Standing at his locker Monday, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. widened eyes with his response. He wasn't be smug or mean-spirited, just honest. The Broncos are in the rearview mirror.
"We need a more experienced coach, a guy who's done it before, someone who's pretty much well-respected. That's what I would like. I just think we haven't evolved here since the Super Bowl," said Harris, who is not interested in a long rebuild. "We kind of got stagnant. We have to figure out how we can evolve on offense, defense and special teams. We have to get better as players. But we have to evolve to the times of the NFL. We are behind right now."
The Broncos fired Vance Joseph because he didn't win enough, going 11-21 in two seasons, and 7-9 at home. Denver posted consecutive seasons with double-figure losses for the first time since 1967. The new coach needs a new approach, especially on offense where the Broncos have averaged 19 points a game over the past two seasons. Even if a defensive mind is hired, the offense must look different.
"We have to evolve," echoed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Denver has begun compiling a wish list. Denver7 confirmed the Broncos have requested permission to interview Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores, longtime Steelers offensive line boss Mike Munchak and Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Former Colts coach Chuck Pagano is another name to keep an eye on. This is expanded to be a more expansive search. It can be argued the Broncos knew they were going to hire Gary Kubiak and Joseph before the interviews began. As for Kubiak, look for him to leave for an offensive coordinator's role, possibly in Atlanta. Broncos general manager John Elway insisted Kubiak could still retun to Broncos as an assistant coach on the offensive side. Elway said Adam Gase and Mike Shanahan are not candidates at this time.
"The first thing you do in this situation (after firing the coach) is look at the guy the mirror. I am just as responsible for this, if not more than anyone else because it's my job to win football games," Elway said. "I am responsible for this."
The Broncos players offered mixed emotions Monday. They feel like they let Joseph down, even as they questioned some of his practice techniques and game-management decisions. Multiple players used the word rebuild, but believed it could be an accelerated process because of the crop of strong rookies, anchored by Bradley Chubb and Phillip Lindsay.
It won't be easy.
"We don't know what we need to fix because we never fixed it," said outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who didn't rule out a return to Denver as a free agent, but is seeking starting job elsewhere. "We never fixed it. You can say we were close to turning it around, but that's hard to say because we didn't get better. It went right back normal. We still have a lot of work to do."