ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Now on the hunt for the fourth head coach of his nearly eight-year tenure, Denver Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway said the team will do “everything we can” to get back into the postseason, and all facets of the football operations are under review.
That includes his own work as the Broncos’ top football decision-maker.
“The first guy I look at is the guy I look at is the guy in the mirror, and that’s me,” Elway said. “I’m just as responsible for this, if not more than anybody else, because it’s my responsibility to make sure we win more football games. I take full responsibility for that. I will do the best I can, continue to do the best I can … knowing we’re going to try to compete for world championships. That’s what I’m about, I hate to lose, I hate it more now than I ever have.”
The Broncos fired coach Vance Joseph on Monday morning, hours after the team completed a 6-10 season. The Broncos finished 5-11 in Joseph’s first season in 2017, and it is the first time since 1971 and 1972 that the Broncos have finished with back-to-back losing seasons. It’s also the first time the Broncos have had back-to-back seasons with 10 or more losses.
“Ultimately it was not good enough, we didn’t win enough games,” Elway said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get it done, we didn’t win enough football games, and ultimately that’s what we have to do.”
The Broncos formally opened their coaching search Monday and have asked for permission to interview Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak and New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, who also acts as the team’s defensive coordinator.
Elway said that former Miami Dolphins head coach and Broncos assistant Adam Gase — who was also fired Monday — and former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan were not candidates “at this point in time.” The Broncos are one of eight teams looking for a head coach, the highest total since the eight openings after the 2013 season.
“We’d like to get things going as fast as we can,” Elway said. “So, yeah, when there’s competition, there’s urgency out there … but we also want to be very thorough in the search, too.”
The Broncos face an ownership dispute among members of Pat Bowlen’s family, who are battling in court over control of the team. The Broncos are currently under the control of the three-member Pat Bowlen Trust, which includes Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis. However, Elway said he still considers the Broncos’ head-coaching job an attractive one.
Elway said he’s prepared for the team to participate in free agency and to repeat the success of the 2018 draft class, which included six players who started games this past season to go with undrafted rookie running back Phillip Lindsay, who led the team in rushing and was named to the Pro Bowl.
“I have full confidence that ownership situation is going to get straightened away, I really do,” Elway said. “We have great fans, our football team has to get better — no question — but we still got a lot of good parts on our football team, and so therefore, we can sell that. We’ve got nine picks coming up in the draft … and we’ve got the ownership and the resources and the support from the ownership group to be able to make the moves we that hopefully need to do … everything’s there.
“And I think the right kind of guy wants to come into a situation like this because he knows what the expectations are and what the expectations have been for a long period of time. Guys want that kind of opportunity, they want to come into a spot where they know it’s about football and about winning games. … I think it’s a great job.”
Ellis said Elway will oversee the coaching search and ultimately decide who the team’s next head coach will be.
Elway added that he wanted to see “greatness” on one side of the ball or the other in the team’s next head coach — with experience, including as a head coach, being considered a plus.
The team’s current assistants, including offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and defensive coordinator Joe Woods, are still under contract and will remain with the team until a new head coach decides which assistants to retain on the new staff.
Gary Kubiak, who won Super Bowl 50 as the Broncos’ head coach and has worked in the team’s personnel department since he stepped away from coaching after the 2016 season due to health concerns, will continue to work with the organization. Elway said publicly for the first time this season that Kubiak would be on the coaching staff next season on offense.
“We’re still in that process. … It could be where he is, it could be on the offensive side,” Elway said.