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Every head coach’s success is measured by one statistic: wins. The Broncos started 2-0 and have since fallen to 2-2. As a result, “#firevancejoseph” has been revived throughout social media. Are Broncos fans truly being fair? A look back at the highs and lows over the last four games will help put things in perspective. How has head coach Vance Joseph performed thus far?

Vance Joseph Graded Through Four Games

Seahawks At Broncos – Broncos Win 27-24

One of the main duties of a head coach is to set the culture. The head coach needs to create the correct mindset of the players, one that is as strong as possible. In all competition, the stronger-minded team is usually the winner.

The Broncos showed mental toughness in the game against the Seahawks. They were down 24-20 after a busted defensive coverage that led to a Seattle touchdown. Until this point, the Broncos had not beaten the Seahawks since their loss to them in Super Bowl 48. Now, down four points late against a team that had beaten them in their last two outings, the Broncos could have become flustered. Instead, they drove down the field for a game-winning touchdown. Granted, there are not many players left on this team that played in those games against the Legion of Boom. But, there were enough critical pieces still on the team that, had those pieces not played tough, the Broncos probably would have lost. Joseph gets credit for his team’s mental toughness.

On the other hand, there were plenty of broken plays given up by the defense. Joseph is a defensive-minded head coach, and those broken plays make him look doubly bad. Also, the team as a whole played very up-and-down and didn’t look especially sharp. It’s the coach’s responsibility to keep his team consistent and the team was anything but.

The Broncos played very conservatively on offense towards the end of the game. The Broncos had taken a three-point lead with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter and played very conservatively on offense for the rest of the game, only throwing short passes and running the ball.  Joseph went too conservative a drive too early and escaped with a win but when a team is only up by three points, they should remain in attack mode.

Overall, Joseph’s stamp on this game was relatively minor as he didn’t have a game-winning/losing decision. However, the players’ play was very up-and-down across the board. That being said, the team came away with a fourth-quarter comeback victory, an uncommon feat for the Broncos in recent years.

Grade: C+

Raiders At Broncos – Broncos Win 20-19

It was almost as if Joseph was still celebrating the previous week’s win, and expected to cruise through this game. The Broncos offense was horrendous in the first half, getting shut out by a sub-par Raiders defense. The offense as a whole was extremely vanilla, boring, and obvious. It seemed that Joseph had drawn up some trick plays for later in the season, but tipped his hand because of poorly the game was going. Head coaches have to plan to use their full arsenal in every game if they want to win. Teams cannot simply be expected to cruise to victory.

However, the Broncos were able to erase a 12-point deficit that included a final drive from quarterback Case Keenum to set up a Brandon McManus field goal in order to win 20-19.

Joseph’s ability to correct his mistake at halftime was impressive. Once again, the Broncos were able to battle back in the fourth quarter for a win, giving another demonstration of mental toughness.

Grade: C+/B-  

Broncos At Ravens – Broncos Lose 27-14

The Broncos had a great first quarter, including a punt block and two touchdowns. At the end of the first quarter, the Broncos were leading 14-7, and seemed poised to blow out the Ravens.

However, it was all downhill from there. The Broncos offense stagnated and rookie running back Phillip Lindsay was ejected for appearing to throw a punch. This was a huge mental error and Joseph has to take some responsibility for the incident. It’s his job to make sure that his players are poised at all times.

The biggest indictment came near the end of the fourth quarter. Denver, down two touchdowns and in Baltimore’s red zone, had a complete implosion that Joseph was fully responsible for. First, Joseph called back-to-back run plays late in the fourth quarter while down by two touchdowns. Not only were they the wrong calls for the situation, but the team didn’t even muster a first down. With the game on the line on 4th-and-1, the Broncos were flagged for having too many men on the field. Coordinating the personnel is one of the main coaching responsibilities and he failed to do that in crunch time. Speaking of penalties, the Broncos committed 13 of them for 120 yards. Coaches are responsible for making sure that their players know how to avoid infractions.

In the end, Joseph’s inability to keep his team focused coupled with his bad playcalling created an appearance of incompetence in this outing.

Grade: F

Chiefs At Broncos – Broncos Lose 27-23

Positively for Joseph, the Broncos were very competitive in this game. They seemingly overperforming against their archrivals, and had a 10-point lead after about three and a half quarters. The game plan almost could not be better and at the end of the game, the Broncos had only three penalties for 25 yards.

That being said, the Broncos imploded for a second-straight week and blew a ten point lead at the end of the game. The Broncos were averaging more yards per run than per pass and they ended the game with 37 passes to only 22 runs. Joseph’s playcalling was simply atrocious down the stretch as he seemingly completely abandoned his game plan for catastrophic results. The Broncos only ran the ball three times in the fourth quarter, and just once after giving up the first of two touchdowns. On defense, Joseph’s play call on a 2nd-and-30 was so terrible that it allowed the Chiefs to convert in two plays. Joseph had called a simple man-coverage that Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes carved up when he should have called a deep zone or a confusing blitz.

In the end, Joseph’s playcalling was a huge factor in the loss.

Grade: D+/C-

Final Grade

“#firevancejoseph” has been revived throughout social media. Are Broncos fans truly being fair?

It seems that the Broncos have more fight in them this year than in 2017. Joseph also seems to be slightly better than he was last year.

That being said, the Broncos have been more up-and-down this year, showing slightly more bad than good. The game against the Chiefs for control of the division was the biggest opportunity of Joseph’s career. He choked that away in epic fashion. While those negatives are bad, they are not the most alarming aspect of Joseph.

He seems much too eager to take his foot off of the gas as soon as he finds success. For example, after beating the Seahawks in Week One, the Broncos had a terrible first half in Week Two. Then, after beating the Raiders and getting a good start against the Ravens, the Broncos subsequently imploded. Most recently, after losing to the Ravens in Week Three, the Broncos had a ten point lead against the Chiefs in the fourth quarter and imploded again. Joseph has potential but he needs to be unafraid of taking his foot off of the gas pedal. He has to stop appearing like he’s trying to do what he thinks is “just enough” to win.

As a final note, while he did not commit some of the direct actions that led to some of the mistakes listed above, he’s able to actively prevent them. Whether it’s stepping in on a critical play call or giving extra attention to a player before he enters the game, he simply must find ways to make a better impact on his team. As of now, he seems to be just one really good or really bad game from losing or keeping his job going into next year.

Grade: C- (71%)

Ian Van Roy

Author Ian Van Roy

Ian is a hardcore Denver Broncos fan. He spends his Sundays watching the games and follows the team closely. If Pro Football is on, he is watching it.

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Sports Al Dente 2019

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