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Horse Tracks: Is Vance Joseph a ‘Dead Man Walking?’

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After the most disappointing performance of his Broncos career, the seat is red hot.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals
Desperation came too late for the Broncos 2nd year head coach.
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

It sure looked like the Broncos slept in til about 3:30 last Sunday. Vance Joseph coached like his job was on the line in the second half, and all told it likely was. A full game like that and Denver would still be in the playoff hunt.

Instead any real hope died in San Francisco when Kyle Shanahan thoroughly out-coached the man John Elway passed him over for.

Following the Broncos upset win over the Chargers, I mentioned this in Horse Tracks:

“If Denver finishes the year 8-8 and Vance Joseph gets a 3rd year, it’s fair to question John Elway after he claimed his rationale for hiring Kubiak in the wake of the John Fox “resignation” was his desire to have a team that’s kicking and screaming. Even 9-7 would be a disappointing season given the porous management in the Texans game.”

Realistically, it still remains the best option for Denver to let Vance coach out the string. It would keep all the same systems in place, which will eliminate an additional variable that would be present when Elway and the front office evaluate the roster to see about additions for 2019.

It’d be a bit of a shock if Joseph stays beyond the following Monday though, as the Duke already knows he needs a new head coach. He almost went looking for a replacement prior to the year, and while injuries and a ridiculous schedule were obstacles that proved insurmountable; it’s hard to ignore the baffling errors Joseph has made time and again this season.

When the time comes, the right move would be to find a real long-term option to coach the team. Is there any doubt that Kyle Shanahan would have Denver knocking on the doorsteps? That said, a new coach alone won’t solve all the issues that have cropped up time and again the last two seasons.

I’ll be looking at that more for tomorrow’s GIF Horse, as the Broncos GM has made his fair share of baffling gaffes since Peyton Manning retired. Moving forward there’s plenty of reasons for optimism, but it’s vital Elway faces his errors and moves this team past them. Let’s hope he does that.

Give Keenum this: he plays with a ton of heart, but until Elway finds a QB that can carry the team in the most dire of circumstances, the Broncos will be at the complete mercy of injury and schedule luck.

On to your Broncos Links

AFC Playoff Picture: Denver Broncos now need a lot of help to get in - Mile High Report

Above the Broncos are three other 7-6 teams in the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, and Tennessee Titans. The situation is dire for the 6-7 Broncos. They first need to win out, then have those four other 7-6 teams to lose two games as all four of those teams also have better conference records than Denver.

radley Chubb marches toward NFL history for Denver Broncos - Mile High Report

“It’s not something that was my goal,” Chubb told 9News after the game. “I just wanted to make an impact as fast as I could. To do something like that is a blessing, but it’s not something I can celebrate today. We’ve got priorities right now. It is a blessing, I’m very happy but we’ve got three more games and we need to win those and hopefully get a playoff berth.”

Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers final score: Playoffs? Forget it. - Mile High Report

The loss drops the Broncos to 6-7 and on the very outside of the AFC playoff hunt. From poor playcalling to poor execution to poor coaching decisions, the Broncos had a little bit of it all in this one.

Denver Broncos: 5 things learned in 20-14 loss to San Francisco 49ers - Mile High Report

So much for a sense of urgency with the playoffs on the line.

Denver Broncos 4 winners, 5 losers in 20-14 loss to San Francisco - Mile High Report

The only guy in the country who didn’t realize George Kittle was the only San Francisco weapon on offense was the Broncos defensive coordinator.

Broncos, playoff chances collapse against 49ers - Denver Broncos Blog- ESPN

”We got outplayed,” said Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe. “They just outplayed us.”

Broncos coaching staff embarrasses itself against 2-10 49ers team - Mile High Report

When your head coach is the google poster-child for the word ‘confused,’ you’ve got problems. That’s a sign that the fanbase has seen enough. While I’d like to lay blame at the feet of Joe Woods or Bill Musgrave, responsibility ultimately falls upon this man... the man whom Google associates with confusion.

