We’re through ten weeks in the National Football League and the blame for the Broncos’ shortcomings has now fallen on the coaching staff as it had fallen on the offensive line and Trevor Siemian. We now have seen ten weeks of production from the Denver Broncos coaching staff and now that we have a decent sample size, we can start to judge these coaches.
Namely, Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy, Special Teams Coach Brock Olivo, Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods, and finally Head Coach Vance Joseph. This will not be a knee-jerk reaction to the rough outings versus the Patriots and the Eagles. Rather, this will be a holistic look at their season from the preseason through week ten. We’ll look at some of the highlights and lowlights of each of the four main coaches, I’ll give a grade and then look at whether the Broncos should keep them around or not.
Grading The Denver Broncos Coaching Staff
Mike McCoy, Offensive Coordinator
Contrary to popular belief, the Broncos have had some bright spots on offense this season. The Broncos scored 24 points on offense against the Chargers, who have a good defense. Then they put up 35 against the Cowboys the following week. However, since then, the offense has not had a game of over 20 points.
When team offenses start well and then trail off with no significant injuries or before those injuries occur, it is pretty clear that the scheme of the team has been figured out. This is what has happened to Denver this year. Mike McCoy’s refusal to incorporate extra wrinkles into the offense to adjust as teams adjust to him is his biggest problem this year. He refuses to implement bubble screens for Demaryius Thomas (his bread-and-butter play), he has refused to add chip-blocking to assist the linemen, and the formations that he has called are very vanilla in nature. The only interesting formation that I have seen this year happened against the Patriots when he lined up Demaryius Thomas in the backfield and then sent him in motion pre-snap.
Overall, he has had some success against tough opponents this year, so I cannot really say that he is a terrible offensive coordinator. The Broncos offense currently ranks 22nd in the league, an improvement over last year and actually ahead of the Raiders at 23rd. That being said, he has earned to some rope to finish the year but he still has a lot to prove.
Brock Olivo, Special Teams Coordinator
The special teams have been terrible all year, with the two bright spots being that blocked field goal way back in week one and the stopped fake punt against the Raiders. Still, the special teams are easily the worst in the league this year. On Sunday Night Football there was a punt blocked, a muffed punt that resulted in a turnover, and a kick returned for a touchdown. Additionally, it seems that there is a muffed punt every week and the players are continuing to run the ball out of the end zone too much.
These mistakes are correctable by Olivo. Punt returner Isaiah McKenzie could have been pulled a while ago in favor of Emmanuel Sanders, Bennie Fowler, or another receiver. Olivo could have told the kick return unit to accept more touchbacks. He has not done either of these things and so he has allowed the mistakes to continue without action.
The special teams have been an eyesore all year long and it is because of Brock Olivo’s inability to change his gameplan. It goes without saying, the Broncos should move on from Olivo sooner rather than later, at the very least by the end of the season.
Joe Woods, Defensive Coordinator
Denver’s defense has seen improvement in some areas, but it has fallen off in others. Denver’s run defense was 28th last year and is now 6th in the league: a massive improvement (many would also point to the signing of Domata Peko). At the same time, Denver’s overall defense has fallen to 3rd overall after the last two blowout losses to New England and Philadelphia. Also, there has been a problem all year long for the Broncos defense against tight ends. The Broncos are currently the third-worst team against opposing tight ends, giving up 17.4 Fantasy points per game according to ESPN.
Overall, the Broncos defense, while taking a step back this year, is in good hands under Joe Woods. He’s no Wade Phillips, but he’ll do. The Broncos should keep Woods unless Wade Phillips wants to come back for some reason.
Vance Joseph, Head Coach
Joseph’s bright spot occurred early in the season when the Broncos were 3-1. He had a clutch timeout call that ultimately won the first game of the season and then the Broncos blew out the Cowboys who were fresh off a 13-3 season. They lost to the Bills and beat the Raiders after that. Joseph was in the running for coach of the year at that point. However, as we all well know, the team is now 3-6 and in danger of finishing under .500 for the first time since 2010 when they went 4-12. The team’s mindset has been in question for most of the year and that is part of what the Head Coach’s job is: he must set the right tone and mindset for the team. Denver has most of the same players from last year with the exception of T.J. Ward and Demarcus Ware but the team is doing much worse than last season.
Speaking of last year, he was the Defensive Coordinator of the Miami Dolphins in 2016. Their defense was ranked 29th overall. This year, the Dolphins were ranked 2nd overall before Monday Night Football, where their blowout loss dropped them to 17th. It is a really bad look for Joseph right now after all that has happened. Maybe, if the Dolphins defense hadn’t gotten better after he left, then he’d have more of a rope. Right now, Joseph should be given the rest of the season to make a turnaround, but it does not look good.
Three of the four main coaches should start thinking about moving on: McCoy, Joseph, and Olivo. Of those coaches, McCoy has the longest leash, Joseph has a small one, and Olivo has run out of rope. He should be gone as soon as they find a replacement. While the Broncos coaching staff is not the worst in the league, it definitely leaves a lot to be desired. There must be an improvement on the coaching front if the Broncos are going to have any shot at making the playoffs this year, or even finish with a positive record.