ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen says embattled coach Josh McDaniels' job is safe.
Yet, after telling AOL (News - Alert) FanHouse that McDaniels would be back in 2011, Bowlen issued a statement Monday night that seemed to back off that a bit.
Bowlen's statement said that while the season has been a trying and disappointing one, "Josh McDaniels is the head coach of the Broncos, and you always strive for stability at that position."
He added that with five games left, "we will continue to monitor the progress of the team and evaluate what's in the best interest of this franchise."
Earlier, Bowlen told AOL, "I'm not interested in making a coaching change," despite the team's 5–16 slide and the embarrassing videotaping scandal that has rocked the franchise.
A message left with McDaniels on Monday night wasn't immediately returned.
At his weekly news conference earlier in the day, McDaniels said he wasn't dwelling on whether the Broncos' problems on and off the field would cost him his job.
"It's not, you know, not my decision, not something that's in my control," McDaniels said. "I'm just going to worry about what I can focus on and try to control the things that I can control."
Denver's second–year coach said his only focus is on trying to salvage a 3–8 season sullied by a videotaping scandal that cost him and the team $50,000 each and resulted in a subordinate's firing over the weekend.
In his interview with AOL FanHouse, Bowlen insisted McDaniels wasn't involved with former videographer Steve Scarnecchia's 6–minute videotape of the San Francisco 49ers' walkthrough practice in London last month.
"Josh had nothing to do with that. The former employee did it on his own. There was no direction from the head coach. Josh did not order it. We're absolutely positive this was done by the former employee on his own," Bowlen said.
He did not address McDaniels' failure to immediately notify his superiors or the league of his subordinate's transgression, which is what cost him and the team a total of $100,000 in fines.
Bowlen said he was "very happy with Josh. Josh is doing a good job," and insisted the Broncos could still make the playoffs.
They are four games behind AFC West leader Kansas City with five games to go and could be eliminated this weekend when they visit the Chiefs.
McDaniels has two years and nearly $7 million left on his contract, and Bowlen is still on the hook for millions more he owes Mike Shanahan, whom he fired last year. Were he to fire McDaniels, too, he'd be paying three head coaches next season.
Before Bowlen's first public comments in several months, McDaniels seemed melancholy Monday, a day after losing for the 16th time in the past 21 games, the worst stretch in Denver in four decades.
"Nobody likes to have that kind of attention," McDaniels said when asked how he was handling the heavy criticism he's facing nationally. "Certainly, I'm not oblivious to that. I'm human. I know what we're about here. I know what I'm about here."
McDaniels also addressed reports that during a confidential staff meeting last week he had minimized the scope of the Broncos' videotaping scandal relative to New England's Spygate, where an NFL investigation found systemic videotaping of opponents and levied heavy penalties.
He said his staff meetings are supposed to be confidential "and so to hear something out there about something that was said is disappointing. Again, I don't know exactly what that was or who said it and I'm not going to go chasing ghosts about what that is."
McDaniels said he didn't think his staff was splintered and that he believes his assistants remain loyal.
"I have a lot of faith and trust in our staff, believe in them very much and I know they're going to work very hard this week and the rest of the season as we go forward," McDaniels said.
McDaniels' mentor, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, declined to wade into Spygate II in Denver, which has put New England's 2007 videotaping scandal back in the spotlight.
"I'm really focused on the Jets," Belichick said in a conference call Monday.
Although the Broncos haven't been to the playoffs since 2006, Bowlen has never in his 27 years as owner had a team dealing with the double–whammy of front office and on–field issues like he does now.
The Broncos have usually been competitive into December even in their down years.
The franchise was busted for salary cap violations during its Super Bowl years in the late 1990s, but while there was some outrage around the league, there were no calls for Shanahan's ouster or fans voicing their discontent by bolting the stadium early or leaving seats empty altogether.
Paid (News - Alert) attendance of 72,736 at Invesco Field on Sunday was the lowest since the stadium opened a decade ago, and by the time the Broncos' fourth–quarter rally fell one drive short in their 36–33 loss to St. Louis, most of the seats were empty.
The Broncos are 3–8 for the first time in 20 years and are allowing a league–worst 29.4 points a game, and things don't get any easier for McDaniels or the Broncos, who play their next three games on the road.