What we learned from Sunday’s Week 14 games - NFL.com

This loss can be used to justify a firing of Vance Joseph at the end of the season if the Broncos decide to make such a decision. Denver came out of the tunnel and played the entire first half as if it forgot it had a game. While the Broncos expected the 49ers to lie down and accept their fate as a bottom-dweller, San Fracisco did exactly the opposite, jumping out to a 20-0 lead and stunning a team that is supposed to be fighting for playoff position. It reflected poorly on Joseph, whose team looked wholly unprepared without veteran leaders Chris Harris and Emmanuel Sanders, and put Denver in a hole it couldn’t climb out of.

Miami’s Miracle and Playoff Momentum: NFL Week 14 | SI.com

9. It’s fair to wonder if Sunday’s loss to the Niners is the one that costs Vance Joseph when John Elway sits down and decides what to do with his Broncos coaching staff. If Elway does make a change, it’s worth mentioning that he’s spent some time with college programs studying up on the explosion of offensive innovation that’s begun to trickle up and into the NFL.

Season of inconsistency leaves Broncos needing a playoff miracle - Denver Broncos Blog-ESPN

The Denver Broncos have been a sometimes team this season. As in sometimes they’re good enough, and sometimes they’re nowhere close to good enough. Sometimes they play playoff worthy football, and sometimes they look like the playoffs are some lost idea they simply can’t recall.

Denver Broncos crash back to Earth in loss to San Francisco 49ers - Mile High Report

The biggest loser in all of this isn’t a player, or a coach, or an executive. The biggest loser is the fans. The one big takeaway from the Broncos loss to the 49ers is all about the balloon bursting on the season. We had drifted too high, and the crash hurts. I feel like I’ve been lied to, but the biggest liar in all of this was myself. I allowed myself to believe. Apparently, that’s not water I’ve been drinking, and it isn’t Kool-Aid. I’ve been drinking sand.

2018 NFL Week 14 takeaways and what we learned from games - NFL Nation

The loss to San Francisco on Sunday was filled with everything the Broncos had hoped they had left behind this season: penalties, mistakes and inconsistent play.

Audibles at the Line: Week 14 | Football Outsiders

They really don’t look like a 2-10 team. Gotta give a nod to Kyle Shanahan there.

Dante Pettis Taking Advantage Of Golden Opportunity - The Draft Network

After Sunday’s upset win over the Denver Broncos, he now has 12 receptions, 255 yards and 4 touchdowns on 20 targets through those 3 games.

Broncos vs. 49ers - Game Recap - December 9, 2018 - ESPN

Staley called it a “dumb decision,” but explained it like this: “It’s like telling me `Hey, there’s pizza here, don’t have slice.’ I’m going to have a slice.” “Joe refuses to believe he’s an O-lineman,” Shanahan said. “... It was not a smart play.”

Sikkema’s Mock Draft 4.0 - Page 2 of 4 - The Draft Network

17. Denver Broncos Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon I mean, if you lose to the San Francisco 49ers, at this point, you’re pretty much cooked, if you ask me. Case Keenum is the quarterback for the Broncos currently, but there’s a reason he only signed a two-year deal — even if it was a nice two-year deal. The reason is because they know they’ll be drafting a quarterback soon, and if Justin Herbert is here, this is the time to do it. Herbert was not as a strong of a prospect as I hoped he would be going into the season. He has a good arm, nice mobility and some of the best accuracy in the class when he’s on. For me, the big thing with Herbert is whether or not he’s a franchise quarterback above the shoulders, and in that sense I mean as a leader. Can he be a leader of men? Is that in his personality? I’m not saying he has to be super outgoing. Some people are quiet leaders. But whatever kind of leader you are, you have to get those around you to buy in. It’s tougher for guys who don’t naturally want to be heard or the face of a team. Can Herbert be?

