Broncos coach mulling a change at quarterback
ENGLEWOOD — Vance Joseph is either going to simplify his offense for Trevor Siemian or send him to the bench in favor of Brock Osweiler.
Joseph complained that Siemian made “three horrific decisions” on “three horrible interceptions” in the Broncos’ 29-19 loss at Kansas City on Monday night, wasting another dominant defensive effort and negating any gains made by the offense.
So, Joseph huddled Tuesday with general manager John Elway, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and QB coach Bill Musgrave to decide who will be under center when the Broncos (3-4) visit NFL-leading Philadelphia (7-1) this weekend.
“When your football team is putting in max effort and your defense is playing good football, it’s unfair to your team if you’re not discussing that position,” Joseph said.
Former first-round pick Paxton Lynch isn’t in the mix, Joseph said, because he’s only practiced a handful of times in the two months since he sprained his throwing shoulder in the preseason shortly Siemian beat him out for the second straight summer.
“That wouldn’t be fair to our football team or Paxton,” Joseph said.
The Broncos re-signed Osweiler after Lynch got hurt. Peyton Manning’s former longtime backup flopped last year in Houston and was released this summer by the Browns, who are still paying 95 percent of his $16 million salary.
Joseph is trying to salvage a season that’s slipping away. For all their troubles, the Broncos are only one game back in the AFC wild-card race and their schedule gets much easier after facing the Eagles and Patriots (6-2) the next two weeks.
Joseph insisted last summer that injury was the only way Siemian could lose his starting job, but circumstances have changed.
Siemian has thrown just two TDs and eight interceptions during a 1-4 slide in which Denver is averaging just 12 points a game and was shut out for the first time since 1992.
“No one goes into the season thinking your starter’s not going to be your starter. So, in my mind that was appropriate at the time,” Joseph said. “But again, when you lose three in a row and how we lost … I think everything’s up for discussion.”
Joseph said he’s evaluating “all positions.”
The offensive ineptitude is starting to lead to grumbling among defensive players just as it did last season when a late slide ended Denver’s five-year playoff run.
Denver’s dominant defense is playing even better than the unit that led the Broncos to the Super Bowl 50 title two years ago. It’s No. 1 in the NFL, second-best against the run and sixth-best against the pass.
Joseph, who was hired in part to restore locker room harmony, has been adamant that no one’s pointing fingers, but cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said after the latest game there’s definitely some friction.
“There’s high tension. We’re not winning,” Harris said. “We’re not taking care of the football. We’re giving the games away.”
Denver’s defense played exceptionally well Monday night.
The Broncos held rookie sensation Kareem Hunt, the league’s rushing leader, to 46 yards on 22 carries. They even managed to force a pair of turnovers against a team that hadn’t turned it over since its first offensive play of the season.
They held the Chiefs (6-2) to two third-down conversions and stifled Alex Smith, in the midst of a breakout season. He was 14 of 31 for 202 yards and a touchdown. They even held speedster Tyreek Hill, who burned them so often last season, to two catches for 38 yards.
Yet, Denver’s klutzy offense and spotty special teams play cost them again.
In addition to his three interceptions, Siemian was sacked three times, giving him 25 for the season. He’s on pace for 57 sacks this season — should he manage to stay in the lineup.
“Our defense played winning football,” Joseph lamented after his team’s third consecutive loss. “Our offensive line blocked. We ran the ball for 177 and the pass protection was better, but it all falls back to turning the ball over five times. That’s insane. You can’t win when you turn the ball over five times.”
Joseph’s mantra all season has been that the Broncos can beat anybody if they just take care of the football, and he said Tuesday he thinks his defense could be even better if they didn’t keep falling behind so much.
At the root of Siemian’s poor play, Joseph said, are a combination of him learning a new system and pressing. So, simplifying things for him might be the way to go.
“As coaches, we can make his life a little easier by taking some of the variables away from him and not giving him so much,” Joseph said.
Siemian has been hit so much that he’s not setting his feet properly on throws, feeling pressure even when it’s not there.
Although 17 of Siemian’s 19 sacks during this slump have come with Denver in three-receiver sets where there’s no help for his struggling tackles, Joseph defended McCoy, who last week left Allen Barbre to block Joey Bosa mostly by himself in his first game at right tackle since 2009.
“I’ve said all along we can coach and play better. So, Mike understands that. And Mike every day voices that he can help Trevor more,” Joseph said.
“But the bottom line: players play and coaches coach. There are no perfect calls. You can try to make perfect calls for him but he has to play his way out of bad plays and not make them worse.
“That’s his job as the quarterback.”
One he might not have much longer.