ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Vance Joseph’s switch of quarterbacks did nothing to stem the tide of turnovers, so the Denver Broncos rookie head coach on Monday changed his offensive architect.
The Broncos’ first-year head coach fired coordinator Mike McCoy, his first hire when he got the job in January, and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave for the final six weeks of the season.
“I want to have a more efficient pass game,” said Joseph, who also promoted Klint Kubiak to take over Musgrave’s old duties working with the quarterbacks.
Musgrave, who was John Elway’s backup quarterback in Denver in the late 1990s, is a 20-year coaching veteran with nine NFL seasons as an offensive coordinator with the Vikings, Jaguars, Panthers, Eagles and most recently, the Raiders in 2015 and ‘16.
Joseph wouldn’t commit to keeping Brock Osweiler as his starting quarterback, saying he’d huddle with Musgrave and the rest of his offensive staff to “figure out who’s the best guy for our football team.”
The Broncos (3-7) have lost six straight, three under Osweiler, who has three TDs and four interceptions, and three under Siemian, who had nine TDs and 10 interceptions when he was benched.
These changes might also be a precursor to giving former first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch an audition.
Elway moved up in the 2016 draft to select Lynch with the 26th pick, but the former Memphis star was beaten out by Siemian two summers in a row.
Lynch spent the first two months of this season recovering from a sprained throwing shoulder he sustained in the preseason. He returned to practice a few weeks ago and he was active Sunday for the first time as Osweiler’s backup in the Broncos’ 20-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals .
The Broncos would like to conclusively see if Lynch is a bust or a late bloomer before they head into another offseason of uncertainty under center. But they also know throwing Lynch into the mix if he’s not mentally ready could ruin him.
Lynch will be learning his third scheme in less than two years and the Broncos might not risk starting him while they’re still mathematically alive for the playoffs.
Joseph told his players he hasn’t given up on the season.
“Coach Joseph preached today that as long as there’s a chance that we can make the playoffs, then we’re playing for something,” Ronald Leary said. “… It’s our fault that we’re in this situation right now, but we’ve still got to play ball.”
McCoy had increasingly drawn scrutiny for his overly complex game plans and insistence on using three wide receivers as his base formation to both pass and run, even though the vast majority of the Broncos’ penalties, sacks and turnovers have come out of that formation.
“Moving to Billy I think we’re 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,” Joseph said.
“So I’m looking forward to Bill having a chance to put his touch on the offense and having a chance to watch our pass game grow a little bit and not be so scattered in our passing concepts.”
McCoy said in a statement released by the team that he was disappointed his second stint as Denver’s offensive coordinator went poorly “because this is a special organization and a great place to be.”
McCoy joined Joseph’s staff in January for a second stint as Denver’s offensive coordinator after he was fired following a middling four-year run as the Chargers head coach.
McCoy’s first stint in Denver was much more successful. He scrapped an offense midseason for Tim Tebow in 2011 and the following season helped Peyton Manning transition to his new team as he began a spectacularly successful comeback following neck fusion surgery.
It was originally believed that if he helped guide the Broncos back to the playoffs, McCoy’s stint could be short, as he’d be a hot candidate for the next coaching carrousel.
Instead, he lasted just 10 games.
Whether it was Siemian or Osweiler starting, McCoy produced game plans as though Manning were still Denver’s signal-caller. McCoy was recently instructed to simplify things, but he continued to rely heavily on “11 personnel,” the NFL’s vernacular for one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers.
He did that despite an offensive line struggling with pass rushers and beset by injuries.
Plus, the Broncos don’t have a slot receiver that scares defenses, and their tight end group is one of the worst in the league.
Joseph stressed that he wasn’t scapegoating McCoy for Denver’s myriad problems.
“Mike didn’t fumble the ball. Mike didn’t throw interceptions,” Joseph said. “But ultimately it falls on Mike’s plate.”
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