A look around the AFC West

NFL contender kryptonite - Biggest weaknesses on 2018 playoff teams

On Sunday, the Ravens’ defense did enough to slow down the Chiefs, although Mahomes would make it to 377 passing yards by the end of overtime. Keeping the game close allowed Lamar Jackson and a vibrant Ravens rushing attack to pick at the Chiefs, with Baltimore running the ball for 198 yards and a touchdown. Sixty-three of Jackson’s 147 passing yards also came on play-action, including both of his passing scores.

Chiefs beat Ravens 27-24: five hot takes from the game - Arrowhead Pride

How do we know Patrick Mahomes is not one of THEM?

Mahomes-to-Hill magic earns Chiefs an improbable win - Kansas City Chiefs Blog- ESPN

He was running almost 16 mph when he threw the pass. He scrambled 31.7 yards to get to his release point. He threw the ball more than 43 yards down the field. He had a completion probability of 15.8 percent.

Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes proves he is NFL’s MVP of 2018

The Patrick Mahomes Experience is making cynics believers, a feat worthy of earning the NFL’s top individual prize.

Kansas City Chiefs beat Baltimore Ravens: 14 winners and 11 losers - Arrowhead Pride

The Chiefs won their 11th game Sunday. Here are the day’s winners and losers.

NFL notes: Gruden & Reggie McKenzie, Raiders next GM | SI.com

A lot of other teams became frustrated with him as he shopped players he’d spent high draft picks on, some going so far as to say he was sandbagging deals because he didn’t really want to deal his guy.

Albert Breer with the most “duh” statement I’ve seen in a month.

Raiders craft a day to remember in a season to forget - SFChronicle.com

Every Raiders game in Oakland feels like a wake these days, one final farewell to the memories and the moments that have filled Oakland Raiders history. With most of the recent ones being largely forgettable.

Derek Carr finding himself and his tight ends for suddenly formidable Raiders team - Silver And Black Pride

Turns out the Steelers still have issues against tight ends.

Chargers-Bengals final score: Los Angeles Chargers defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 - Bolts From The Blue

The game started about as well as it possibly could have with Philip Rivers marching the Chargers offense down the field for a touchdown. Austin Ekeler, in particular, looked unstoppable

A look around the rest of the league

NFL playoff picture: Could a surprise team work its way in? | SI.com

The Steelers lost to the Raiders on Sunday and despite enjoying the status that comes with a division lead, they are 7-5-1 heading into a game against the Patriots at home. After that? The Saints on the road, possibly with some high-level NFC seeding to be determined. Pittsburgh could be 7-7-1 heading into their finale against Cincinnati. That brings us back to Baltimore, who, may not even need the sixth seed at all if this Steelers free fall continues.

If you’re scoring at home, Broncos fans may want to actively root against Baltimore making the dance as it would ensure John Harbaugh returns. The Gary Kubiak connection makes Harbaugh to Denver a distinct possibility, but only if he’s available.

The Redskins Options with Alex Smith | Over the Cap

Odds are the Redskins are going to have to pay $31 million more dollars and account for $52.6 million on the salary cap for a player who most likely won’t play another meaningful snap for the organization.

How Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott changed the call on Dallas’ biggest touchdown | Touchdown Wire

The October trade with the Raiders for receiver Amari Cooper has overshadowed some of Linehan’s schematic sins, as the four-year veteran has the physical ability to transcend staid concepts. In Dallas’ 29-23 overtime win over the Eagles on Sunday, Cooper became the first receiver in NFL history to catch three go-ahead touchdown passes in the fourth quarter or overtime in a single game.

Cowboys have Amari Cooper to thank for saving their 2018 season | SI.com

Before the Amari Cooper trade, Dallas appeared headed for another lost season, with Jason Garrett likely losing his job at the end of it. But Cooper has changed everything for Garrett, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense.

