The Broncos relieved head coach Vance Joseph of his duties on Monday after two seasons on the job, and three seasons removed from the franchise’s third Super Bowl victory.
After losing Sunday to the Chargers, Joseph leaves Denver with an 11–21 record, having been unable to revive an offense that set franchise records for passing with Peyton Manning in 2014 but has seen four different quarterbacks play meaningful snaps since his retirement a year later. Joseph endured criticism for being at times too aggressive in playcalling and down management, and not being aggressive enough, with his doubters reaching a crescendo in a December loss to the Browns in which Joseph elected to kick a field goal while down four points with four minutes left to play against the Browns.
A former college quarterback who became a highly sought-after defensive mind after successful runs in Cincinnati and Miami, Joseph was hired not to identify and develop a franchise quarterback, but to be the emotional leader for a franchise lacking in veteran leadership in the absence of Manning. Instead, Joseph encountered more criticism for what was judged as forgiving public handling of his player’s missteps.
The job of finding the quarterback of the future fell on John Elway, the NFL Hall of Fame quarterback whose draft classes have been anything but. Save for promising early reviews of his 2018 class (which did not include a quarterback), Elway’s record of drafting quality starters and Pro Bowlers is thus far among the worst in the NFL.
For Joseph’s successor, the greatest challenge will be in filling the most important position on the field. Free agent find Case Keenum (81.4 passer rating, 17 touchdowns, 14 interceptions) was serviceable in 2018, and should benefit from the development of standout rookie receiver Courtland Sutton, though it would be a shock to see Elway and the franchise pick anything but a quarterback in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft.
The Denver Post reported in December that Joseph’s time in Denver could have ended a year ago, if an agreement for former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan to return to the team had not been shot down by team president Joe Ellis. If the 66-year-old Shanahan doesn’t get the call, expect the Broncos to court an offensive coach with a record of molding franchise quarterbacks.