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Vance Joseph acknowledges areas in which he can improve as he turns toward second season

Posted Jan 2, 2018

Joe Ellis and John Elway both explained why they expect Joseph to improve as a coach moving into Year 2.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —Three-hundred-and-fifty-six days ago, Vance Joseph sat in the Denver’s team-meeting room and explained his vision as the 16th head coach in Broncos’ history.

He was back in the same spot Tuesday after a 5-11 season that didn’t live up to his own expectations, but his words and tone carried different gravity than they did ahead of his first season as head coach.

Joseph, whose standing with the team was affirmed Monday by President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway, spoke as a man who had been shaped by his experiences as one of the leading figures of an NFL franchise.

It’s not that he wasn’t prepared for the job in January 2017 when he took over for Gary Kubiak. Joseph had been closely involved for years in the decision-making processes that face head coaches. But the nature of the beast is quite a bit different in the head coach’s chair, and Joseph was the first to admit Tuesday that he can learn from his inaugural season.

“I’ve been in this league a long time,” Joseph said. “But obviously, things come up that aren’t football related. As a first-time head coach, I can say this: Early on in the season, I didn’t do a good job of pushing our coaches to make the proper changes that I thought could have helped us. I allowed guys to coach — that was my goal — but I wasn’t very good at coaching the coaches. I’ll get better at that. That was one of my shortcomings.

“It’s a big job, and it’s a job that you can get better at. I will get better at those things. When you’re 5-11, it wasn’t good enough from my chair, and that will change.”

Elway suggested Tuesday he had reason to believe the change could indeed come. Joseph was “drinking through a fire hose” as he learned how to be successful head coach, Elway said, but the Broncos were best-served to retain Joseph for his second season.

Elway arrived at that decision in part because of the failings at certain positions where the Broncos expected better play. In short, Elway said, the Broncos didn’t give Joseph the support he needed in Year 1 to find true success.

That will certainly change moving forward.

“That part is on me,” Elway said. “We will get that part fixed this coming year. Hopefully we solve those issues and give Vance and his staff the best opportunity to be successful. Looking back, I feel good about the fact that we can stay where we are.”

And Joseph, with a season under his belt, has a plan to help the Broncos return to the postseason. That began Monday with staff changes, as Joseph aims to make his offense stronger.

“It was time to change the culture so we could get back to pushing our players to be the best that they can be and getting our best players to play at the best all the time,” Joseph said. “It was more about the overall confidence of the offense and getting back to being a dominant unit vs. [being] personal about the coaches.

“I’m looking forward to bringing in guys who can change the culture and get our offense back to playing good football. It’s as simple as that.”

He’ll also take a more hands-on approach with the upcoming rookie class in an attempt to bridge the gap between the veteran players and the young players who Joseph said “don’t understand what it takes vs. veteran guys who have won games and are trying to catch the young guys up to help us win.”

Those tactics are just part of the reason why President and CEO Joe Ellis has faith that the second-year head coach can turn things around.

Ellis met with Joseph on Monday night for what Ellis called a “really good, candid conversation,” and it left Ellis with a sense of optimism.

“I just think he began to see all of the various situations and things that come up through a course of the season,” Ellis said. “Some of the them he didn’t — these are his words that he said — he didn’t handle well and some things that he did. I think he’s growing into the job. A lot of people say we don’t have time for someone to grow into the job. I respect that and understand that. I just think there are some things that he needs to do — that I’m not going to discuss here because I’m going to have a follow-up conversation — which I said to him yesterday that he is going to have to improve on.

“I know he will. He is convicted to do that. He’s passionate about that. I’m optimistic that he is going to turn into a really good coach. I really am.”