When John Elway hired Vance Joseph in January 2017, he said that Joseph was “a leader of men”. Elway had been going after Joseph for a few years because he was seen as an up-and-coming coach, who had spent time in San Francisco, Houston and Cincinnati as a defensive backs coach before earning his first job as a defensive coordinator with Miami in 2016.
While some teams waited on coaches still doing their thing in the 2016 playoffs to become available, the Broncos pulled the trigger to hire a relatively unknown, first-year coordinator that oversaw the 29th worst defense, three days after the 10-6 Miami Dolphins lost 30-12 to Pittsburgh in the AFC Wild Card round.
Broncos Country was convinced that the relatively unknown coach would take a 9-7 team back to the playoffs after a 2016 Super Bowl hangover season and
During Joseph’s first year as coach, the team had a “great week of practice” each and every week, yet ended the season with a 5-11 record, good enough to earn the fifth-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Inexplicably, this leader of men with considerable defensive experience and a four-year contract, made a 9-7 team, with a stud defense that finished fourth overall in 2016, a worse team.Embed from Getty Images
This year, Joseph’s new repetitive line at press conferences has been that “they are close” and just need to fix a few mistakes and make improvements in some areas.
Joseph’s reasoning is that the Broncos have been competitive in all of their games, with the exception of the 34-16 blowout loss to the now 3-6 New York Jets in week three.
They have come up just short against two of the league’s powerhouse offenses in the Los Angeles Rams, and the Kansas City Chiefs, twice. He’s right to an extent, but “close” does not win championships.
Joseph is now 8-17 (.320) as a head coach with the Broncos, has only won two games on the road, now has a losing record at home, and is in danger of being the man to lead the Broncos to back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1972.
He also has the worst winning percentage of Broncos head coaches since Mac Speedie was relieved of his duties two games into the 1966 season with a 6-19-1 record (.240).
The record does not fall squarely on his shoulders because the Broncos do have plenty of roster holes, but a good coach — and a better than average QB — would be able to hide those holes, as Gary Kubiak and Peyton Manning did in 2015 en route to winning Super Bowl 50.
At 3-6 going into the bye week, the Broncos brass have a decision to make. Do they stick it out with Joseph and reassess at the end of the season? Or do they make a move now to show Broncos Country that this performance is unacceptable by firing Joseph and planning for next season?
Both arguments have validity. Keeping Joseph makes sense because there is no long-term solution currently on the coaching staff, and no coaches that are currently available would want to coach a 3-6 team for half a season, even Kubiak.
The Broncos — and other teams inevitably looking for new coaches, including the Cleveland Browns — might have their eyes on guys like Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, Stanford head coach David Shaw, or Washington head coach Chris Petersen, but none of these guys would be able to come in until the offseason anyway.
However, firing Joseph now would send a message to the team and the fanbase that when expectations aren’t met changes have to be made. Even Cleveland, after finally finding their franchise quarterback this season, parted ways with Hue Jackson after a promising start was swallowed up by defeats.
Joseph is uninspiring and continues to poorly manage winnable games. The players have shown their support for Joseph in front of the media but there have been rumors swirling all season that players are unhappy.Embed from Getty Images
The latest post-game reactions from defensive leaders Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr suggest all is not right, while it’s only a matter of time before straight-talking Derek Wolfe gives us more thoughts on the coaching.
Even Demaryius Thomas — traded to Houston last week — made a jab at the Broncos’ game management after Brandon McManus missed a 51-yard field goal that could’ve won the game against Thomas and his new team that started 0-3 but have won their last six.
“That’s what they do over there,” Thomas told NFL.com. “I
He also relayed to Orange & Blue 760 that Joseph told him last Monday that trade rumors weren’t true the same day Thomas’s agent had told him Elway was shopping him for a fifth-round pick.Embed from Getty Images
Last offseason, Elway had to “sleep on it” when considering whether or not he should keep Joseph around for another season.
It seems like it’s time for Elway to wake up and own up to the fact that Joseph isn’t going to get it done and it’s time to move on.
Firing Joseph may not help the Broncos improve their record at the end of the day, but it tells everyone that the standard in Broncos Country is still high and that Elway is capable of making the tough decisions.
He’s already owned up to one mistake this season by moving on from 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch. Can he do it again?
Unfortunately, Elway has already said publicly he won’t pull the trigger on Joseph yet, so get used to him hanging around a while longer.
It’s going to be a long end to the season.