Vance Joseph‘s latest Monday was eerily similar to the one before and the one before that and the one before that. The Broncos have sunk to 3-9, with every defeat a little more painful, a little more embarrassing than the last.
And after each one, Coach Joseph and his players have had to search for new ways to spin the same thing.
But with only four games remaining and the Broncos’ slim playoff chances almost officially quashed, Joseph stood in front of his players this Monday and encouraged them to approach the final stretch with fervor.
“The message was we don’t want to just survive this next month,” he said. “We want to push forward — keep working, keep studying, keep pushing details and trying to win football games. We don’t want guys just showing up to work and just checking boxes. We want to go to work and push this team into a positive area.”
Limping to the finish is hardly the goal.
But each loss seems to take a greater toll, and the last one was a doozy, a 26-point blowout at Miami. Denver’s offense had as many points (three) as turnovers, its special teams had a punt blocked and a muffed punt that resulted in a safety, and its three takeaways on defense were squandered.
Quarterback Trevor Siemian completed only 46.3 percent of his passes and posted a 30.5 rating, undoubtedly the worst showing of his career. Siemian has struggled under pressure throughout the season, but Sunday the problems were more concerning: When operating from a clean pocket, he went 15-of-31 passing for 176 yards, three interceptions and a 26.5 rating, according to Pro Football Focus.
Siemian will start again Sunday against the New York Jets, in large part because Denver has exhausted its quarterback options for 2017. This is the stark reality of a once-successful team that has fallen far and fast.
“I can say he has to play better,” Joseph said. “We had some missed throws yesterday, we had some misreads and we had some plays that we missed that we had open. He has to make those plays for us, but I can’t speak to his confidence. Trevor, in my opinion, is a confident guy. He had a good week of work, so I can’t speak to that. Simply has to play better.”
Every mistake across the board has been magnified for the Broncos as their tumble reaches historic levels. Not since 1967 have the Broncos experienced an eight-game losing streak. Not since 2010, when Josh McDaniels was fired after Week 12, have the Broncos had a losing record.
Fans are quick to remind of the disappointment, which comes just two years after the Broncos captured Super Bowl 50. As the search for answers continues, Joseph says it’s not a matter of effort — it’s there, he says. But when asked of the team’s talent, he tiptoes around the subject that may soon bring changes.
“Every player on this team, we’ve chosen,” he said. “We had a full training camp to pick our roster. We chose this roster. This is our roster. We were 3-1 in the first month of the season. It was a good enough roster to win with. Now that we haven’t won, I’m not going to stand here and say that it’s all roster. It’s not. Every team has roster issues. There is no perfect roster. But the guys on our football team, we chose. It’s our guys. So, we have to coach and play better to fix this. Every offseason — if you don’t win the final trophy — every team evaluates their roster and tries to improve. Every roster in this league can improve. I can’t say it’s all the roster. These are the guys we chose. We have very good players on this football team. We have to play better football and coach better football to win.”
How and when the Broncos record their next victory remains to be seen. But coasting through the final four weeks isn’t part of the plan.
“The last couple games of the season don’t matter. They don’t really mean anything,” defensive end Zach Kerr said. “But I do know that’s what they look for — they’re looking for guys to finish. That’s just my mantra. I play football like that. I don’t think that’s going to be an issue for myself or anybody else in the locker room, to be completely honest with you.”