It was a rollercoaster year for the former Denver Broncos head coach who rejoined the team as their defensive coordinator this past season. Fans and media were calling him to be fired after just three games when his defense collapsed vs. the Commanders in week two and then gave up 70 points to the Dolphins in week three.
After that rough stretch that saw the Broncos start the season with a 1-5 record, things began to change. The defense was still having issues but they started forcing multiple turnovers which helped fuel a five-game win streak that got them back into the postseason conversation. Unfortunately, their defense fell back to earth, and outside of two games vs. Easton Stick and the Chargers, struggled to do much in the final remaining six games of the season.
Broncos had a rollercoaster of a season— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) January 8, 2024
First six games: 1-5
Next five games: 5-0
Final six games: 2-4
While apologies were given to Joseph during the Broncos' five-game winning streak, and rightfully so, he deserves criticism for how the season began and ended. They had the worst defense in the league during the first six games of the season, but the turnovers and some changes did make some improvements. However, once the turnovers stopped, the defense started struggling again and the Broncos started losing again.
Struggles against backup quarterbacks Bailey Zappe on Christmas Eve and Aidan O’Connell in the season finale are examples of these struggles to end the season. The Broncos were in a must-win game on Christmas Eve against a bad Patriots offense and they allowed Zappe to throw for 256 yards and two touchdowns against them including a game-winning drive that set up the game-winning field goal. O’Connell, a rookie quarterback making his 11th career start passed for 244 yards and 2 touchdowns in the finale vs. the Broncos' defense. Not great results against two quarterbacks you should have success against.
Outside of two games vs. Easton Stick and a banged-up Chargers team down a head coach, the Broncos defense really struggled in the second half. They were picked apart by C.J. Stroud and wide receiver Nico Collins nearly went for 200 yards on them in that game. They could not stop the Lions offense and quarterback Jared Goff dropped five passing touchdowns on them in an embarrassing 42-17 defeat. Then, they had their issues vs. the Patriots and Raiders as I previously mentioned.
On top of all that, the Broncos ranked near the bottom in run defense all season, near the bottom in passing yards given up, and near the bottom in scoring defense. Sure, the 70-point game skews all that but still, struggles remained throughout the year.
What I am saying is that Vance Joseph should be on the hot seat in the coming days and weeks. I am not calling for him to be fired, but if a better option presents itself and there is mutual interest, the Broncos and head coach Sean Payton should not hold back from making a move. They can afford to pay whatever they need to get a coordinator and can afford to pay whatever is remaining on Joseph’s contract if needed.
Vance Joseph's job shouldn't be safe. The defense played great and came up with timely turnovers during the win streak, but the defense hasn't been wonderful during the final 5-6 weeks, outside of two games vs. Easton Stick.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) January 7, 2024
If a better option is available, flex that Walmart $$
We need to remember that the Joseph hiring happened because a lot of the key candidates available on the defensive side of the ball were already hired by the time the Broncos made their head coaching decision. So, Payton may not be fully invested in Joseph and could look to make a change.
Now, the struggles were not all on Joseph. He took over a defense that lacked talent and depth from top to bottom and had to deal with an offense that struggled to put points on the board and could not stay on the field at times. Add in the lack of talent along the defensive line, the lack of a consistent pass rush, and the depth issues and injuries in the secondary, and the struggles make sense. Not all of it is Joseph’s fault, the Broncos' lack of talent and depth on the defensive side of the ball (the entire roster really) were big reasons for these struggles. So, the fact he did make a turnaround and have success with them for a stretch is impressive. However, the good from Joseph this season does not outweigh the bad.
Ultimately, I am leaning towards hoping the Broncos make a change if and only if a better option presents itself and is realistic. Continuity at the coordinator position would be nice but Joseph has never really led a top-ranked unit, was hired from a list that included Rex Ryan and Matt Patricia, and is coming off an inconsistent year that had some major struggles. The Broncos can do better and I hope they do find someone better.
Should the Broncos fire defensive coordinator Vance Joseph?
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