Denver fired coach Josh McDaniels, whose nearly 2-year stint was marred by the Spygate II videotape scandal, a series of personnel blunders and the franchise's worst skid in four decades.

Running-backs coach Eric Studesville will serve as interim coach for the final month, succeeding McDaniels, 34.

"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," Bowlen said in a statement after firing McDaniels yesterday with 2 years left on his contract.

Studesville, 43, was in his first season in Denver after coaching the running backs in Buffalo from 2004-09 following a 3-year stint (2001-03) in that same capacity with the New York Giants.

McDaniels had nearly $7 million left on his contract. After winning his first six games his rookie season, he lost 17 of his last 22 games with the Broncos in his first NFL head coaching job.

He had plenty of off-the-field issues, too, including the videotaping violation and linebacker D.J. Williams' drunken driving charge that caused him to get stripped of his captaincy.

McDaniels made a series of personnel decisions that backfired, notably trading away Peyton Hillis, who has become a power running back in Cleveland, and he also was fined $50,000 by the NFL for failing to report a subordinate who violated league rules by videotaping a San Francisco 49ers practice in London Oct. 30.

Noteworthy

* Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger had surgery to repair his broken nose. He was injured while being sacked Sunday by Baltimore's Haloti Ngata, whose left hand raked across the quarterback's face during Pittsburgh's first offensive series. Ngata was not penalized but did receive a $15,000 from the league. Roethlisberger is expected to play Sunday against Cincinnati. The league also fined Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain $40,000 for his helmet hit that left Steelers tight end Heath Miller with a concussion.

* Dallas receiver Dez Bryant had surgery on his fractured right ankle and is done for the season.

* Albert Haynesworth's act is wearing thin with Phillip Daniels, who lashed out at his Redskins teammate. Haynesworth, a two-time All-Pro defensive tackle, skipped offseason workouts, boycotted a mandatory minicamp, and needed 10 days to pass a conditioning test. Last week, he apparently got sick and was unable to play in Sunday's loss to the New York Giants, which prompted Daniels to complain: "When I come to the locker room on game day, I expect guys to be ready to go and play."

In other news, a trial between former Redskins teammates over a jersey number was averted when running back Clinton Portis agreed to pay $18,000 to Ifeanyi Ohalete. When Portis signed as a free agent with the Redskins in 2004, he said he wanted the wear No. 26, which was already belonged to Ohalete.

* Minnesota said it expects quarterback Brett Favre to play against the Giants despite a sprained shoulder. Also, the Vikings said they plan to sign running back Lorenzo Booker. Booker, an Eagle in 2008, played this season in the United Football League for the Hartford Colonials.

* New Orleans running back Pierre Thomas, who has missed nine games with a sprained left ankle, said he expects to practice this week with "no limitations."