Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee checks in from Miami with three thoughts on the Dolphins' 35-9 win against the Broncos:
1. Vance Joseph: One and done
Friends, this happened in an NFL game: the Broncos were penalized for a delay of game — as the kicking team on a kickoff. I feel like a broken record. I’ve written so many times the Broncos’ first-year head coach is in over his head — since his introductory press conference, in fact — that it might seem like I have a personal agenda against Vance Joseph. But I don’t. Joseph seems like a lovely man. He really does. He’s also not the right guy to coach the Broncos. That was apparent in the first quarter again Sunday, when Denver had as many penalties as first downs (two). Instead of resembling a functioning NFL team, the Broncos were busy snapping the football over the quarterback’s head for a safety. They were busy having success in the running game, then promptly and inexplicably switching to the pass (to throw an interception). After a week of preparation, the Broncos looked utterly lost on their first five possessions: interception, safety, field goal, interception, punt. Yes, this Broncos roster has holes. It must be revamped, overhauled, injected with more juice. But they have enough capable athletes on the field to not get beat like a drum by Jay Cutler and Julius Thomas. Nothing about Sunday’s performance should embolden general manager John Elway in regards to Joseph’s job status. Denver’s needs, in order: quarterback, head coach, offensive line. If the Broncos are serious about cleaning up this mess, Joseph must go as well. And ASAP.
2. Decline of Demaryius
Hold on to those Demaryius Thomas jerseys. Someday they'll be a keepsake — and it won't be long from now. Lost in the rubble of a disastrous Broncos season has been DT's decline. The burst that made Thomas a dangerous option on the screen game is gone. Sunday there were two catches that he used to make that fell to the turf at Hard Rock Stadium. Over his past 28 games, DT has only two games of at least 100 yards receiving. The Wall hit him hard and fast. It has all reminded me of a conversation with Thomas in July. On the football field at Denver Mullen, I asked DT if he's thought about retirement, since he turns 30 on Christmas Day (and good buddy Calvin Johnson retired at 30). "I've got longer than 30. I think I've got a couple good years left. This is the best I've felt my whole career," Thomas said. "I haven't had the problems I usually have with my hip. I wake up and now and don't feel it." But the shiny season that Thomas foresaw hasn't been realized. Now all that matters is the size of his contract: $15.5 million in dead money for 2018. It would take a major restructuring of his contract to bring back DT next season. One of the most kind-hearted stars in Broncos history — and a sure-fire Ring of Famer — could have four games left in his Denver career. Sunday, in arguably the worst game of his career, Thomas combined with Emmanuel Sanders for three receptions. It. Was. That. Bad.
3. Klee says: the Broncos are the worst team in the NFL
A case could be made for the Browns (0-11). A case could be made for the 49ers (1-10). A case could be made for the Giants (2-9). After what went down Sunday here at Hard Rock Stadium, I would testify the Broncos (3-9) are the worst team in the NFL — at this very moment. The Dolphins who pillaged the Broncos had lost five consecutive games — by an average of 23 points. Miami wasn't getting beat by a field goal here, a turnover there. The Dolphins were a punching bag. And they punched the Broncos into the conversation as the worst team in the league. If the football gods had a merciful sense of humor and the season ended Monday, the Broncos would hold the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft. According to a Las Vegas bookmaker, the Broncos three weeks ago would have been a 6.5-point favorite against the Cleveland Browns. Since then the Broncos have lost to three teams with losing records. Less than two years removed from a Super Bowl parade, it's a jarring realization that this is a valid question: Are the Broncos the worst team in the NFL?