Despite a 5-11 season, eight defeats by double digits and a playoffless finish, the Broncos will retain coach Vance Joseph for next season, giving him a chance “to fix it,” just as he had hoped.
Joseph met with John Elway early Monday to learn of the general manager’s decision and to mull changes to the coaching staff, which included the departure of six assistants.
“Vance and I had a great talk this morning about our plan to attack this offseason and get better as a team,” Elway tweeted Monday morning. “We believe in Vance as our head coach. Together, we’ll put in the work to improve in all areas and win in 2018.
“To all our fans: THANK YOU for your tremendous support and sticking with us through a tough year. This wasn’t the season anyone expected, but we’ll learn from it and be better because of it. Our 2018 season starts today.”
In keeping Joseph for 2018, Elway spared the Broncos of a fourth head coaching change in five years and provided a significant cost savings. Had Joseph left, the Broncos could have had to pay the remaining salaries of most of two coaching staffs.
Joseph was hired last January after the resignation of Gary Kubiak and was immediately labeled “a leader of men” because of his ability to relate to players on both sides of the ball, and to work well with fellow coaches.
The Broncos had tried to bring in Joseph as defensive coordinator in 2015, but the Cincinnati Bengals refused to release him from his contract. So when Denver suddenly had to fill the void left by Kubiak, Joseph was atop Elway’s list and on the radar of many other teams seeking a new coach. The four-year deal awarded to Joseph was deemed both brilliant and risky, as some lauded Joseph’s football expertise but remained skeptical because of his limited experience. For much of Joseph’s coaching career, he was a defensive backs coach, and when the Broncos nabbed him, he had only one year under his belt as a coordinator, at Miami in 2016.
“I’ll say this: He’s very smart — he’s an ex-quarterback,” Elway said with laugh when he introduced Joseph as head coach. “You think all he knows is the defensive side, but he’s aware of what we need to do on the offensive side, too. I think that’s why the combination is tremendous.”
Joseph guided the Broncos through another offseason quarterback competition over the summer and helped the team to a promising pair of victories to start the season with Trevor Siemian under center. But Denver’s 3-1 record unraveled after its bye week and included a loss to the previously winless New York Giants in Denver, the franchise’s first shutout in nearly 25 years against the Los Angeles Chargers, a blowout defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles, a total of 11 losses by an average of nearly 15 points, and a whopping 34 turnovers that trailed only the Cleveland Browns (41).
As the Broncos’ record cratered, so did everything else.
Elway called the team “soft” as the losses piled up, scuffles broke out during practices and the quarterbacks swapped roles multiple times, with all three rotating in as the starter, backup and inactive player twice. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fired midway through the season, which led to another offensive scheme change, multiple players were demoted and promoted, and frustration mounted inside the locker room and out.