DENVER • They asked for this, you know. They wanted Vance Joseph back and said so, a bunch of times, on offense, defense, special teams and all around the locker room at Dove Valley.
The Broncos players left no doubt at the end of last season Joseph was their choice to be coach.
And now they’re trying to get him fired. Too dramatic? Doesn’t feel too dramatic. Did you see that Jets game? Did that look like a group of paid professionals who would run through a wall for the coach and his program? The Jets, guys. Over 500 yards allowed to the freakin’ Jets.
“Just try to forget everything that happened” is how the Broncos move past the Jets disaster and into Sunday’s expected disaster against the 5-0 Los Angeles Rams, pass-rusher Bradley Chubb said.
Maybe they can forget. But this laptop doesn’t forget, and here’s what these same players (not Chubb, who’s a rookie and rookies get a pass on this one) said last year at the tail end of VJ’s first season.
“A lot of things didn’t go our way this year, but I wouldn’t put it on him,” linebacker Todd Davis said.
“He should be here. It’s not his fault. It’s our fault. I stand with Vance 100 percent,” lineman Shelby Harris said.
“I definitely think he deserves another chance,” linebacker Brandon Marshall said.
Rich, isn’t it? Know what you call guys who say one thing but do the opposite? Hypocrites. These Broncos act as hypocrites. The way this season’s going, the players deserve as much, if not more, blame as Joseph. Oh, you can put that 34-16 embarrassment to the Jets on the coach, if you want. Starts at the top, all that, and it sure doesn’t take much courage to blame Joseph for a 2-3 start to a new season that feels a whole lot like last season. Joseph has earned his position on the hot seat fair and square and faster than you can say "Josh McDaniels."
But there’s a growing case to be made this is a Broncos locker room full of frontrunners. They like being comfy. They like playing at home, and Mile High magic stands as the lone reason the Broncos aren’t more than 7-point 'dogs to the Rams. They like it when Peyton Manning is around to cover up all the cracks. But they can’t be bothered when their guy — the guy they lobbied for — is on the hot seat. There were two coaches on the hot seat in that Jets game, remember. One got a supreme effort and played hard for embattled coach Todd Bowles.
The other? Well, you saw it. The other one rolled over.
I can’t be the only one who’s more interested in what you do than what you say. And the players’ actions speak volumes: they had the same interest in bringing Joseph back as you or me. The Broncos are on track for 115 missed tackles, according to The Athletic, compared to 83 last season. They’re on pace for 35 sacks, compared to 33 last year, even with the Chubb addition. They’re 2-3, like last year, and the first back-to-back losing seasons since the 1970s is starting to feel like a foregone conclusion. Right now the Broncos are favored in two of the final 11 games still to come.
It sure would help Joseph's cause if he'd stop saying disingenuous things after the Broncos get body-slammed by the Jets.
“We had a bunch of guys who played good football,” Joseph said last week.
Come on, man. It was 34-16 to the Jets.
“It’s (on) all of us,” Joseph said.
You learn more about athletes when they’re losing than when they’re winning. Take the Avalanche, for example, who mostly sleepwalked through a loss at Columbus, then heard all about it from the coach.
“We stood around. We weren’t ready to start. When you stand around you aren’t ready to start,” Jared Bednar said immediately after the game. "It's pretty easy to move the puck around against us. It’s also the reason we had three penalties in 5 or 6 minutes in the first period."
Guess what happened next? The Avs played proud and smoked the Sabres 6-1 on the road.
Maybe this is a start: after Bradley Roby said he "didn’t communicate" his absence from team meetings on Monday, fellow cornerback Chris Harris Jr. put the onus on the player, not anyone else.
"I'm trying to encourage him, but it’s on you. You’ve got to be a man,” Harris said. "Shoot, you’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and know, ‘How bad do you want it? If 'Robe' wants it bad enough, he’ll bounce back," Harris added.
From Paxton Lynch (“Paxton played well”) to Garett Bolles (“Bollesy”), Joseph’s done a miserable job of holding players accountable. But isn’t it about time these millionaires hold themselves accountable? The further it tumbles into the rearview mirror, Super Bowl 50 looks more and more like a Manning-Kubiak-Wade Phillips creation. Ol’ Wade’s back on Sunday, with the Rams.
“They’ve been in the same system since Joe’s been here with Coach Wade. Nothing has really changed as far as how we gameplan, how we call defenses, how we simply attack people,” Joseph said.
So what’s changed? There’s enough evidence to say the players got their ring, got paid, got fat and happy. Now they won’t be bothered when the guy they lobbied for gets fired.