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What coaching staff changes mean for Broncos, Vance Joseph

Posted at 4:51 PM, Jan 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-10 19:18:51-05

DENVER -- When a team finishes 5-11, it creates 20-20 vision on the future.

The Broncos define themselves on winning, on contending. Whether coach Vance Joseph can lead them back to the playoffs remains uncertain. One thing crystallized from the stream of losses: change was necessary.

Joseph enters the second season of his four-year deal needing to execute a U-turn. The dynamics of the coaching staff were not working. Joseph deserves blame, of course. With input from multiple sources, he assembled the previous group. It backfired horribly. In the case of offensive boss Mike McCoy, as outlined multiple times, he functioned as if he were still a head coach, running an offense that has a proven record of success but with quarterbacks named Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, not Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch. 

First-time special teams coordinator Brock Olivo brought energy, passion and awful results. There were issues with his available talent, revealed as the Broncos became younger and more athletic midway through the season. However, Olivo suffered from not keeping things simple. The Broncos special teams cost them one, if not two victories. That goes beyond unacceptable to unimaginable. 

The common thread in the positions filled by Joseph over the last 10 days: experience and edge. That leads to a fair question: Why move on from running backs coach Eric Studesville and receivers boss Tyke Tolbert? Both are terrific. This falls into the category that sometimes change is necessary because players need to hear a different voice. 

The reality is that the Broncos have not developed young players with any consistency. Is that all on the coaches? Hardly. But again, Joseph is working to keep his job this season. He has to be comfortable with a group that will challenge players every day (Studesville did, and is the most unfortunate casualty in the sweep. He interviewed for the Giants head coaching job on Wednesday). 

Which brings me back to Joseph. Working under the premise the group will do fine during the week, his new staff must excel on game day. Let's be honest, that's where Joseph struggled, along with rookie bosses Joe Woods, who improved over the final month, and Olivo. 

The game moved fast. The Broncos became reactionary, too often looking confused and disorganized. Paranoia rules the coaching world. I will never forget hours spent talking to Tony La Russa and Buck Showalter about how success is the result of preparation. Those managers would run through every possible scenario in a game before the first pitch. It always felt like they were controlling the chess match, constantly one move ahead of the opponent.

In Joseph's case, practice must translate to game day or he will not be around for game days in 2019. I am not going to tell you I know the strengths and weaknesses of all the new coaches. I don't. I do know they will be asked to push players and accelerate the growth of rookies. 

Of all the additions, the most notable for me is Tom McMahon. He carries an 11-year resume as a special teams coach. Special teams on game day last season were a mixture of cringes and disappointment. Privately, players fumed about the mess, furious after the Patriots debacle and the endless fumbles by Isaiah McKenzie (One player screamed an obscenity at McKenzie as he walked to the locker room after he failed to go out of bounds to secure a field goal attempt at Washington).

McMahon knows the drill. He comes highly recommended, including by former Colts punter Pat McAfee, who said on 104.3 The Fan, "He has the ability to reach everybody in the room. It seems as if he never sleeps. Watching him work, at practice and in the meeting room is a truly a thing of beauty."

The Broncos' special teams ranked near the bottom of every meaningful category. Of all concerns for Joseph, this should not be one. Having McMahon should lend stability, decrease silly mistakes, and increase production. 

Will that matter enough? Here's the deal. I have covered a lot of bad teams. The key to improvement is everyone becomes a little better, leaving the aggregate making the biggest impact. 

I am not naive enough to insist Joseph and his new crew can pull off the rebound. I do know Joseph knows what he didn't know a year ago, and will be more suited for the game-day Bunsen burner. 

When the Broncos open next year, they will feature seven new coaches. It represents a path to recovery. And if they are able to sign a certain Washington quarterback who wears No. 8, well that would place them on the toll road to redemption.


Been asked multiple times over the last few weeks: the Broncos are not expected to play any international games next season. ... The Broncos last vacancy is outside linebackers coach. This might take a little longer. The position will change, with a narrow focus on teaching/coaching the pass rush.  ... Greg Williams is listed as a defensive backs coach. He will coach the cornerbacks with DB boss Marcus Robertson focusing on safeties. 

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Want Broncos news? Denver7 Broncos insider Troy E. Renck is your source. He talks to the players, covers the games and reports scoops on Denver7 and the Denver7 app. He is a CU grad who has covered pro sports in Colorado since 1996, including 14 years at The Denver Post. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and’s Broncos page. Troy welcomes most of your emails at