After Commanders Win, Denver Broncos Fans Want Vance Joseph Fired. Again | Westword


After Commanders Win, Broncos Fans Want Vance Joseph Fired. Again

The ex-head coach's return to the team isn't going well.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph watched his squad give up 35 points to the Washington Commanders on Sunday.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph watched his squad give up 35 points to the Washington Commanders on Sunday. Denver Broncos
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Contrary to popular opinion, the Denver Broncos' 2023-2024 season isn't a precise replay of the team's disastrous last campaign. It's actually worse in a variety of novel and surprising ways, which the squad's 35-33 home loss to the Washington Commanders on September 18 revealed with agonizing acuity.

Back in 2022, the Broncos were helmed by overmatched novice head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who had been hired to lure Green Bay Packers legend Aaron Rodgers to Colorado — a gambit that didn't work. Hackett was subsequently charged with bringing the best out of the seemingly second-best QB option available, disgruntled Seattle Seahawks hurler Russell Wilson — and that was a flop, too. But while Denver fell to Seattle in a heavily hyped opening contest last September, the Broncos managed to eke out a victory over the woeful Houston Texans in game two, thanks largely to a stifling defense that only allowed nine points.

Cut to the latest iteration of the Broncos, helmed by Sean Payton, a Super Bowl-winning hardass whose reputation as a quarterback whisperer is founded on the Hall of Fame-worthy career of Drew Brees. Payton's attempt to resurrect Wilson's career didn't get off to a great start with Denver's 17-16 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders last week. But the blame for that fell less on Russ than on the defense, now operating under the direction of Vance Joseph, whose own stint as Broncos head coach was an enormous disappointment. And the D deteriorated even further against the Commanders, despite the sort of offensive breakthrough that Denver loyalists have been fantasizing about since Wilson's arrival.

In contrast to the steady dink-and-dunk diet he served up against the Raiders, Wilson was actually able to convert some big plays, including a sixty-yard bomb to fresh draftee Marvin Mims Jr. that put Denver up 14-3 — and a shorter strike to Brandon Johnson moments later extended that lead by another seven.

At that point, however, the Broncos defense turned into the leakiest of dams, allowing the Commanders and their ultra-average quarterback, Sam Howell, to put up a touchdown and a field goal before intermission, and the onslaught continued in the second half. A touchdown. A missed field goal (the second of the afternoon). Another touchdown. And another touchdown. Suddenly, Denver's eighteen-point advantage had been turned into an eleven-point deficit that proved too difficult to overcome. In the waning minutes, Wilson and company produced a field goal and a touchdown of their own, but a two-point conversion to tie didn't materialize.

Yes, Courtland Sutton was a victim of interference on this final attempt, but referees typically swallow their whistles under such circumstances — and besides, Denver never should have been in that position. The defenders had one opportunity after another to stop Howell and running back Brian Robinson Jr., who scored two of the TDs, but the only thing they succeeded in changing was the satisfied expression on Joseph's face.

The comparison of the Broncos' embarrassment to the University of Colorado Buffaloes' performance against the unexpectedly goonish CSU Rams the previous night is as inescapable as it is exasperating. The Buffs didn't perform as anticipated, but somehow were able to emerge with a crazy victory. And the Broncos? Not so much.

Afterward, commentators weighing in on X (fka Twitter) came after Joseph with a vengeance, and understandably so. During the past several years, the Denver defense was rightfully lauded as the franchise's only effective unit. Now, it's the main reason the Broncos are 0-2 rather than 2-0.

Joseph was fired as Denver's head coach on December 31, 2018 — and plenty of folks are aching for a repeat of that particular New Year's Eve. See what we mean in our picks for the twenty most memorable post-game takes:

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