DENVER -- While expressing confidence in embattled coach Vance Joseph, general manager John Elway offered a blunt assessment of the Broncos' five-game losing skid.
Asked to pinpoint what went wrong after the bye week, Elway provided a stinging criticism Friday night.
"I will tell you, I think we got a little bit soft. To be dead honest with you, we got a little bit soft," Elway said in his first on-camera comments about the team's season. "We went 4-0 in preseason. We started out 3-1, we get a bye week -- if you exhale in this league, you’re in trouble. To be dead honest with you, I think we exhaled. It’s hard to recover from that. It will be a lesson that hopefully we all learn and prevent from happening in the future.”
Elway has watched the Broncos clumsily fall nearly out of contention, dropping five consecutive games by double digits. During this stretch, Denver has led for less than 5 minutes. I asked Elway if his confidence in Joseph has wavered.
"No, there are going to be growing pains as a head coach, especially as a first-time head coach as well as the youth on the staff when it comes to coordinators, too. There is growing pains there just like with players. You’ve got to give them a chance to grow and get better and learn from certain situations," Elway said. "Obviously it’s been a little bit of a tougher situation, but sometimes you learn a lot more in tougher situations than when things are going good. Vance in my mind is doing just fine and continues to get the guys to play hard. The energy is still there. We’ll work our way through it.”
It has been a humbling week at Dove Valley. Joseph admitted he has to do better -- part of that is stressing assistant coaches holding underperforming players accountable. And special teams boss Brock Olivo said the vitriol directed at him is "deserved."
How is Elway dealing with the team's worst start with him as an executive?
"It’s always tough. Any time you go through a time like this, and I haven’t really experienced -- I’ve gone through losing streaks and losses in some tough seasons -- but the way that we’ve lost these games has been the most disappointing thing. Those are always the toughest questions to answer, but I think we have the right type of guys," Elway said. "The desire is still there. They know the expectations. We’re not out of this thing. We’re not going to say never until they say you’re no longer in the hunt. We’ve got to start on Sunday with playing well against the Bengals.”
Elway highlighted alumni attending the special ceremony honoring Ring of Famer Red Miller and Hall of Famer Terrell Davis. Their pillars outside Mile High Stadium were revealed. Davis' came with an update -- a designation marking his entrance into Canton last August. For Davis, life hasn't stopped since the doors of football immortality opened last February.
"It’s the gift that keeps on giving I guess. I think (Hall of Famer) Tim Brown said, ‘You won’t get any rest until August of next year.’ I think he’s right, but here’s what’s great about it. It’s really hard, I’m serious, to put this into words how much this means and how special this honor is. It’s not taken lightly. This is a huge honor," Davis said. "I don’t care, we can celebrate this the next four-five years. I’ll be here if they want to do it."
Several members of Miller's 1977 AFC Championship team made the trip to Denver to honor their former coach, including linebacker Tom Jackson. Miller, who passed away in September, will officially enter the Ring of Fame at halftime of Sunday's game.
"The fact (is) these big ol’ tough football players stick together and they really come together when they need each other. They were there for Red three years ago when he was really sick. They were the ones that showed up and said, ‘Come on Red, let’s go. Let’s go.’ It’s amazing that they care after so long and it’s amazing that the people of Denver care like they do after 40 years," said Nan Miller, Red's wife. "He (was) a very grateful, very humble person. He would be very proud tonight."