What’s wrong with Drew Brees? | Touchdown Wire

But after a torrid start to the season in which he completed 76.9% of his passes for 2,964 yards, 25 touchdowns and just one interception in the first 11 weeks of the 2018 season, Brees has seen an unusual regression over the last few weeks.

Patriots struggle to explain Gronk’s inclusion in Miracle - NFL.com

Why was Rob Gronkowski on the field for the final play in the Miami Miracle?

Bears’ smothering defense grounds high-flying Rams - NFL.com

The Rams were held almost 29 points below their season average in Sunday night’s loss to the Bears. Michael Silver looks at how Chicago smothered Sean McVay’s high-powered offense.

Eagles blast ‘ridiculous’ call on opening kickoff - NFL.com

”That was a pretty terrible call, to be honest,” Jenkins said, via NBC Sports Philly. “They reviewed it and the explanation I got was that it wasn’t a clear recovery. Although Kamu had the ball in his hand and there were only Eagles defenders on the ball in the replay. Common sense ... you saw Kamu come out with the ball. Obviously, they don’t pay me to make calls, but in hindsight, that was a big play in the game.”

Injuries force Texans QB Joe Webb into WR duties - HoustonChronicle.com

When wide receiver DeAndre Carter suffered a concussion Sunday, it left the Texans’ offense low on options. It forced third quarterback and special-teams contributor Joe Webb into service as the slot receiver. The Texans were already playing without rookie starter Keke Coutee due to a hamstring injury.

Texans’ running game goes missing in loss to Colts - HoustonChronicle.com

Veteran running back Lamar Miller barely had a moment to react inside the Texans’ backfield before he was repeatedly slammed to the ground in territory invaded by an aggressive Indianapolis Colts’ defense. The Texans’ traditionally powerful running game skidded to a halt Sunday, rendering the entire offense one-dimensional. Between the lack of holes for Miller to run through and quarterback Deshaun Watson being under heavy duress as he was sacked five times, the Texans’ offense was ineffective. They were unable to keep pace with the productivity of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck during a 24-21 defeat at NRG Stadium that ended a franchise-record nine-game winning streak.

Packers show they’re not as bad as they looked in McCarthy’s finale - Green Bay Packers Blog- ESPN

”Like I said to them, this is a players game and they really stepped up,” Philbin said.

Lions feel snow practices helped them handle poor field in Arizona – ProFootballTalk

“I will always learn just from Matty P, everything he do, there’s a method to his madness,” Jean Francois said, via the Detroit Free Press. “It might not show then, but eventually it’s going to show. It’s going to eventually come up why he has you doing something. Most people want to find out right now. People don’t want to wait. Let’s figure out why he’s making us do this and it always ends up showing later on or either at that point.”

Cam Newton has no easy answers for Panthers struggles – ProFootballTalk

“It’s extremely frustrating coming up short each and every week with similar settings and not pushing through. I wish I had the words to say, but I don’t,” Newton said, via Joe Person of The Athletic. “In this league, that’s what it always comes down to — finding ways to keep the game close, to win late in the game. We just haven’t found that way to win in those situations.”

Jerry Jones: We haven’t reached out to Jason Witten at all – ProFootballTalk

“We haven’t at all. What you are seeing is probably lingering aspects of Jason saying I will never quit wanting to play,” Jones said.

Leonard Fournette threatened to beat up a fan on Thursday night – ProFootballTalk

Fournette is shown in a video published by TMZ standing on the Jaguars’ sideline and yelling at a fan until others on the sideline lead him away. Although the audio quality is not very good, Fournette can be heard saying, “I will beat your ass.”

Josh Johnson: Redskins QB plays Madden to learn teammates’ names | SI.com

So how does a guy who has shared a locker room several hundred players learn who his new teammates are after being signed just five days before his first game? Johnson fired up a video game console and started playing Madden.

Colin Kaepernick would answer call from QB-needy Redskins

If the Washington Redskins are willing to pick up the phone and call Colin Kaepernick, two sources close to the former NFL quarterback said he is ready and willing to play for the franchise.