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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Four-straight losses.
A losing record.
Over 9,000 no-shows to Sunday’s game.
Flashbacks to last year’s 5-11 season.
The outlook is bleak in Broncos Country six weeks into the season.
And nobody knows this better than Mr. Denver Bronco himself, John Elway.
But more important than being the face of the organization, he’s the boss. And the boss doesn’t like the way things are going.
“Disappointing” was one of the many adjectives Elway used to describe his team’s 2-4 start to the season during his weekly appearance on Orange & Blue 760 on Monday.
Along with his frustration, however, he delivered a clear and precise message to his entire team.
“As a whole, we all have to get better, players have to get better, and coaches have to play better,” Elway said, before challenging his team.
“Get some positive things going on. Anytime you get in a losing streak where we’ve lost four in a row, obviously, it’s very difficult to stay positive, and you really have to make an effort to stay positive with it, continue to try to work at it. Because that’s the only way we’re going to get out of this. Hopefully, we can continue to do that this week with a short week, get turned around and take a mentality into that Thursday night game that we’re fighting for our lives.”
Fighting for our lives.
At 2-4, the Broncos are closer to securing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft than they are to making the playoffs. A win on Thursday night against the 1-5 Arizona Cardinals would be a step in the right direction to changing that and getting the season back on track.
“Absolutely,” Joseph said, when asked if he agreed with Elway’s “fighting for our lives” comment. “We’ve lost four games in a row. Everyone is fighting for their lives, and that’s the way we have to play each game we play. In this league, if you’re not desperate, you don’t win.”
But it’s not just the organization that’s fighting to salvage the life of this season.
When asked if he feels he’s fighting for his job on Thursday night’s Week 7 game, Joseph quickly responded, “Absolutely. Absolutely.”
“That’s every coach in this league every week. If you don’t feel that way, you’re missing something. If we were 5-1, I would feel that way. That doesn’t motivate me. I’m already motived to win games and fix our football team.”
The most difficult part of getting the season turned around is it’s not just one fix.
“It’s a combination of everything. Bottom line is it starts with me and then it goes on down. Everybody’s got their responsibility. In football, it’s never one player, it’s never one situation,” Elway said on Monday. “It’s a combination; it’s not one thing. It’s a combination of a lot of different things that we’ve got to get it figured out in a hurry.”
Historically, a 10-6 record would almost guarantee a spot in the playoffs. The Broncos would need to go 8-2 down the stretch in order to hit that mark. That’s precisely why time is of the essence.
If things don’t get turned around, however, changes will be in the forecast. The timing of those changes still remains up in the air, but Elway believes the right time, if that time comes, will “show itself.”
“I know that it’s something that we continue to look at,” Elway said on potential changes. “The only fix is to continue to work hard and get better and have the coaches get better and have the players play better. At this point in time, that’s really the only thing that we have to get this thing turned around because there isn’t a magic switch, there isn’t a magic answer this time of year that you’re going to do it, and it’s going to turn around and all of the sudden fix everything.”
There are certainly many areas where the team can drastically improve.
On the offensive side of the ball, Case Keenum’s thrown more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (7), and the team has refused to rely on the run game in recent weeks.
On the other side, they’ve quickly gone from the fourth-best rushing defense — allowing 77.7 yards per game through the first three weeks of the season — to the worst in the entire league, giving up 161.3 yards per game.
“It hasn’t been good. It’s got to get better quickly, quickly,” Joseph said, specifically referring to the run defense after Elway called the unit “very soft” and a “big, big concern.”
The way to turn this all around and save everyone’s job is straightforward, and likely easier said than done, according to Joseph.
“Execution. Simple, simple execution,” Joseph stated. “Doing things right, playing hard and making plays. That’s what it comes down to. Our team every week is going to be competitive. But the bottom line, to win close games, it comes down to being very detailed in your job and obviously making plays.”
Thursday, the Broncos will get their next shot to end the losing streak. If not, they’ll have the entire weekend to mull over any potential changes the organization could make before they go on the road to face the Chiefs in Kansas City in Week 8.
“Hopefully we can get something turned around here where, at least, we can play a little bit better,” Elway concluded, illuminating his drastically different standards than in year’s past.