ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Sitting at 3-9 in the cellar of the dreadful AFC West, an admission that the Denver Broncos’ season is over seems, well, obvious and quite frankly overdue.
However, less than a week ago, the organization didn’t want to admit it. Just last Thursday, Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph proclaimed it’s “Absolutely” more important to win games at the time being than evaluate players for the future.
“We want to win a game. We have five ball games left and it’s been a tough, tough year so far,” Joseph said last Thursday when asked whether there is an urgency to play young players to evaluate them for the future. “We want to win a football game so we’re playing the guys that can help us win.”
One week, and one more loss, later—officially dooming the organization for their first losing season since 2010, the year before John Elway took over the reigns—the message, and attitude shifted.
“My thoughts to the players were we have one quarter to go here and we want to finish strong. We want to do something positive for this season so we can move forward in the future here,” Joseph said about his realistic expectations of the team’s final four games of the season. “It’s been hard on the fans, the city and you guys—us and our families. It’s been hard. We get it. We have to continue to go to work and to make something positive here.”
Sure, the tone isn’t dramatic, but for an organization that has more Super Bowl appearances than losing seasons in the Pat Bowlen Era (even including this season), defeat, especially for an entire season, isn’t easy to swallow.
The goal for the coaches and players, of course, will still be to try to steal a win or two in the last four games, but the major emphasis went from “We want to win a game” to “Do something positive for this season so we can move forward in the future” in less than a week’s time.
“The message was we don’t want to just survive this next month,” Joseph explained his message to the team for the last four games of the season. “We want to push forward and keep working and studying.”
The change in attitude comes even as the Broncos remain mathematically viable to make the playoffs, although that could very well change this weekend if Denver loses and any of the other AFC West teams win.
The Broncos backed up their words with their actions, too, by placing Derek Wolfe on the injured reserve after he re-aggravated a neck injury against the Oakland Raiders in Week 12.
“This has been a tough year. It's not what the Broncos are about. I'm embarrassed about it,” Elway said on Tuesday to Orange & Blue 760. “[I] will do my part to hopefully get this thing turned around next year, and the expectations of Broncos fans should be for us to get this turned around… We know the expectations of the Denver Broncos.”
For the final four games of the season, enjoy the light ripples of the water during the calm before the storm because once the new year calendar brings the end of this forgettable season, it will likely be one heck of a ride.