The one “simple” reason Vance Joseph fired Mike McCoy and promoted Bill Musgrave

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Two days after Vance Joseph was hired as the Denver Broncos’ head coach in Jan. 2017, he hired his first coordinator, signing Mike McCoy to lead the team’s offense.

Eleven months later, the rookie head coach made his first major change on his coaching staff—relieving Mike McCoy of his duties with the Broncos on Monday morning.

At 3-7, Joseph didn’t just feel his team needed a change, specifically on the offensive side of the ball, he knew they needed a specific change. So, Joseph took the steps he deemed necessary to make that change a reality.

“I thought at this moment for our football team moving forward that a change was needed. I'm going from Mike to Bill Musgrave simply because I want to have a more efficient pass game. You have to have that,” Joseph said, while pinpointing the exact reason why he made a drastic change during his rookie season. “Our running game has been good, but our passing game has not been good, in my opinion. We have to find ways to have a pass game where it’s more completion passes. We can call them with more confidence. We can call them in hard parts of the game and execute. That hadn’t happened. So that’s why the change was ultimately made.”

Through the first 11 weeks of the NFL season, Denver has the sixth-worst completion percentage in the league at 58.8, only better than teams such as the 0-10 Cleveland Browns and the 1-9 San Francisco 49ers. In the team’s last six games, their quarterbacks have combined to only have one game with a completion percentage over 58.

Joseph and McCoy, of course, tried to fix this earlier in the season by making a quarterback change from Trevor Siemian to Brock Osweiler. Three games after the switch, the results were no different, so Joseph felt he needed to make another, potentially bigger, change.

Musgrave’s task running the Broncos’ offense is simple: run an offense that completes more passes at an efficient rate. The way to do that, according to the head coach, is also simple: simplify.

“Moving to Billy, I think we are going to have a chance to have a more efficient pass game with simply simplifying the concepts and helping our quarterbacks have a cleaner progression on where to go with the ball. That’s why [the coaching change] was made,” Joseph elaborated. “I’m looking forward to Bill having a chance to put his touch on the offense and having a chance to have our pass game grow a little bit, not be so scattered in our passing concepts.”

One week before Joseph terminated McCoy, he told the media “Sometimes you have to scale it back and not have so many answers, but play a cleaner brand of football.” McCoy’s failure to do that led to his firing.

“Just having a system of completion passes in the pass game,” the coach said when asked what he wanted to see from the Broncos’ offense under Musgrave. “And again, sometimes it’s doing the same thing more often that you can kind of master it. Right now, I feel like we have a lot of good offense and a lot of good plays that we miss, but we haven’t mastered anything. I think Billy’s going to bring a sense of consistency that we can master, maybe four or five concepts and that’s good enough to get better.”

For Musgrave, simplicity will be key. What isn’t as simple or straightforward as initially believed is who Musgrave’s quarterback will be. When asked if the Broncos will move forward with Osweiler—the starter the previous three games—Joseph was non-committal, saying, “Not sure. I’m going to get with Billy and the staff tonight and tomorrow and figure out who’s the best guy for our football team.”

Joseph also didn’t rule out the team going back to Siemian or turning to first-round pick Paxton Lynch saying, “He’s fine. He’s ready to go.”

“We’ve got three guys on the roster that we like,” he said firmly. “We’ll see what’s Bill’s vision from his offense and who fits it best.”

Nearly out of the playoffs, the expectation is that the team will turn to Lynch to see what he’s got. However, with Musgrave tasked with configuring an efficient passing offense, the decision just got a little more interesting since his job now depends on just that.

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