As the 2018 NFL season draws to a close, the playoff picture has started to take shape. Teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams have already punched their ticket to the postseason. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos are trying to keep pace in the AFC and hope that the necessary pieces fall into place. Prior to their week 14 match-up against the previously 2-10 San Francisco 49ers, head coach Vance Joseph and company had rattled off three consecutive victories. However, the Broncos ran into a high-octane offense led by tight end George Kittle. Kittle made the Broncos’ defense look like Swiss cheese as he shredded them for 210 receiving yards including an 85-yard touchdown. With his performance, he became the first San Francisco tight end in franchise history to reach 1,000 yards in a single season. The Broncos made a valiant effort in the second half as their defense stood tall and shut out the 49ers. Despite leading two scoring drives that brought Denver within six with a little under four minutes to go, quarterback Case Keenum could not complete the comeback and the Broncos fell to 6-7.
The debacle in Santa Clara was representative of who the 2018 Denver Broncos have been. Their previous three-game winning streak seemed to signal a rebirth of Joseph and company. They beat two playoff-caliber teams in the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers. While these wins weren’t convincing, the Broncos still played with a sense of grit and determination that had been missing for much of the season. Following a loss to the Texans on November 4, it raised many questions regarding the direction of the team. Former Broncos’ wide receiver Demaryius Thomas had recently been traded to the Texans and although he didn’t have a big game in his return to Denver, his absence on the Denver sideline was undoubtedly felt. When the loss to Houston dropped the team to 3-6, feelings of 2017 were beginning to emerge. Similar to this season, the Broncos started well only to watch their season go up in flames as they finished 5-11. This season, the team started 2-0 before losing four straight.
As the Denver Broncos attempt to stop the bleeding, it has become clear that Vance Joseph is not ready to be a head coach in the NFL. With an overall coaching record of 11-18, Joseph has not done himself any favors to remain employed beyond 2018. Since the Broncos did not treat their previous game as a must-win, they ought to realize that their season now hangs in the balance. An improved Cleveland Browns team has been playing opponents tough all season and has an opportunity to finish above .500 for the first time since 2007. Coming into the season, it appeared that a week 15 contest against the Browns would unlikely hold much weight. However, both teams find themselves in the playoff hunt with three weeks remaining in the regular season. As it stands now, the Broncos must be concerned with one thing: winning. They cannot afford to depend on other teams to help them lock up a spot in the playoffs. The team’s focus heading into the final three weeks should be on how they can improve and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Since the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 in February 2015, the team has been on a downward trajectory. Coming into 2018, Elway believed he found his quarterback of the future in Case Keenum. Despite showing promise, he has not been the player that almost led the Minnesota Vikings to Super Bowl LII. His 10 interceptions are the second-most of his career and he enters week 14 having fumbled the ball a career-worst eight times. Despite signing a two-year deal with Denver in March, it is clear that Keenum is not the long-term solution to Denver’s quarterback conundrum. Not only is Keenum not the man of the future in Denver, but with each passing game, it appears that he should not be the man of the present either. However, not all blame should be laid at his feet as his protection and wide receivers have been marginal at best in 2018.
As another pitiful season comes to an end, it is obvious that change is on the horizon in Denver. If the Broncos are unable to turn it around, Joseph will likely be the first person shown the door. If by some miracle Elway decides to give him one more chance to right his wrongs, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave should be concerned regarding his job security. Despite the Broncos finishing 2018 with a better record as compared to last season, it still feels as if the team is treading water. If Joseph is relieved of his duties at the end of the season, the Broncos should bring in a coach with a proven track record. It hasn’t been easy watching the Broncos since Joseph took the reins last season, but he still has time to prove doubters wrong. However, he and the Broncos are running out of it.