Dear Vance -
Every young coach gets tested at some point early in his time at the helm that distinguishes him as either on the path to greatness or relegates him to the much larger ranks of mediocrity.
It is unfortunate for you that this crossroads is coming as a first-year head coach and even more unfortunate that had there been a better offensive scenario to step into, you likely wouldn’t be dealing with such a big test so soon.
But that doesn’t change the fact that this is where we are. And it doesn’t change the fact that the answer is actually easier than you appear to be making it.
“I am not sure, but losing three games in a row and having five turnovers tonight, anything is possible.”
At this point, only one thing should be probable - a different quarterback.
I know you said this afternoon on Denver Broncos Radio that “when you pick your starting QB, you assume that’s long-term,” and it’s “a major move to bench your starting quarterback” - something you don’t plan in Training Camp to change in Week 7.
But if that decision from camp isn’t working out to the benefit of the team, then that major move needs to happen.
I don’t say this because I have been clamoring for Paxton Lynch or because I have always been a fan of Brock Osweiler. In fact, neither would be true (I’m admittedly still mad Kyle Sloter won’t be an option, but I’ve made my peace with that...well, sort of).
But I say it because this team needs a change - if for no other reason than to save the locker room and prove to your team that you care about doing whatever it takes to help it win.
Lynch or Osweiler is not statistically that much better or worse than Trevor Siemian, and I have no illusions (or delusions) of grandeur that one of those two definitely gets this team nine more wins and a playoff berth.
But a change of any kind signals to the offense that if players don’t hold up their end of the deal on good execution, they don’t play. And more importantly it signals to the defense that you will do anything not to waste their talent.
You know this. Your words are indicating it in every way except actually stating this is what you need to do.
“Our defense played winning football in my opinion. Our offensive line blocked. We ran the ball for 177 and the pass throw was better, but it all falls back to turning the ball over five times. That’s insane. You can’t win turning the ball over five times. Guys work too hard along with coaches and players to have a big game and give it away five times. It is mind boggling.”
In case, it still boggles the mind, your players are telling you this.
“A loss is always bitter. You never want to lose. We never want to come out here and play the way that we did. You take away four turnovers and bad field position and it’s a whole different ballgame. This is a team thing, we don’t point fingers. We just got to do better all around.”
Chris Harris Jr.:
“I’m tired of losing. I’m tired of losing the same way every game. We’re not giving ourselves a chance to win.”
“Tonight, defensively, we started to get some turnovers and we still lost. We’ve just got to get back to the drawing board and make those game changing plays. That’s my job and I’m going to get that done. Tough day in Kansas City. Played hard but playing hard doesn’t always get the win. ...We wanted this one. It was huge. This is tough. I feel sickness. We lost to a good Chiefs team. We needed this one, we really did need this one. This was must win for us and we didn’t win.”
Gary Kubiak had to make this tough decision late in his career and with not only a future Hall-of-Famer, but a beloved member of the Broncos.
Although Peyton Manning was injured, the coach knew he needed a change immediately to shift the momentum and signal to his team that he was making the hard choice to do whatever it takes.
And seven weeks later, after Osweiler had led the team to 5-2 but was severely struggling, Kubiak made the choice again mid-game to make a switch and change the momentum.
In the first case, it was too late for Osweiler to help the Broncos win the game, but he led the team to scores and instilled confidence in both the offense and defense. In the second scenario, Kubiak knew the change would do the same exact thing - and it even led to a much-needed win for home-field advantage in the playoffs. It may not seem so bold now given the outcome, but at the time, both moves were risky for different reasons, and both showed Kubiak’s mettle.
You have a third-year guy who is only in his second year as a starter. As likeable as Siemian is, he has no business trying to shoulder the weight of the talent on this team and the success it deserves to attempt. Benching him is not as hard a decision as you are making it.
And although you noted today it’s tough to bench the starter when he’s also shown some good things, you have still given yourself the answer - because it’s about the team and not about one player.
“That’s the tough thing. When you have a player who’s had some struggles but has done some really really good things, ...then it’s hard to just bench your starter. But at the end of the day it’s about the team and winning football games. Whatever helps us win football games is what I’m going to do.”
Benching Siemian now is later than it should have been, but not too late to save this team.
With any luck, it might even save the season.