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Woody Paige: Joseph's willingness to change will likely save him

Woody Paige: Joseph's willingness to change will likely save him
Posted at 1:07 PM, Dec 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-15 15:07:22-05

Vance Joseph will be the Broncos' coach again next season.

Winning consecutive games, and the players not giving up in the final month of the season were critically important to Joseph’s future in Denver.

But Joseph finally seems to have grasped and recognized what it takes to be a game-day head coach in the NFL.

For much of the season, Joseph was about as inert and indifferent on the sideline as a — this cliché is fitting — a bump on a log.

He has gotten involved.

He is showing emotion and acting like that "leader of men" Bill McCartney and Gary Kubiak both characterized Joseph as when he was given the positon by John Elway.

But, mostly, even before the two months during the Broncos’ agony and anguish, Joseph was an uncertain neophyte coach, on the road to losing his first chance as the man.

He stood on the sideline with his arms crossed.

Tom Landry was staid and stoic, but it was known that the old Cowboys coach was thinking two and three players — and two and three quarters — ahead. Joseph looked like he was staring into the lights of an oncoming train.

Psychologists often analyze that anyone folding his arms is putting a barrier around himself and is being negative or defensive.

Well, Joseph has been a defensive coach for all of his professional career.

The solution to the problem, according to one expert, is "to give the person something to hold or something to do" so he opens up.

Somebody — perhaps Elway or Joseph’s wife — must have told Joseph "Do something, even if it’s wrong."

A lot of league head coaches also are their own play-callers. You see them holding up that big piece of cardboard in front of their faces with all the plays and situations in letters and multiple colors. Mike Shanahan, the former Broncos coach, popularized the concept. Other coaches had held folded paper scribbled with their gameplans. Some even rolled up game programs and curled their hands around them. A few would stalk up and down the sideline yelling at players and conferring with assistants.

Not Joseph. He would listen to the headphones — if they were connected — and seemed to be in a cocoon of his own making. He let his coaches coach and his coordinators coordinate, which might be sound judgement if all was right with the world. But special teams coach Brock Olivo proved over and over, and still does, that he didn’t know what he was doing, and Joseph obviously wasn’t happy with offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s attack philosophy. Joe Woods certainly wasn’t duplicating Wade Phillips’ successful style, and Joseph had been a defensive coordinator. You’d think he would be over dealing with defensive players and dialing up defensive ideas to help Woods.

On Nov. 20, Joseph fired McCoy and elevated Bill Musgrave.

On Nov. 26 in Oakland, Joseph had a large, Technicolor, plastic-enclosed sheet in his hands, and he stopped folding his arms during the game. He tried something different.

The Broncos lost that game and the next in south Florida, but at least Joseph was acting like a head coach rather than appearing to be an acting head coach.

In the past two games he has been talking on the headset, apparently to coaches in the booth upstairs, and slapping players on the back after excellent plays and moving around the sideline and revealing emotion and passion for the game.

Maybe, at the Thanksgiving holiday, Joseph understood that he wanted to be around in Colorado in 2018 to be thankful for his job.

Joseph is a very pleasant guy, and sometimes even offers a humorous response, and the players like him — he is a "players coach" — and Elway must be supportive or he would meet with Joseph every day. But the public and the media have turned on Joseph because of the losing — the double-digit losing — and the lack of improvement and the indecision about the starting quarterbacks (and the failure to make a change at QB during games), and Joseph’s constant "we had good practices" refrain after defeats and his “defense" of the special teams coach, and his refusal to dump the return man until it was too late.

Joseph has made a ton of rookie mistakes.

Two victories won’t change this season. But the coach apparently is willing to change. If he doesn’t, he will lose his precious title and status of importance.

He likely will stay around ... for a while.