CENTENNIAL, Colo. — After an awkward 24 hours of uncertainty, Vance Joseph received his wish. He has been retained for his second season. Joseph sat in limbo following the Broncos' forgettable 5-11 season, but made it clear he wanted to return. A Monday morning meeting with general manager John Elway provided clarity, the Broncos sticking with a coach they hired 11 months ago after Gary Kubiak stepped away due to health concerns.
"Vance and I had a great talk this morning about our plan to attack this offseason and get better as a team," Elway tweeted. "We believe in Vance as our head coach. Together, we'll put in the work to improve in all areas and win in 2018."
Joseph faced scrutiny because of several factors. The Broncos matched a 50-year-old eight-game losing streak, won a single road game, and showed a lack of discipline and growth from young players. While offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and defensive coordinator Joe Woods will return, others were not as fortunate. As part of Joseph's return, he had to acquiesce to an overhaul of his coaching staff. The purge was dramatic and swift (and listed below).
In keeping Joseph, it showed an understanding of the abysmal quarterback play -- something mentioned repeatedly by players as the root cause of the spiral -- and a belief Joseph will improve from experience.
"Coming in with a veteran locker room and talent, as players we didn't hold up our end of the bargain," said running back C.J. Anderson, who finished with 1,007 yards rushing. "I definitely wanted him back. He deserves a second chance."
The players respected Joseph and offered support over the last several weeks as the seat began to simmer under the former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator. However, their lobbying had little to nothing to do with Joseph returning. He was brought back because the franchise feels he will learn from his mistakes. He must coach his his coaches better -- he gave them too much freedom that bit him as game plans did not reflect the personnel. He also figures to be more assertive, creating more accountability in players.
There's no question the players like Joseph, but they need to perform better for him.
"I think Vance gives us his all," said linebacker Todd Davis, who is a free agent. "I can stand behind him. I trust him. A lot of things didn't go our way, but I would not put that all on him,:"
As linebacker Brandon Marshall put it, "We had a minus-16 turnover margin (going into the final game). "He's a first-year coach. Everything is not his fault. It was a tough season. The turnover (margin). ... Minus 16 (which ranks 31st in the NFL), there's no way you can have a winning season that way. There's been some different things out of his control. I definitely think he deserves another chance."
The Broncos missed the playoffs for the second straight season. They hold the No. 5 overall pick in the draft. Elway believes they can rebound after finishing in last place in the AFC West. Eight of the 12 teams in the postseason were not involved a year ago.
"To all our fans: THANK YOU for your tremendous support and sticking with us through a tough year. This wasn't the season anyone expected, but we'll learn from it and be better because of it," Elway tweeted. "Our 2018 season starts today."
Davidson, Tolbert lead coaches let go
The house cleaning began swiftly on Monday. The Broncos parted ways with special teams coordinator Brock Olivo, offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, receivers coach Tyke Tolbert, running backs coach Eric Studesville, and outside linebackers coach Fred Pagac. Olivio, an entertaining outside-the-box thinker, failed dramatically in his stint as a boss. In attempting to be creative with special teams, it backfired horribly in losses to the Patriots, Redskins and Dolphins, among others. Isaiah McKenzie's six muffed punts highlighted the misfit unit. Davidson was expected to go. Former offensive coordinator Mike McCoy brought him aboard and was fired after a loss to Cincinnati.
The exits of Tolbert and Studesville were mildly surprising based on their experience. However, the Broncos have failed to develop young receivers and running backs in recent seasons. Players reacted negatively to their dismissals, with veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders telling Denver7, "Damn!" C.J. Anderson was more blunt about Studesville, calling it, um, BS. Pagac was a favorite of All-Pro Von Miller. Miller made it clear Sunday night he wanted 'Pug' to return.
According to The Sporting News, Sean Kugler will interview for the offensive line post.