Broncos Fans on Blame John Elway Deserves for Browns Loss, Bad Season

John Elway isn't on the hot seat yet, but his perch is definitely warmer than it's been lately.
John Elway isn't on the hot seat yet, but his perch is definitely warmer than it's been lately. NBC Sports via YouTube
After losing 17-16 to the Cleveland Browns on December 15, as a national television audience looked on, the Denver Broncos were officially eliminated from the playoffs. Yet head coach Vance Joseph still has a job, much to the chagrin of fans who have called for his firing again and again and again.

But even as the chorus of those who want to send VJ packing reaches a fever pitch, an increasing number of Broncos loyalists are suggesting that the person truly to blame for the debacle of the squad's past two seasons is the biggest hero the franchise has ever produced, general manager and vice president of football operations John Elway.

Big John has certainly made his share of terrible choices since the Broncos paraded through the streets of downtown Denver after winning Super Bowl 50. He missed big on two quarterbacks without a future, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, whom we likened to Tim Tebow the day after he was drafted in 2016. Consider this our official apology to Tim Tebow.

Elway also let brilliant defensive coach Wade Phillips walk in the Super Bowl's wake, apparently because he was upset about him getting so much credit for the W. In light of this decision, it's no surprise that a Twitter parody account called Elway's EGO has popped up.

Since then, the Broncos D has been considerably less scary than it should be, and the diminishing returns it's produced has had a lot to do with one of Elway's more reasonable decisions lately: the signing of Case Keenum to play quarterback. Elway correctly perceived that Keenum was essentially on par with Kirk Cousins, the other big free-agent QB available earlier this year, but a lot cheaper — and Cousins's performance in Minnesota this season certainly hasn't justified his three-year, fully guaranteed $84 million contract. At the same time, though, Keenum, while competent, has been a bit less than advertised — and the defense hasn't been strong enough to carry him.

The defeat to the Browns exemplifies this dilemma. The defense held red-hot rookie Baker Mayfield to just seventeen points, which should have been more than good enough. But Keenum only managed to direct the squad to a single touchdown and three field goals, with the supposedly more aggressive play-calling for which Joseph had lobbied translating to two interceptions and zero TD passes.

The loss resulted in an unexpected bit of ass-covering by Elway — or at least that's how we interpret the timely appearance of a column by Woody Paige of the Colorado Springs Gazette, who reported that Number 7 had wanted to fire Joseph last December and replace him with veteran Broncos head man Mike Shanahan but was prevented from doing so by team president Joe Ellis.

Joseph, meet the wheels of the bus — which go round and round and round.

This story sends a clear signal that Joseph will be the scapegoat for Denver's woes, probably at season's end. But at least sports fans in the Mile High City have a better team to watch in the meantime. I was fortunate enough to witness the Denver Nuggets rally past MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors at the Pepsi Center on December 16, thereby allowing the Nugs to hold on to first place in the NBA's crushingly difficult Western Conference. It was a feel-great moment that allowed nearly 20,000 folks to at least temporarily forget that the Broncos suck — and that Elway hasn't done nearly enough to improve the situation.

Here are twenty memorable tweets about how much responsibility Elway should bear for this sad state of affairs.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts