2017 Broncos Season, New Head Coach
The off-season is under way, and that means a new leader for the Broncos. It's time for a check in as we have a new coach and a new direction heading into the 2017 season.
I was among those who were bummed when Gary Kubiak retired. I'll admit the 2016 season wasn't ideal for the Broncos. It was a step back, and the offense looked sluggish quite often. I think much of that had to do with the health issues that plagued Kubiak throughout the season. And I'll always be grateful for what he brought to the Broncos, both as a player and coach, and I know he will be missed.
But as the thoughts turned to a new coaching search, there were a couple candidates that emerged. One was Kyle Shanahan, the son of former coach Mike Shanahan, who is an offensive guy. What he's done in Atlanta is great, and he seemed to be a good fit to repair the offensive woes that hindered the Broncos in 2016. The thinking there was, also, that Wade Phillips and the defensive staff would be retained, since our defense has been the best in the NFL the past two seasons. That seemed to be the most clear path to competition.
The other candidate was Vance Joseph, defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, who pledged to bring Mike McCoy back to Denver with him as offensive coordinator. That, to me, was a much less appealing option. But Joseph was a favorite of John Elway during his last coaching search, and his connections to Colorado and the Broncos, particularly executive Matt Russell, seemed to indicate he had the inside track.
In a whirlwind week, Joseph was hired, Phillips left to coach the Rams, McCoy is back and Joe Woods, who served as defensive backs coach, is now our defensive coordinator. That's a lot of change for a team that entered the previous season as a Super Bowl contender. And we haven't even begun to work on personnel.
I don't want to be completely negative, but here's some of my initial reactions to this change:
* I don't feel like Joseph is the right guy. Maybe from a personality standpoint it makes sense, and maybe he's a decent leader, but there's a football component here. When last we saw Joseph coaching, his Dolphins' squad was being blown out in Pittsburgh. Worse yet, the coaching decisions made in terms of scheme and coverage were appalling. That didn't make for much of a job interview. And yet, it doesn't seem to matter to the Broncos.
* Joseph is a proponent of the 4-3, while Denver currently runs a 3-4 scheme. He hasn't said outright that he's changing our scheme, but that seems logical. It also seems problematic given our personnel. We have ideal 3-4 outside linebackers. We are weak along the defensive line. To make a scheme switch would require a re-working of personnel, pulling the focus from the needed changes on the offensive side of the ball.
* I don't think McCoy is the answer on offense. First off, it's appalling to go back to anyone who was first brought to Denver to work for Josh McDaniels. Second, I didn't think McCoy's offense was that impressive and, we learned, that much of the credit for offensive work during our successful years should go to Peyton Manning and Adam Gase, who has done great work in Miami. I was not a fan of McCoy's offense in San Diego, either, and much of the credit there probably goes to Ken Whisenhunt, anyway. So what are we getting to fix this crucial area?
Time will tell where we go, but this feels like potentially a step back. Prior to 2016, the Broncos won five straight AFC West titles, were the top seed in the AFC three times, went to two Super Bowls and won a title. That's a historic five year run. And this year, though we were 9-7 and missed the playoffs, we were still among the top six teams in the AFC. We're better than the Texans and, likely, better than Miami.
What do all these changes add up to? And what did Joseph mean on Thursday when, in his introductory press conference, he said it was time to make this a winning program again. When did we stop being a winning program? We didn't. Not a great start Mr. Joseph. The clock is ticking for you to make good on your lofty promises. So far, I'm not a fan.