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.
Perhaps Elway should keep VJ on so he can orchestrate two more losers and drive up our pick— Broncos_on_3 (@Broncos_1and10) December 17, 2018
#Broncos Super Bowl 50 Champions. December 16,2018 6 - 8 and looking at 8 - 8. What’s plan B Elway?— Jim Stevenson (@jimandaliceste1) December 17, 2018
If? You just made the case for why the Broncos suck, stop the elway worship, your better than that— Matthew Brothers (@MatthewBrothe28) December 17, 2018
@Broncos Joseph has to go along with Keenum, and if mr. Elway doesn't get rid of them he also needs to go. 2 years of poor coaching, and two years of poor management...Alway!— Bronco Fan (@tlspindle) December 17, 2018
We're playing like we used to do in the early 60s before red Miller came and changed the Broncos!
Odds are we target an offensive minded HC and he's hopefully able to make Keenum look competent for more year. Targeting and paying another vet and scrapping Keenum makes me think Elway is absolutely clueless at the spot we all thought he might understand the most.— Gaynor (@Gaynor1245) December 17, 2018
Is Vance Joseph still employed by the Broncos @x328Fan? Kind of redeeming that Elway helped build his legacy against the Cleveland Browns only to perhaps see it end by the Cleveland Browns. SAD!— James Mussman (@homejames4) December 17, 2018
“MUH ELWAY IS DUM!” - Every Broncos Twitter GM— Scotty (@ScottyBroesph) December 17, 2018
#Broncos - just another reason to Fire Vance Joseph & maybe Elway too,— Kent McHallington (@NFLMcHollington) December 17, 2018
49'ers HC Kyle #Shanahan has QB Nick #Mullens out of tiny Southern Mississippi who makes $395,290 playing better than Case Keenum who some dimwit decided to pay $18 million
The Broncos were eliminated 2 weeks ago. Now brace for the Klis Broncos Popaganda Media blitz promoting how Elway/Broncos need to give Vance another year and how the Broncos weren’t that bad, but came up just short. Wait for it. #FakeNewsKlis— The Dude (@His_Dudeness2) December 17, 2018
Broncos, yawn!!! Elway and VJ Need to go hang out with Mike Shanahan. Elway is old and outdated clearly no longer has an eye for talent in the modern game. Pretty sure VJ couldn’t motivate a dog to go play fetch.— ErikSW (@EswErik) December 17, 2018
The Broncos, between Elway endorsing mango Mussolini and crappy play I’ve not watched 10 consecutive minutes— Glenn Hendricks (@HendricksGlenn) December 16, 2018
@Broncos @9NEWS @espn @NFL Our player personnel is absolutely trash, spend all that money on QB. Keenum, P. King, our o line is trash. John Elway isn’t that big of a legend, the fans will just sit by and let him f*** this organization up. Fire Elway and Joseph. Let’s move on.— Droppin Knowledge, Not Passes (@DMightyAlrighty) December 16, 2018
Meet the 2018 Broncos - same as the 2017 Broncos (and the 2019 Broncos if Elway is still the GM). pic.twitter.com/i4YRXo3iis— Neal Harkner (@DefectFreeCode) December 16, 2018
Well kids, my #BroncosNation are officially out of contention this year. And as I've said all season long, the Denver Broncos need to CLEAN HOUSE...starting with clueless GM John Elway and the entire coaching staff.— Rob (RJ) (@radioguyrj) December 16, 2018
Broncos lose yesterday & nobody here in 303 seems to care. Ownership is a soap opera & reality finally sitting in Elway should not be running the club. Gotta say I’ll be glad to back in Illinois soon & no more 24/7 365 Broncos talk.— Kevin ???????? (@KWWein) December 16, 2018
@Broncos ... Eliminated.... Thanks Vance... And no Elway doesnt get a pass either... Tired of excuses.. Oh we didnt have so and so... Theres no excuse for Cravens and Marshall not to play except for incompetence.. #Broncos #BroncosCountry #CLEvsDEN— Brian Haire (@wigglesss5150) December 16, 2018
Elway needs to step down too. He is not a good GM... period.— Anonymous2175 (@defheff75) December 16, 2018
@johnelway you laughed last night when I yelled “Elway I coach better from my couch with little knowledge yet VJ with all the info SUCKS.” How you like that FG down 4? How you like that INT the play after Von got the record & had the crowd AMPED?! @broncos— Junior (@Friars_Celtics) December 16, 2018
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Worst coach or worst QB? Elway actually believed Keenum was a starting caliber QB. The downfall of Broncos is on Elway.— Carlos (@Carlos84643967) December 16, 2018