John Elway told the Denver Broncos‘ website that when the team plays Thursday, he wants to see a team “fighting for our lives, because we are.”
The Broncos general manager used the term “we” before that but he might as well have singled out coach Vance Joseph. Everyone knows what’s at stake.
If the Broncos lose Thursday night to a 1-5 Arizona Cardinals team — a game that can be livestreamed on the Yahoo Sports mobile app (IOS and Android) — Elway isn’t going to send off Von Miller, Emmanuel Sanders or even Case Keenum. Elway is not going to be the one to take the fall, though his poor personnel decisions are a major reason the Broncos are 2-4. Let’s also not forget that every coaching hire made in the 2017 offseason has worked out very well, except the one Elway made.
But Joseph, the second-year coach who was almost fired after Year 1 and now has a 7-15 record? He might be the scapegoat. He seems to understand the stakes. Joseph was asked if he feels he’s fighting for his job this week.
“Absolutely, and that’s every coach in this league every week,” Joseph said, according to the team’s transcripts. “If you don’t feel that way, you’re missing something.”
It’s not certain Elway would make a midseason move at head coach, especially this relatively early in the season. But Joseph might want to win at Arizona, just to make sure.
Vance Joseph’s job security is the talk of Denver
Joseph’s job security has been a constant topic of conversation in Denver for almost a year. Elway admitted after last season’s 5-11 record that he evaluated all his options but decided to bring Joseph back. It looked fine when the Broncos were 2-0 to start this season, even though they were both very close wins at home. Then came a four-game losing streak.
The wheels have fallen off. They blew a late lead to the Chiefs at home. The Broncos have allowed more than 500 yards rushing the past two games. Elway called the defense soft. Defensive end Derek Wolfe said he was “tired of talking about the same s— for two years.” Many fans clamored for Keenum to be benched, six games into a two-year, $36 million deal. They’d rather have Chad Kelly, the last pick of the 2017 draft who has never thrown an NFL pass. Many of those same fans want Joseph out, too.
Elway isn’t patient, and his frustration seems obvious.
“The bottom line is I’m sure for everyone out there, it’s a broken record,” Elway told the team’s website. “We’ve got to change some things, and things have to change this week. Our veterans have to play better. Coaches have to coach better.”
There are a lot of things wrong with the Broncos. Not all of them are Joseph’s fault. But it all comes back to him. He fired his offensive coordinator in the middle of last season. He has declined to fire defensive coordinator Joe Woods as the defense has plummeted, or take the play-calling duties from him. Perhaps Joseph declined that option because once you fire a offensive coordinator and fire a defensive coordinator, there’s only one card left for a team to play.
Broncos need a win at the Cardinals
A main reason there has been speculation in Denver that Joseph needs to win this week to save his job is timing. The Broncos play Thursday, and that means an extra three days for the team to make a change. That’s not to say Elway would definitely fire his coach just because the team has a few extra days before the next game, but it’s a factor if he is considering a move anyway.
Von Miller sent a message to his teammates this week. “We’re going to go out there and kick their ass,” he said. It’s not the type of thing Miller often says. But times are getting desperate in Denver. Thursday night is a game the Broncos should win. The Cardinals have struggled all season and have made a case as perhaps the worst team in football.
It all comes to a head on Thursday night. A win doesn’t necessarily save the Broncos’ season or even Joseph’s job over the long haul. But a loss to a 1-5 Cardinals team would be the fifth in a row for Denver. If that happens, all eyes would turn to Elway to see if he’s ready to make the first coaching change of this season.
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