By Zack Kelberman
DENVER (247 SPORTS) – No NFL seat is (figuratively) hotter to the touch than Vance Joseph’s.
This, according to Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports, who on Wednesday released his Hot Seat Power Rankings — a three-tiered classification of the league’s shakiest head coaches.
Joseph checked in at No. 1 overall, leading the “Tier 1: Hot in here” group which also includes Tampa Bay’s Dirk Koetter, the Jets’ Todd Bowles, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh and Arizona’s Steve Wilks, a rookie coach.
Put it this way: It’s not the best sign when Bill O’Brien is caught (maybe) mocking your coaching decisions. The 3-6 Broncos aren’t just bad, they’re also poorly coached — with their most-recent loss to the Texans, during which Joseph settled for a 51-yard field goal at the buzzer, serving as a perfect example. John Elway almost fired Joseph after his first season in charge resulted in five wins and 11 losses. What has happened this year to make him keep Joseph for a third year? Considering Elway won’t fire himself, Joseph will likely be out at the end of the season.
As has been said, it’s a matter of when, not if, Broncos general manager John Elway relieves Joseph of his duties. Elway’s approach is straight out of the GM handbook: spout open-ended platitudes while privately getting the requisite ducks aligned for a regime change.
“We haven’t the plays that we need to get over the hump,” he said Monday, one day after Denver dropped to 3-6. “I like the heartbeat of this team, the fact that they’re competitors and they continue to work hard.”
A long-embattled Joseph, on the heels of his 17th loss in 25 games, discussed his uncertain future with the organization Monday, playing down a furious barrage of criticism.
“That’s not my focus,” Joseph said. “My focus is our team and getting our team ready to play weekly. We’ve got a month and three weeks left in the season to win some games. That’s not my concern right now—my future. It’s about the players and the coaches and winning football games.”
His comments — a verbal shrug-off layered in cliche — almost immediately followed Elway’s declaration that he’s not making any major changes “at this point in time.”
“We’re going to stay the course,” Elway said in his weekly radio interview. “There’s enough good things going on as far us and the way that we’re playing that I’m much more encouraged this year than I was last year.”
Barring what would qualify as an historic turnaround, Elway and Joseph are simply going through the motions, in two entirely different directions. Maybe. Two more bad losses after the bye could force Elway’s hand, and Joseph’s signature to his pink slip. But the outcome, ultimately, remains the same.
By Jan. 1, 2019, the hot seat engulfs another victim.