DENVER — Within hours of dumping his locker-room possessions into a cardboard box, unsure if the orange-and-blue threads will be a part of his wardrobe in 2018, veteran running back C.J. Anderson blared his opinion on the Broncos firing longtime assistant running backs coach Eric Studesville.
“THATS BULL****,” Anderson tweeted.
Welp, that should settle the orange-and-blue debate. It was a good run, anyway. And welcome to the new NFL, where players put potential employers on blast and wonder later why they don’t have a job. Special place, isn’t it?
If the players put as much energy into winning games as they did lobbying for coaches, the Broncos would be hosting a playoff game next weekend. And the Broncos wouldn’t have fired Studesville (a great man, by the way, who should be a head coach at some point) and assistants in charge of the offensive line (Jeff Davidson), special teams (Brock Olivo), wide receivers (Tyke Tolbert) and outside linebackers (Fred Pagac). Head coach Vance Joseph kept his job.
Meantime, some Broncos players acted surprised when a 5-11 record resulted in staff changes. If it’s not linebacker Brandon Marshall saying it was the players, not management, responsible for Super Bowl 50 — throwing shade directly at John Elway — it’s Anderson calling out the boss via social media. The disconnect between some of these Broncos and the good people of Colorado — you know, the 67,000 folks who braved single-digit temps to witness another home loss to the Chiefs — has become astounding.
Since we’re all friends here, and I appreciate more than words can express that you take the time to read this column, I should let you in on a little secret. This is not the column I wanted to write Monday. I wanted to write how the Broncos retaining Vance Joseph for the 2018 season was the fair thing to do for a first-year coach, even if I have doubts it will work in the end.
There’s no chance the Broncos go into next season with the same shaky quarterback situation, so the wobbly nature of that position no longer will be a valid alibi. That’s just an honest opinion. Hope I’m wrong. Hope “VJ” is the one to turn it around. Hope is all Broncos Country has right now, since the postseason is here and the Broncos aren’t in it, again.
But then the Broncos tried to pull the wool over our eyes once more. One day after closing the second-worst season in a quarter century, players were cleaning out their lockers trying to convince somebody (you? me? themselves?) last season wasn't nearly as bad as a 5-11 record suggests.
“We still have a lot of talent,” wide receiver Bennie Fowler said. “We’re not a lot of pieces away from the Super Bowl team that we had.”
“I think it’s minor tweaks here and there and I think we can be a dominant football team again,” linebacker Todd Davis said.
“It’s a football team that’s close,” Joseph said Sunday night.
Does this look close to you? 10, 13, 21, 10, 28(!), 25(!), 3, 7, 26(!), 16 and 3. Those were the margins of defeat in the Broncos’ 11 losses, a number they’ve matched only once since 1990. Grrrr. At a time when the Avalanche, Nuggets and Rockies seem to be making smart personnel moves, the Broncos are the early clubhouse leader for most frustrating team of 2018.
But it’s a new year that deserves a new approach. The players voiced support of Joseph and got their wish. Next time will they actually play for him?