After two losing seasons as head coach with an 11-19 overall record, the Denver Broncos are expected to fire head coach Vance Joseph.

Vance Joseph
Broncos head coach Vance Joseph on the sidelines of a game in Denver. (Image: Denny Medley/USA Today Sports)

After a shaky 6-8 season, the Broncos were eliminated from the playoff hunt last week with a crushing loss to the Cleveland Browns. The Broncos lost back-to-back games they should have won after an inspiring upset victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Broncos are on the verge of consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1971-72.

Second Chance

According to a report in the Denver Post, GM John Elway almost fired Vance Joseph at the end of last season. After a disappointing 5-11 record in 2017, Elway wanted to replace Joseph with former head coach Mike Shanahan. However, Broncos CEO and president, Joe Ellis, rejected the idea. Shanahan won two Super Bowls with the Broncos during his 14-year tenure and last coached the team in 2008.

Joseph did not have any head coaching experience when Elway courted him away from the Miami Dolphins in 2017. At the time, Joseph had finished his first and only season as a defensive coordinator.

Mile High Bumps

Joseph failed to produce wins in Denver, but Elway stacked the deck against him, especially in the quarterback department. The Broncos have struggled to find a quarterback since Peyton Manning retired. Elway continues to shuffle the deck and hoped that Case Keenum (15 TD, 12 INT, 8 fumbles) would be a reliable starter. Keenum guided the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship last year. However, this season Keenum wasn’t the savior the Broncos hoped for.

Before the 2018 trade deadline, Elway shipped out WR Demaryius Thomas to the Houston Texans. Around the same time, the running game came to fruition. Undrafted free agent rookie Philip Lindsay emerged as one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL. It seems like Lindsay came out of nowhere, but he played his collegiate ball up the road at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Lindsay’s success is another knock against the Broncos, particularly Elway and other executives in charge of evaluating players for the draft. Lindsay got named to the Pro Bowl for the AFC. The rookie made NFL history in the process by becoming the first-ever undrafted rookie to make the Pro Bowl.

Former Buff

Joseph won a state football championship with Archbishop Shaw HS in Louisiana. Instead of staying close to home, Joseph headed to the mountains of Colorado. At the time, the Colorado Buffaloes were contending for a national championship when he arrived for his freshman season.

Colorado ran an option offense led by their All-American Darian Hagen. Hagen is a Colorado football legend and led them to the 1990 national championship. Joseph played quarterback and running back at Colorado, but mostly he backed up Hagen and Kordell Stewart.

Joseph went undrafted into the NFL but the New York Jets signed him in 1995. At the pro level, Joseph switched to the defense and converted to defensive back. He played DB for two seasons before his career ended with the Colts.

Colorado, Joseph’s alma mater, gave him a chance at pivoting to the coaching ranks. Joseph served as the Buffs DB coach from 2002-03. In 2005, the San Francisco Niners gave Joseph his first pro coaching gig. Over the next decade, Joseph coached DBs in San Francisco, Houston, and Cincinnati.

In 2016, Adam Case from the Miami Dolphins installed Joseph as his defensive coordinator. The Dolphins went 10-6 that season and advanced to the playoffs, but lost in the Wild Card game to the Steelers.

After only one season as a DC, Elway hired Joseph in 2017. Joseph became the second African-American head coach in Broncos history.

Help Wanted: Head Coach

Who will be the next head coach in Denver? If John Elway has his way, it will be Mike Shanahan. The most successful coach in the history of the Broncos has a pair of Super Bowl rings, but has not achieved the same level of glory in his last stint with the Washington Redskins.

Supposedly John Elway is also in the hot seat. He gambled with Joseph and it did not pay off. Elway is looking to recycle an old coach in hopes of saving his job.

According to the Denver Post, an anonymous league source said, “If hiring Shanahan is the best idea Elway has to resurrect the Broncos, he has run out of ideas.”

While the most successful teams in the NFL, especially in the AFC West, modernized their offenses, Elway is stuck seeking a solution in the past.

Mike McCarthy is a popular coaching candidate after the Green Bay Packers fired him. McCarthy is on the shortlist for the next head coach of the New York Jets. “Riverboat” Ron Rivera is also rumored to get axed from the Carolina Panthers at the end of the season for failing to qualify for the playoffs.