DENVER (AP) – Changes are coming to the Denver Broncos. Just not anytime soon.
Someone else will be signing the paychecks next year. Someone new almost certainly will be under center in 2022. And in all likelihood somebody else will be calling the shots from the sideline, too.
So, what changes are in store in the short term with the Broncos (5-5) skidding into their bye following a ghastly 30-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on the heels of their biggest win since Super Bowl 50?
The only switch coach Vic Fangio would welcome is a change in fortune for a team that’s stumbled to a 17-25 record during his tenure while struggling to keep stars healthy, put up points, pile up takeaways or stop the run.
Fangio solitary signature win was a shocker at Dallas two weeks ago after Von Miller’s departure, followed by an ugly loss to the Eagles at home that indelibly stamped both his and Teddy Bridgewater’s tenure in Denver.
Special teams can be counted on for a major mishap, if not multiple meltdowns, every week.
Special teams coordinator Tom McMahon didn’t celebrate the big win over the Cowboys because it was marred by two missed kicks, a 54-yard kickoff return and a blocked punt.
“You feel like you lost,” McMahon said.
A blocked chip-shot field goal is what gave the Eagles momentum last week. So, with the bye week here, was Fangio finally willing to replace the man the radio shows call “Teflon Tom”?
“No,” Fangio replied. “You know, both Tom and I have to do a better job of coaching special teams and we’ve got to give it to our players and coach them better, so we don’t have those type of plays happen.”
With Teddy Bridgewater’s regrettable decision to allow Eagles cornerback Darius Slay to run right past him on his game-changing 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown, is there any thought of giving Drew Lock another look or even start No. 3 QB Brett Rypien?
“Teddy is our quarterback moving forward,” Fangio retorted.
Melvin Gordon III has fumbled twice in critical situations the past two home games. So, is it time to rely more on rookie Javonte Williams, whom Fangio even compared to Edgerrin James?
“I have great confidence in Melvin,” Fangio replied. “Melvin’s one of the top backs in this league.”
With Baron Browning (back) the latest to join the injury epidemic at inside linebacker, might Fangio consider a change in scheme?
“No,” he said, sticking with the theme. “We just have to coach the guys that we have playing for us. We have got to coach them better.”
Fangio promised when he was hired there would be no “death by inches,” pledging that attention to detail would halt the franchise’s slide into mediocrity.
Yet, over the past two seasons the Broncos have lost nine of 13 games at Empower Field at Mile High and seven of those have been by double digits.
Never before in the franchise’s 62-year history have there been that many home blowouts in a two-year span. Mike Shanahan, inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor last month, had just five such losses in his 14-year run as Broncos coach.
Last year there were either no fans or very few because of the pandemic. This year, the crowds are back, although there were a whopping 11,755 empty seats for the Washington game and 6,202 no-shows for kickoff at the Eagles game.
After Bridgewater chose to be a bystander on Slay’s scoop-and-score on the final play of the third quarter Sunday, the stadium looked more like 2020’s sparse crowds.
Fangio is at a loss to explain all the ugly losses on his watch.
“Ultimately, we just have to coach better and then get our guys to play better,” Fangio said.
Although the Broncos are just one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the bunched-up AFC West, they’re done with the soft part of their schedule, having lost winnable games against the beat-up Steelers, the reeling Raiders, the injury-marred Browns and the free-falling Eagles.
Every remaining opponent on their schedule has a better record save for winless Detroit, and the Broncos have five divisional games remaining, including two against the Chiefs, whom they’ve lost to 11 consecutive times.
“We have to try and fix all of our correctable errors and we have to do a better job of coaching these guys,” Fangio said. “We’ve got to do a better job of calling the game — me defensively, Pat (Shurmur) and Mike (Shula) offensively. We all have to be better.”
Fangio seems to agree with defensive end Dre’Mont Jones, who blamed both poor execution and bad coaching for the Broncos getting run over by the Eagles.
“Everyone’s doing their part to try to get this figured out,” defensive end Shelby Harris agreed. “It’s easy to question everybody when you’re losing. Obviously, coaches don’t call the perfect game and players don’t play a perfect game. But internally as long as there’s accountability all the way around we’ll get this thing figured out.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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