3 worst head coaches in Denver Broncos franchise history

The Denver Broncos have been one of the winningest franchises in the NFL since the 1980s, but they have had some duds leading the team at head coach.
Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos / Justin Edmonds/GettyImages
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Over the last 40 years, the Denver Broncos have the 5th-best winning percentage out of any team in the NFL behind the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, and Green Bay Packers. Prior to the 2017-2022 seasons, the Broncos were even higher on that list and have been one of the most successful franchises in NFL history with three Super Bowl victories. Only the Patriots have more Super Bowl appearances (11) than the Broncos, who are tied for the second-most at eight.

Needless to say, finding much negative to say about the Broncos outside of this really poor stretch of play since 2017 is difficult to do. You really have to go back to the beginning of the franchise's history which is mostly inconsequential to anyone currently part of the fan base. Shoutout to any fans of the Broncos who have been rooting since 1960.

Most of the franchise's worst stretches of play have come over the last 15 or so years, and it's within that timeframe that I think we can find the three worst head coaches in franchise history.

3 worst head coaches in Denver Broncos history

1. Vance Joseph (2017-18)

Let me just preface this by saying that I actually think Vance Joseph is a really good football coach and sometimes as an NFL head coach, you get handed a really raw deal. But you never know when you're going to get your opportunity, and you don't know when it's going to come again, so it's really tough to sit here and say the chance he got with the Broncos in 2017 was a bad opportunity at all.

At the time, the Broncos were just in their second season removed from winning a Super Bowl. They hadn't had a losing season since 2010. The Broncos gig in 2017 was a pretty favorable one all things considered, but Vance inherited a team that was also trying to break in young QB Paxton Lynch. That wasn't his fault.

The Broncos went 11-21 in two seasons under Vance Joseph. There was some thought that he could be fired after his first season with the team in 2017 but John Elway stuck with him and got him veteran QB Case Keenum in 2018. Another year finishing as one of the 10 worst teams in football resulted in Joseph being fired.

But really, the biggest issue here was the QB position, which wasn't Vance Joseph's fault. Not completely, anyway. Joseph was playing the hand he was dealt. Most players who played for him seem to still like him and Joseph is now back in Denver as the defensive coordinator for 2023.

The real issue to take with this move is not with Vance Joseph, but likely with John Elway or whoever put the kibosh on hiring Kyle Shanahan in 2017. Shanahan wanted to carry on his father's legacy in Denver and there have been rumors about former Broncos CEO Joe Ellis perhaps saying "no" to Shanahan coaching the Broncos given some apparent friction between he and legendary former Broncos HC Mike Shanahan.

Whoever was at fault for that, hiring Kyle Shanahan in 2017 was such a no-brainer for the Denver Broncos and they didn't do it. It is one of the worst mistakes in franchise history as far as I'm concerned and again -- that's not Vance Joseph's fault. But the team's two seasons under Joseph are two of the worst in franchise history, landing him on this list.