Denver Broncos Head Coach Vance Joseph was fired on Monday. The ex-Dolphins defensive coordinator served two years and finished with an 11-21 record, failing to make the playoffs in both of his seasons. Here is a recap of his brief time as a Bronco, including what led to his demise.
Vance Joseph Officially Out In Denver
2017: An Optimistic Start
Coming in, there was a lot of positivity surrounding a team that had barely missed the playoffs the previous year and had two promising quarterbacks in Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. The team seemed to be in a position to have a strong 2017 season.
The year started according to plan with the Broncos boasting a 3-1 record after the first month. However, it all changed after that. Siemian imploded, Lynch busted, and the return of Brock Osweiler was uninspiring. The team ultimately finished 5-11 and missed the playoffs in ugly fashion.
Many expected Joseph to absorb the blame for the disappointing season but Executive Vice Presiden and General Manager John Elway publicly took responsibility for the season, claiming that it was he who had failed to provide Joseph the best players that he could.
However, it has since been reported that Elway was actually in private talks with ex-Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Kirk Cousins in the hopes of reuniting the old Redskins duo in Denver. Joe Ellis, CEO and President of the Broncos, stepped in and prevented the deal from taking place. Joseph would stumble into one more chance in 2018.
2018: One Last Chance
Heading into the 2018 season, Joseph was on one of the hottest seats in the league. With additions like quarterback Case Keenum, running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, wide receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, and pass-rusher Bradley Chubb, Elway felt that he had done his part in giving Joseph the players he needed to succeed. If Joseph were to fail this season, it would be on him.
The first nine games of the season went in a very similar fashion compared to 2017. The Broncos started 2-0 and quickly imploded, losing six of the next seven games. However, the losses felt different compared to 2017.
In 2017, eight of the 11 losses were by two or more possessions. In 2018, through nine games, just two of the six losses were by two or more possessions. Also, the Broncos had competed strongly with possible Super Bowl contenders in the Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, and Los Angeles Rams, losing to each team by only a possession. This was Joseph’s saving grace around the halfway point.
However, going into the bye at 3-6, it seemed that Joseph was doomed to fail and find himself at the mercy of Elway at season’s end or sooner. In a stunning turn of events, the Broncos came out of the bye with upsets against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Chargers and found themselves with a path to the playoffs.
With the Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, and Los Angeles Chargers left of the schedule, it seemed that the Broncos were now poised to make a strong run at the playoffs. If the Broncos were to even come close to making the playoffs, Joseph would be a lock to save his job for another year.
As soon as Joseph’s Broncos seemed to be overcoming adversity, they were slapped in the face. Both Chris Harris Jr, their lead cornerback, and Emmanuel Sanders, their lead wide receiver, were injured within a week of each other and suddenly the team was led almost exclusively by rookies. In spite of this, the Broncos were still expected to make a good run at the playoffs.
However, the team was never the same after the injuries. The Broncos defeated the Cincinnati Bengals but ended up losing to the 49ers, Browns, Raiders, and Chargers in embarrassing fashion, failing to score more than 16 points in each of those games.
Joseph In A Nutshell
While the injuries to Harris and Sanders created a possible explanation that could have exonerated Joseph, the team’s failure to compete against some of the worst teams in the league was the final nail in the coffin.
Even before that final month, Joseph’s teams were noticeably less disciplined and focused, especially on the road than previous Broncos teams. In the end, Joseph’s failure to manage the clock effectively and step in at the right time with the right call was a recurring theme that repeatedly minimized the Broncos’ chances of victory. Some of this was explained as growing pains for the young coach but after two seasons, there was not enough growth to create tangible results. For that reason, Joseph is now looking for a new job.