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Broncos fire Vance Joseph after 11-21 mark over 2 years

January 1, 2019
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Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, front left, greets Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn after an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — John Elway is looking for his fourth head coach in six seasons after firing Vance Joseph for presiding over the Denver Broncos’ worst two-year stretch since the late 1960s.

Elway acknowledged being part of the problem in the Broncos’ 20-28 record since their Super Bowl 50 parade, including 11-21 under Joseph.

“The first guy I look at is the guy in the mirror,” Elway said Monday. “And I’m just as responsible for this, if not more, than anybody else because it’s my job to make sure that we win more football games. And so I take full responsibility for that.”

It was Joseph who took the fall, however, fired with two years and about $6 million left on his contract.

“Vance is a good man. He worked his tail off,” Elway said. “And unfortunately, we didn’t get it done. We didn’t win enough football games and ultimately that’s what we have to do.”

Elway almost fired Joseph last year after a 5-11 debacle but gave him a second chance. He got no similar reprieve after going 6-10.

“It’s disappointing not being able to finish what we started, but I’m incredibly proud of the players and coaches for how they fought and worked every week,” Joseph said in a statement. “I also appreciate the support staffs who put in countless hours behind the scenes helping our team. This is a special place with great fans.”

The Broncos immediately sought permission to interview Steelers offensive line coach and former Titans head coach Mike Munchak, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores.

Later Monday, the Broncos added former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, a native of Boulder, Colorado, to their wish list and also asked the Los Angeles Rams for permission to interview 35-year-old quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor.

“I will continue to do the best I can, knowing we’re going to try to win football games. We’re going to compete for world championships,” Elway said. “That’s what I’m about. I hate to lose. I hate it more now than I ever have. And we’re going to do everything we can to get us back on track ... and get us back to completing for world championships.”

Elway said the franchise’s winningest coach, Mike Shanahan, whom he considered re-hiring a year ago, isn’t in the mix “at this point in time.” Nor is former Broncos assistant Adam Gase, who was fired by Miami, on his wish list.

Elway indicated that Gary Kubiak, his senior personnel adviser, might move back onto the field as an offensive assistant for the new coach. Kubiak stepped down two years ago over health concerns 11 months after leading the franchise to its third Super Bowl victory.

Elway insisted the Broncos’ opening is just as attractive today as it was then, when Joseph called the opportunity the best in football because it required a reboot and not a rebuild.

Yet the Broncos didn’t innovate as quickly as other teams that incorporated more of their prospects’ college DNA into their playbooks, like the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes and the Baltimore Ravens with Lamar Jackson.

“I think we just haven’t evolved here,” star cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “I think after the Super Bowl we kind of just got stagnant. We haven’t evolved. We’ve got to figure out how we can evolve on offense, defense, special teams and everything, get better as players. We have to evolve with the times of the NFL. We’re behind right now.”

The Broncos are mired in a three-year playoff drought. They lack a franchise quarterback like the ones the Packers, Browns and Jets have in place to help them lure their next head coach. They haven’t had a title sponsor for their stadium for several seasons. And they need a massive makeover to modernize a jalopy of an offense that sputtered behind free agent quarterback Case Keenum.

Team president Joe Ellis insisted there was ownership stability even as a family feud has gone public with Pat Bowlen’s relatives haggling over the future of the franchise while the family patriarch, who has Alzheimer’s, comes up for a possible Hall of Fame election Feb. 2.

Then there’s Elway, a hands-on, high-standard GM with a Hall of Fame gold jacket who has little patience for losing, tried to hire Shanahan a year ago and didn’t cut Joseph any slack after trading away perennial Pro Bowlers Aqib Talib and Demaryius Thomas.

“Vance was on board with every decision that we made. It wasn’t one where I was going off and saying, ‘We’re doing this,’” Elway said. “The decisions that were made were joint decisions, so we’ll leave it at that.”

With Keenum at quarterback, the Broncos’ top selling point from a player perspective is probably the league’s top pass-rushing duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, who combined for 26½ sacks.

“I’d like to think that I’m a coach’s dream,” Miller said. “We’ve got a lot of big-time players here. We’ve got Bradley Chubb, who’s coming into his second year. Denver’s a great city. Denver’s a great place to come coach. It’s a great franchise to be a part of, known for winning and all types of wonderful stuff.

“So, I think the Denver Broncos organization will be the main attraction for the next head coach.”

Elway concurred, suggesting, “People may disagree, but we’re not that far off.”

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