ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With a five-game losing streak and six losses in his team’s past seven games, Denver Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway gave coach Vance Joseph a vote of confidence Friday night, but added the team Elway has constructed “got a little bit soft.”
Speaking after an event at Sports Authority Field at Mile High to honor former coach Red Miller and Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis, Elway made it clear he still expects to see the team try to dig out from its current struggles. The Broncos are 3-6 and face the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Elway minced no words about what he thinks has gone wrong.
“I think at this point we’re still trying to figure out how we can get through it,” Elway said. “So, there’s no question at the end of the year we’ll evaluate it and we’ll look back and see what happened. But I will tell you, I think we got a little bit soft. To be dead honest with you, we got a little bit soft. We went 4-0 in the preseason, we started out 3-1, then we get a bye week, and if you exhale in this league, you’re in trouble. To be dead honest with you, I think we exhaled, and it’s hard to recover from that. So, it’s a lesson that hopefully we all learned and prevent it from happening again.”
The Broncos were 3-1 after a Week 4 win over the Oakland Raiders, had a bye week and then were upset, at home, 23-10 by the previously winless New York Giants. That victory over the Broncos is still the Giants’ only win this season.
The Broncos haven’t won since, with blowout losses in their past two games — to the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots — in which they have been outscored 92-39. They have the worst turnover margin in the league, at minus-14.
“You’re going to lose football games in this league, but the way that it’s gone about, in not being competitive is probably the thing that concerns me the most,” Elway said. “… We’ve got to learn to be able to battle through those [difficulties]. And obviously they come in clumps, and we haven’t been able to overcome them, and until we do learn to overcome that, we’ve got to learn that it’s going to be tough to win football games.”
Elway expressed support of Joseph, who was hired after Gary Kubiak stepped down as Broncos coach following the 2016 season, citing some health concerns. Elway had interviewed Joseph for the Broncos head coaching job in 2015, when Kubiak was eventually hired, and Kubiak had then tried to hire Joseph as the team’s defensive coordinator at that time, but the Bengals had declined permission.
“Nope, you know there’s going to be growing pains in the head coach, and especially the first-time head coach, as well as we’ve got a lot of youth on the staff when it comes to coordinators, too, so there’s growing pains there,” he said. “Just like with players, you’ve got to give them a chance to grow and get better and learn from certain situations. Obviously, it’s been a little bit tougher situation, but sometimes you learn a lot more in tougher situations than you do when things are going good. So Vance in my mind is doing just fine and continuing to get these guys to fight hard, and the energy is still there, so we’ll work our way through it.”
Elway also addressed quarterback Paxton Lynch‘s increased work in practice this past week. Brock Osweiler will start his third consecutive game Sunday since Trevor Siemian was benched following a three-interception night in the Oct. 30 loss in Kansas City.
But Lynch, who has not been in uniform for a game this season after a preseason shoulder injury, has worked as Osweiler’s backup in practice this past week for the first time since the season opened. Joseph said after Friday’s practice he had not decided if Lynch or Siemian would be in uniform for Sunday’s game as the No. 2 quarterback.
Elway was asked Friday night if Lynch would play this season.
“I will tell you this, and I mean this when I say this: I’m not looking past Sunday,” Elway said. “We’re going to take it one day at a time. When you’re in these type of things, that’s all you can do. Everyone has an answer, everybody’s got a solution, but the bottom line is those aren’t that easy. And the bottom line is how you get out of these things. You’ve got to work hard day in and day out, and so that’s why we’re not seeing Paxton [on Sunday] and continue to do that. We’ll worry about it Saturday. Hopefully we’ll come in Sunday and play like we’re capable of playing.”