The Broncos put on one of their best performances of the season Sunday afternoon against the New York Jets, shutting them out 23-0. Oddly enough, the sudden awakening for the team came on the day that the Broncos were officially eliminated from the playoffs. While the win will not extend the Broncos season, it will give head coach Vance Joseph a chance to extend his tenure into next season. Joe Woods and Bill Musgrave have an even better chance of keeping their jobs going into 2018 as a result of the beatdown at Mile High Stadium. So let’s take a look at what the future could hold for the Broncos coaching staff.
Joseph has preached all season long that if the Broncos do not turn the ball over, the defense can take over the game and force a win. After the shutout win, it is apparent that Joseph is right in a big way. There were zero turnovers by the offense and two forced by the defense. If the Broncos can keep winning the turnover game, they’ll continue to win football games. If they win out, the Broncos can still finish 7-9 which is not a great season by any means but loads better than 3-13 which is the way that that the season seemed to be going after losing eight in a row. However, the Broncos can still go 4-12, a bad enough season that could give Joseph the ax. Elway has fired coaches for less.
As far as I’m concerned, defensive coordinator Joe Woods was never in danger of being fired. There have been some growing pains, for sure but overall he has done a great job with the defense after Wade Phillips’ departure. By shutting out the Jets, Woods accomplished something that had not been done by Denver since 2005. This was not done against a bad Jets team, either. Remember, this same Jets team almost beat the Patriots earlier this year and put up 38 points against the Kansas City Chiefs.
New York can move the ball with Josh McCown under center. It is true that McCown got injured in the third quarter and missed the rest of the game which gave the Broncos a huge chance to finish the shutout. On the other hand, the Broncos were missing Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko as well as Justin Simmons for a good chunk of the game and still shut them out. Joe Woods has done a great job this year and should have no issues keeping his job moving forward.
Musgrave’s offense has had some issues but there have been sparks as well. The biggest arguments for keeping him point out the quarterback issues that have plagued this team all season. He is working with subpar talent which should give him the benefit of the doubt. Everyone saw what he did with Derek Carr last season and should assume that if Musgrave gets a franchise quarterback, he can light it up. General manager John Elway should know this and should fight to keep him even if Vance Joseph is let go.
Elway’s Fiery History
John Elway’s first coach was John Fox. Combined with the legendary Peyton Manning, Fox’s team won the division three years straight from 2012-2014, made it to the Super Bowl one year and had at least 12 wins in each of those seasons. However, Elway replaced Fox one season after making it to the Super Bowl following a loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Denver’s first postseason game of the season. Elway simply wanted someone else. Many argued that it was Fox’s failings, not Elway’s impulsiveness that drove him out the door. That could be true if a very similar sequence didn’t occur with the next coach.
Fox was replaced by Gary Kubiak, who coached the Denver Broncos to a win in Super Bowl 50. Curiously, Kubiak decided to retire the following year after not making the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season. The Broncos had a real shot to do so after starting 4-0. There have been no details out there that proves that Elway forced Kubiak out the door but there are a lot of similar circumstances: after a bad ending to a season, both coaches have found themselves out of a job.
However, Kubiak was not jobless for long. Kubiak came out of retirement almost immediately and is now working as the senior personnel advisor of the Denver Broncos. Not only that but he has also expressed interest in becoming the offensive coordinator for Denver next year. If he was so unsure about retirement, why didn’t he stick around as head coach until he was sure that he wanted to retire? Looking at Fox’s departure and Kubiak’s suspicious retirement, it seems that Elway demands perfection from his teams otherwise the coaches will pay the price. If that is true then Vance Joseph’s chances were lost as soon as the Broncos were eliminated from playoff contention.
Joseph in Jeopardy
Before the dominating victory against the Jets, the Broncos had lost eight games straight and it seemed inevitable that the Broncos would move on from Joseph. Now, after the win, Joseph has some life. Sound familiar? The Giants went through a very similar series of events earlier in the season and now head coach Ben Mcadoo is out of a job. They had lost the last five games (six if you count the playoff game from last year) before dominating the Broncos, who seemed nearly invincible at the time. They dominated without any real wide receivers, no established running game and no hope. Just nine weeks later, Mcadoo is jobless. It just goes to show how one dominating victory is not enough to save someone’s job in the NFL. Granted, Joseph has two (Jets and Cowboys) but there needs to be a lot more where that came from.
What is Elway Thinking?
If John Elway was going to fire Vance Joseph then why hasn’t he done it yet? Obviously, Elway cannot fire Joseph days after a 23-0 victory because that makes him look bad. You just don’t fire coaches after dominating performances. However, why didn’t Elway fire Joseph before when the Broncos were at their worst? Perhaps Elway wants to tank in order to get a better draft pick and he thinks that Joseph is his best path to that pick. Also, it makes him look better because he’s giving Joseph a full season before he lets him go, not making him look as impulsive. If Elway fires Vance, he is effectively blaming the bad season on the coach. Afterwards, it would be up to him to find the best coach he can but if that coach doesn’t pan out then he has picked two bad coaches and he looks really bad.
Alternatively, the only reason John would keep Vance around is because he really believes in him and wants to give him more time. There are plenty of coaches that struggle in their rookie seasons and go on to be really good. In keeping Joseph, John is blaming the quarterbacking and the offensive line play for the Broncos’ blues. Whether Elway keeps or fires Joseph, it is up to him to fix the mess.
Vance Joseph’s future is still unknown and unless he can win out (including a win against the Chiefs in Week 17), knowing Elway’s tendencies, we’ll probably see a new face on the Broncos sideline next year. That being said, we can only wait and see what will actually happen. It’s a short week for the Broncos this week as they take on the Colts on Thursday Night Football so we might not have to wait long depending on how they do.