DENVER -- Frustrated by a complicated playbook and lacking results, coach Vance Joseph fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Monday morning, replacing him with quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave.
The Broncos have dropped six straight games for the first time since 1990, a streak defined by an underperforming offense. According to multiple sources, Joseph mulled this move for several weeks as Denver failed to develop an offensive identity. Joseph wanted the team to focus on running the ball and using a more efficient passing attack, yet McCoy often leaned on three-wide sets that were successful with Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning. Neither, however, quarterback the Broncos, who demonstrated unequivocally that they don't have the personnel to run the scheme consistently.
Joseph explained his decision Monday, while admitting he has not decided if Paxton Lynch will start this Sunday at Oakland.
“We have to figure out a way to keep the terminology the same but simplify the concepts," Joseph said. "It was a quiet (meeting with the) group, because the players like Mike. But they understand that it’s a production business."
The Broncos fell to the Bengals at home 20-17 on Sunday, Cincinnati's first win in Denver since 1975. The defining moment came on a Brock Osweiler interception at the goal line. Dre Kirkpatrick returned it 100 yards, leading to a touchdown. Denver has ranked near the bottom in turnover margin for weeks, fueled by a parade of interceptions. The quarterbacks have not played well, Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler's play accelerating McCoy's pink slip. Joseph had hoped the change to Osweiler would stabilize the offense. The turnovers continued.
"Even In Philly, I thought we did better. Even this week, we outgained them. Moving ball hasn't been issue. Finishing and turning it over have been the issues," Joseph said. "It was a tough day. This isn't all on Mike. But in my mind it was appropriate."
There is irony in this development. The Broncos brought back McCoy, in part, because of his adaptability. He had experienced success with a variety of quarterbacks, including Tim Tebow and Manning. However, he stuck with his mammoth playbook and pass-centric offense even as the Broncos dovetailed. A quarterback switch from Siemian to Osweiler offered no reprieve as Osweiler has lost all three of his starts.
Asked by multiple sources if this move will help pave the way for Lynch to start, the mantra was the same: it should help the entire offense. Lynch is in line to play this week at Oakland, though no decision has been made. Lynch told Denver7 after the game his availability depended on trainers clearing him and believing his right shoulder could absorb a hit.
"We'll see what happens," Lynch said.
If Lynch does not start, it's because Musgrave feels he's not ready to digest and execute a game plan. Joseph told me that Lynch is healthy and nothing would prevent him from starting. The only caveat could be Joseph's desire to win to save his job. If he loses out, there's no guarantee he's back.
"I will get together with (Musgrave) and his staff later (Monday) and see who is the best fit," Joseph said.
Musgrave, a former Broncos quarterback and one-time Grand Junction prep star, had a successful run as Oakland's offensive coordinator before landing in Denver. He drew solid reviews for his work with Derek Carr. Klint Kubiak will take over as the Broncos quarterbacks coach, filling Musgrave's previous position. It is on an interim basis. There are no plans to use Gary Kubiak in a coaching role as he is currently scouting for the team.
"Bill is an experienced coordinator and play-caller in this league, and I'm confident he will help get our offense back on track," Joseph said Monday. "Although this wasn't an easy decision, we needed to make this change. We have to play a more efficient brand of football offensively as we begin the final stretch of our season."
"Mike is an outstanding coach and a great person," Joseph continued. "He had a lot of opportunities this offseason, and he chose us. I have the utmost respect for Mike and wish him all the best in the future."
McCoy, in a statement released by the Broncos, thanked the team for bringing him on.
“I’m disappointed that things didn’t work out because this is a special organization and a great place to be. I want to thank Vance for the opportunity he gave me and the entire organization from Mr. B all the way on down," McCoy said. "I appreciate the hard work of our players and was proud to work with them along with the rest of our coaching staff. My family and I loved it here, and I’m very thankful for my time with the Denver Broncos.”