How secure is Vance Joseph’s job with the Denver Broncos?

CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 22: Head Coach Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos is seen during the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at the StubHub Center on October 22, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 22: Head Coach Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos is seen during the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at the StubHub Center on October 22, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Is Vance Joseph’s job secure with the Denver Broncos? What historical trends can we look to to find out whether or not the Broncos will stick with him?

The pressure to win in the NFL is always intense. The pressure to win in Denver? Just ask Vance Joseph.

The Denver Broncos haven’t had a losing season since 2010, when they went 4-12 and ended up with the second overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. That was the same year that Josh McDaniels was fired, and the following offseason, John Elway was brought in to run the team.

Since Elway was brought on board, the Denver Broncos have had John Fox, Gary Kubiak, and now Vance Joseph as head coaches. That’s three head coaches in a matter of seven seasons.

Continuity doesn’t always mean success in the NFL, but some would say it’s definitely helped teams like the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and New England Patriots.

But it’s not just about having continuity at the head coaching position that makes a successful team in the NFL. The Cincinnati Bengals and their head coach Marvin Lewis are a prime example of that.

You not only have to have a coach that can put you over the top, but you really need a quarterback that can put you over the top. That’s what separates teams like the Packers, Steelers, and Patriots from teams like the Bengals.

The Broncos can’t get into the same rut the Bengals have been in under Marvin Lewis, thinking they had the right combination every single year and just sticking to a plan that won’t ultimately work. The Bengals have rolled the dice every single year with Lewis and, since 2011, Andy Dalton at the quarterback position.

For whatever reason, the Bengals have refused to make a coaching change with Lewis, despite an 0-7 postseason record in his tenure with the team, and just an above-average regular season record.

Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos /

Denver Broncos

John Elway fired John Fox after four seasons and four straight AFC West titles, an AFC Championship, and a bad Super Bowl loss. The expectations in Denver are clearly different than they are in Cincinnati, for whatever reason.

Which leads me to the question in the headline of this article — how secure is Vance Joseph’s job?

If you look at recent history, and specifically in Elway’s tenure with the team, the Broncos don’t really have much patience when it comes to losing. Nor should they. The fans expect a Super Bowl caliber team every year, and so do the players and coaches.

To our knowledge, the expectation was that the Broncos would contend again this year, despite concerns on the offensive line and at the quarterback position. There was never any indication that Elway was hiring Joseph to come in and be part of a rebuilding project in Denver, though I don’t know that he would ever have publicly branded this hire in that way.

Joseph is a rookie head coach, and he inherited a very talented defense in Denver. He hired what appeared to be an all-star staff offensively — at least on paper — and with his expertise in defense along with the emergence of new coordinator Joe Woods, things were supposed to be just swell for the Broncos in 2017.

That hasn’t been the case.

The Broncos, as we wrote a few weeks ago, look like one of the worst coached teams in the league. They lack discipline. They do not execute. They are consistently making mental mistakes. They are one of the league’s worst teams in terms of taking care of the football.

The coaches aren’t the ones throwing interceptions, fumbling the ball, or dropping punts. But the consistency of erroneous ways in Denver can’t be solely pinned on the players.

When Elway has to make decisions about the personnel on this team, including in the coaching staff, Joseph’s position will be the first one in question.

Has he done enough this year to prove he can be ‘the guy’ going forward?

His decision to fire Mike McCoy seems to indicate to me that he has been given much more power than we initially thought. When Joseph was hired, it seemed like the majority of the personnel decisions that were made, coaching or otherwise, would at least be discussed with Elway, if not made officially by Elway.

Joseph didn’t even consult Elway before firing McCoy.

That could be an indicator of where they are at in terms of their relationship, or it could also be an indicator of trust between Elway and Joseph. I honestly have no idea there.

The fact that no one can really tell, however, is a bit alarming.

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To what degree does Elway trust Joseph? Recently, he made comments that he still believes in the head coach he hired back in January, and obviously given the fact that he passed on some very good coaching prospects (Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay) to hire Joseph instead would indicate that Elway might not be willing to throw in the towel just yet.

Given the state of Denver’s quarterback position, would it even be fair of Elway to get rid of Joseph? He would have to have plenty of cause outside the quarterback situation — which is Elway’s doing — to put Joseph on the chopping block.

That’s where I get a little confused. I think it is easy for us as fans sometimes to point the blame directly at the head coach, and in many cases, it’s justified. In the case of Joseph and the Broncos, I’ve recently felt like there might be reason to pause when it comes to whether or not he should (or will) be fired at season’s end.

If Joseph had a competent quarterback, how well would this team be doing right now? Perhaps Elway will ask himself that same question.

If the Broncos do move on from Joseph, I think they need to go out and get a head coach that has experience at least coaching in a Super Bowl, if not a championship already on their resumé. Gary Kubiak was that guy for the Broncos after winning his first title in 2015, but health issues have forced him into an early retirement.

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Elway hired Joseph for four years, so bowing out after one wouldn’t be a major shock, but it would definitely be premature in the eyes of some. It’s rare that head coaches have incredible success in their first year on the job. Gary Kubiak was a veteran coach when he took over the Broncos, but because he won the Super Bowl in his first year with the team in that capacity, it again became part of the expectation for Broncos fans.

It’s hard to go through a rebuilding process in the NFL. Joseph has had rookie struggles as a coach just like a rookie player would. He’s made a number of errors that have caused his approval rating to take a significant dip, but to say he’s done irreparable damage?

I’m not so sure.

I don’t think anything will be off the table at season’s end, including the potential of Joseph not being the Broncos’ head coach beyond this season. If the Broncos feel there is a viable alternative out there, someone that can elevate this team immediately, they might just go for it.

If the alternatives are not significantly better, however, I could see Joseph getting another year in Denver to prove he can take this team where they want to be, with another year to rebuild the roster and put the most talented team on the field.