It was a somber day in Dove Valley after news broke that John Elway had made the decision to fire Head Coach Vance Joseph after two very disappointing seasons. Joseph was well liked by the players, which only made the move more difficult to swallow for those within the organization.
After the reaction, attention shifted rapidly to where the Denver Broncos organization goes from here. The veteran leaders on the team all had differing opinions on what kind of guy the team should hire to take over the head coaching role in Denver.
Todd Davis noted that, “As a defensive player you always want a defensive coach to come in, that’s just how it is, but I trust the staff upstairs and John Elway that they’re going to bring in the right guy. I trust whatever their decision is.”
You only have to look at the list of five head coaching candidates the Broncos have requested interviews with to see that Davis might get his wish of a defensive-minded coach as three of the five are or were defensive coordinators.
Then you ask an offensive player what they want and its all about scoring points. As much as Joe Woods may or may not have struggled, you get the sense his defenses did enough for the Broncos to win more games. It’s been the offense that has failed to produce where it mattered the most - scoring points.
“Hopefully the ball rolls in our favor next year,” Emmanuel Sanders said. “And we can bring somebody in here that can score points, and a defensive coordinator that can help us shut down these offenses. These high propane offenses, that’s the goal. We’re definitely going in the right direction in terms of players. I think they did really good with the draft last year.”
If you remove the flukey 45-10 blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals this season, the Broncos offense was able to muster a measly 18.9 points per game. That’s not going to win many games in today’s NFL no matter how you slice it.
For Sanders, it’s all about the nucleus of guys both young and veteran that a new leader can come in and turn into a winning squad. And hopefully one that is full of pass-happy tendencies.
“We definitely have a nucleus of guys that can win games,” Sanders said. “It’s all about executing and bringing the right guy in here that can be a leader to these young guys and an offensive coordinator that can dial up plays, that we can get explosive plays, and a defensive coordinator that understands his personnel and that can stop offenses.
“I’m ready to be in a pass-happy offense (laughter). That’s the direction that the league is going. I say that because I play wide receiver, but at the same time, we won the Super Bowl with a play action type of offense as well. It really doesn’t matter to me, as long as it’s somebody who can score points. Score touchdowns, right. Passing touchdowns, run touchdowns, the goal is touchdowns and explosive plays. We’ll see who that is.”
The task won’t be easy. After two consecutive 10-loss seasons, the franchise is definitely at a crossroads as the number of players on the roster who remain from their Super Bowl winning team dwindles to single digits.
“The last three years we didn’t make the playoffs,” Brandon Marshall said of the task ahead. “Even though we won the Super Bowl a couple years ago, it just hasn’t been right the last couple years. I wouldn’t say it’s like a huge challenge because we have the people, the roster, the culture and the organization from the top down. But there’s going to be some stuff that needs to be done here.”
That begged the question: is this job even attractive to potential head coaches?
The answer is 100% yes. The Denver Broncos have struggled and still need a quarterback long-term, but a head coaching candidate would be foolish to ignore the franchises commitment to winning and competing. Any incoming head coach will know he has the full support of the franchise to go out and win games. Not every franchise operates like that.
The players see it the same way.
“Who wouldn’t want to coach the Denver Broncos,” Davis said. “We’re a hard-working organization and we’ve been a great organization for years. I don’t think there’s anywhere better in the NFL to coach. I feel like it’s a big position that a lot of people want to fill.”
Unsatisfied with that answer, Davis was asked a follow-up on what exactly makes this position attractive to potential head coaches.
“Everything about it,” Davis added. “The winning culture that we have here, the success that we’ve had in the past, the players that we have here, the city of Denver, the fans—all around I think this is the best place to coach in the NFL.”
And he’s right. A potential candidate would be foolish to look at the last two seasons and assume that’s the way it will always be. The franchise has just had their first back-to-back losing season in 47 years.
Up until a few weeks ago, that was the longest such mark in NFL history. Now the current record belongs to the New England Patriots who started their run in 1993 - well short of the 47 year mark.
John Elway reinforced that culture with a long statement on the health of the franchise and its commitment to getting back to contention with the next regime.
“Yes. I don’t think a whole lot has changed,” John Elway said “If you look at what’s going on in ownership—I will tell you this, I have full confidence that that ownership situation is going to get straightened away. I really do. That’s an easy sell for me for the next candidate as head coach. I still believe that we have great fans here. Our football team has to get better, there’s no question, but we’ve got a lot of good parts on our football team. Therefore, we can sell that. We’ve got nine picks coming up in the draft and as Joe said, we’ve got the ownership, the resources and the support from the ownership group to be able to make the moves that hopefully we need to make us a better football team. Everything’s there, plus the fan base here, what Colorado’s about and it’s a good place to live. You look at our facility and the work that’s been put into this facility over the last five years, it’s a great opportunity for a head coach. I think the right kind of guy wants to come into a situation like this because he knows what the expectations are and what our expectations have been for a long period of time. Therefore, I think guys want that opportunity. They want to come into a spot where they know it’s about football and about winning games. Giving that opportunity, the resources behind him that we can give him, I think it’s a great job.”
The job is attractive enough. It may not be the most attractive of all of the vacancies due to the quarterback situation, but no one should doubt Elway’s resolve to find a franchise quarterback. Let’s just hope he doesn’t swing and miss again...