Broncos general manager John Elway wasted no time Monday, firing coach Vance Joseph around 7:30 a.m. Joseph's body of work over the past two seasons - 11 wins in 32 games - made Elway’s decision for him.

For the fourth time in six years, the Broncos are searching for a new coach and it comes at a critical time for the organization.

“It’s as important as the last (search) was, if not more so given what’s happened here,” president/CEO Joe Ellis said.

What’s happened with the Broncos over the last two years is losing … lots of it. Consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1972 and back-to-back seasons of at least 10 losses for the first time since 1967.

And with his job performance under a consistent microscope, Elway must find the right coach or it may be his final hire.

“I’m just as responsible for this, if not more than anybody else, because it’s my job to make sure we win more football games,” Elway said. “We’re going to do everything we can to get us back on track and competing for world championships. This is the first step.”

The first steps were taken hours after Joseph’s firing. As of Monday night, the Broncos had requested permission to interview four candidates: Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Pittsburgh offensive line coach Mike Munchak, New England linebackers coach (and play-caller) Brian Flores and Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor.


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Joseph was unable to win enough games to keep his job. The Broncos were 6-6 entering the final quarter of the season but didn’t win again.

In a statement released through the Broncos, Joseph said, in part: “It’s disappointing not being able to finish what we started, but I’m incredibly proud of the players and coaches for how they fought and worked every week. I also appreciate the support staffs who put in countless hours behind the scenes helping our team.”

What ultimately doomed Joseph was a stretch bridging 2017-18 when the Broncos lost 17 of 22 games. The offense continued to flounder even after the signing of quarterback Case Keenum and the promotion of Bill Musgrave to play-caller. The Broncos finished this season 24th in scoring (20.6 points per game) and scored a high of 16 points in their final four games.

Thirty minutes after his firing, the Broncos’ locker room opened to reporters. To a man, there was respect for Joseph but a realization that losing equals changes, starting with the head coach.

“It’s part of the business,” defensive end Zach Kerr said. “Players get fired, coaches get fired. When you’re unsuccessful in a production-based business that is (also) what-you have-done-for-me-lately and the lately hasn’t been as successful as you want it to be, this is usually the result.”

New problems each week

The Broncos started 2-0, but then lost four in a row. They beat Arizona, but then limped into the bye with two more losses. They rallied to even their record in early December, but wheezed across the final line.

Every week, it was something new. Penalties against Baltimore. Lousy rush defense against the Jets and Rams. Not ready to compete in the first half against San Francisco and Oakland.

“We don’t know what we need to fix because we never fixed it,” linebacker Shaq Barrett said. “This whole year, we said we were close but never fixed whatever it was. You can say we’re close, but it’s hard because nothing ever got better."

Elway deserves a large share of the blame, which he accepted Monday.

The Broncos largely struck out in the 2017 draft (only left tackle Garett Bolles is a regular starter) and it’s possible the remaining two players from the 2015 draft (linebacker Shane Ray and tight end Jeff Heuerman) will depart as free agents. Granted, the 2018 class could provide the foundation for a revival, but the offseason signings and/or trades for right tackle Jared Veldheer, safety Su’a Cravens, cornerback Tramaine Brock and punter Marquette King had little-to-no-impact.

Ellis said he will not demand Elway make changes to his personnel department.

“I don’t meddle in football operations,” Ellis said. “But if I can be helpful in facilitating greater collaboration and communication and getting everybody on the same page, which I may not have done as well as I should, I’ll do it now moving forward.”

There are eight openings in the league, which should put Elway - and his colleagues - in urgency mode. Elway hired John Fox after a 12-day search in 2011 and Joseph following a 10-day process two years ago.

“When there’s competition out there, there is always urgency to be as quick as you can,” Elway said. “But we also want to be very thorough in the search, too.”

Narrow the search

One league executive said the Broncos should be careful not to cast too wide of a net, which bogs down the search.

“Once you get past 5-7 guys, it’s too many - that’s stupid,” the executive said. “You don’t know what you’re looking for if you do that.”

The source called this year’s pool of candidates “pretty shallow. I think there are some qualified guys out there like Vic Fangio that maybe haven’t had a chance. But I don’t think there is a this year’s version of (the Rams’) Sean McVay or (Chicago’s) Matt Nagy.”

An issue Elway may run into is the attractiveness of the Broncos’ opening. Three consecutive years out of the playoffs. No owner. No quarterback of the future.

An NFL offensive assistant called the Broncos’ opening a “middle-of-the-pack job. Really tough division, question mark at quarterback, but good defense and phenomenal tradition and fan base.”

A defensive assistant from a Broncos opponent this year ranked the opening as the “fourth-best” on the board, behind Cleveland, Green Bay and the Jets.

The executive said: “They have a good defense, a Pro Bowl running back (in Phillip Lindsay) and the (Courtland) Sutton kid is good. I think it’s attractive - equally attractive as the other ones.”

Elway believes the job is just as desirable as when he, in order, hired Fox, Gary Kubiak and Joseph.

“Our football team has to get better, there’s no question, but we’ve got a lot of good parts,” Elway said. “Therefore, we can sell that. I think the right kind of guy wants to come into a situation like this because he knows what the expectations are and what our expectations have been for a long period of time. I think it’s a great job.”