Broncos fire coach Vance Joseph after two losing seasons

John Elway reportedly wanted Vance Joseph gone after one season as Denver Broncos head coach, but gave him a second chance.

When the second season didn’t go any better, there was no chance he’d get a third shot. The Broncos fired Joseph, who had been on the hot seat for more than a year. The news was reported Monday morning by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Joseph finished 5-11 his first season and 6-10 his second. It’s the first time since 1972 the Broncos had back-to-back losing seasons.

Vance Joseph lasted two seasons as Broncos head coach. (AP)
Vance Joseph lasted two seasons as Broncos head coach. (AP)

Joseph was put in a tough spot. He replaced Gary Kubiak, who had won a Super Bowl just two seasons before. Expectations were unrealistically high. His quarterback situation in a post-Peyton Manning world for the Broncos wasn’t great, spending his first season juggling Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler, then getting steady but unspectacular Case Keenum in 2018. The roster around the quarterback had holes thanks to poor drafts by Elway. But Joseph didn’t help himself.

Strategic mistakes were an issue for Joseph both seasons. This season, errors at the end of each half against the Houston Texans might have cost the team a winnable game against a good team. Then in Week 15, the decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-1 deep in Cleveland Browns territory, trailing 17-13 with less than five minutes left, was criticized relentlessly. Denver lost that game 17-16.

Joseph’s job security has been the constant topic of conversation in Denver for more than a season, but no longer.

Vance Joseph rallied, then slumped again

Joseph rallied in the middle of this season, and it seemed possible he could lead the Broncos to an unlikely playoff berth. That might have saved his job.

Denver started 3-6 but won three straight including victories over the Chargers and Steelers, two of the AFC’s more talented teams. At 6-6, the Broncos were improbably back in the playoff mix. But then the Broncos lost to the 49ers, who were 2-10 at the time, and then again to the Browns at home. That killed their playoff chances and any realistic shot Joseph had at saving his job.

Not everything that happened in Denver this season was Joseph’s fault. Key injuries to players like cornerback Chris Harris and receiver Emmanuel Sanders hurt. So did trading receiver Demaryius Thomas. The Broncos’ talent level was nowhere near what it was in 2015, when they won Super Bowl 50.

But Joseph — who was hired in the same offseason as Sean McVay, Anthony Lynn and Kyle Shanahan, among others — always seemed a step behind.

Broncos job isn’t that attractive

Denver has a long history of success, but that doesn’t mean it will be one of the more attractive jobs on the market.

The Broncos’ new coach will be the fourth in six seasons. John Fox was fired after four straight division titles. Kubiak stepped away after two seasons, citing burnout, and then Joseph almost got fired after just one season. A report by the Colorado Springs Gazette in mid-December said Elway wanted to fire Joseph at the end of the 2017 season and bring back Mike Shanahan, but that plan was nixed by team CEO Joe Ellis.

Elway is one of the rare GMs in sports who overshadows the entire franchise. And he hasn’t done a good enough job at roster construction since building that Super Bowl team. The Broncos’ new coach will have the same mediocre roster Joseph had. And his quarterback will be Keenum, working on the final season of a two-year deal with no replacement in place.

The Broncos job won’t be as easy to fill this time around. But it became clear Joseph wasn’t the answer.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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