analyzing and interviewing players for their respective television networks.
The Broncos player who will be most discussed in the short-term is the quarterback-in-waiting, Tim Tebow. The project no team believed in except Denver, which drafted him in the first round, is caught in an odd spot. He was to be McDaniels' protégé. Now, he's the backup a new coach might want to convert to a tight end.
Maybe McDaniels, who will land an assistant gig in the NFL (probably back in New England), could convince his team to swing a trade for Tebow. He was good at getting Denver to draft guys in the first round or having franchise-type talent and trading them for lesser value. This time, though, he could be on the receiving end.
It would seem almost certain that Bowlen won't go with another young, untested coach again unless he was able to bring in a tandem like Leslie Frazier, the interim coach of the Vikings, and former Colts coach Tony Dungy to be the general manager. That package deal was discussed for the Seattle job that went to Pete Carroll. There's no reason why that couldn't be revisited.
There will be a lot of options and a lot of interested candidates. The rest of this season likely will continue to be a disaster for Denver, but the fan base certainly got what it wanted. Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Peyton Hillis, players McDaniels got rid of, could have had this team in contention if McDaniels didn't try to emulate his mentor, Bill Belichick.
Then again, maybe not. This team has been on a sharp decline since it started 6-0 in McDaniels' first season, 2009.
The sad thing for McDaniels is that he is regarded as a very bright coach. Having so much authority and botching so many key personnel decisions, alienating a lot of people -- and losing so many games -- has put him in reputation-rebuilding mode.
McDaniels' firing also has put the Broncos in reputation-rebuilding mode. They just wanted to start the process a little sooner than expected.