In the midst of a six-game losing streak, the Denver Broncos looked around on Monday and tried to find someone inside the facility to blame for the fact that their two quarterbacks have combined for 12 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 73.2 quarterback rating over 10 games.
Their solution? Fire offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who has posted top 10 seasons in passing touchdowns in four of his nine years as a play caller or head coach and top 10 seasons in passing yardage in six of his nine seasons. In the meantime, Bill Musgrave, a former John Elway backup and the position coach of Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian this season, will take the reigns.
Head coaches and general managers often visit this well in a desperate attempt to “find a spark.” Sometimes, like in the case of Jim Caldwell (the Ravens fired Cam Cameron in December for Caldwell en route to a Super Bowl title back in 2010) and Jim Bob Cooter (the Lions fired Joe Lombardi midseason and promoted Cooter in ’15) there is an energetic new voice on your staff waiting to be heard. Instances like these make it an easier sell.
These were moves by teams in the hunt. Moves that, if they weren’t made at that very moment, could have significantly altered the course of a season. But the Broncos are in last place in the AFC West. It would take a tremendous collapse by the Kansas City Chiefs and the bowing of two other teams with Pro Bowl quarterbacks in order for this change to pay dividends. Did they really need to get rid of a coach who had just been fired less than a year earlier, and who had other opportunities as an offensive coordinator this offseason before returning to Denver?
It’s an easy maneuver for head coach Vance Joseph to rubber stamp. He’s a defensive coach—the leader of the third best unit in football in terms of yardage, though Football Outsiders’ most recent Defense-adjusted Value Over Average ratings (DVOA) had them at No. 12. He inherited Von Miller, Chris Harris, Brandon Marshall, Bradley Roby and Aqib Talib.
This season, the Broncos asked McCoy to take a unit aching at both offensive tackle spots, with a 30-year-old Jamaal Charles as their most significant offseason addition outside of powerhouse guard Ron Leary, and make some chicken salad out of the whole lot. Don’t forget that there was actually a game this season where Siemian threw four touchdowns and posted a 116 quarterback rating.
Musgrave now comes in with the luxury of time and circumstance. Eventually, the Broncos will pivot to Paxton Lynch, a quarterback whose athleticism and mobility far surpass anything McCoy was able to work with this season. The losses will be more understandable because Lynch is coming off an injury and he’s still growing.
According to Broncos beat sage Mike Klis, “John Elway believed McCoy was too much about scheme, not enough offensive execution.” Musgrave, who, as a play caller, has coached just two units in nine years that have finished inside the top 10 in giveaways, will need a borderline revolutionary vision for this offense in order to successfully couch the firing. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien paid a second-round pick to get Osweiler off his roster. Browns head coach Hue Jackson got him next, and opted instead for Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and DeShone Kizer. John Elway asked McCoy to utilize Osweiler and Siemian to get him to the playoffs. Out of all parties involved, who seems like the one lacking in execution—the person calling the plays, or the person picking the players?