Denver Broncos Coach Vance Joseph On The Hot Seat After Controversial 4th Down Decision Costs His Team

Head coach Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos looks on from the sideline during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Santa Clara, California.
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New reports speculated that Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph’s job might be in jeopardy following his decision to go for a field goal instead of a fourth-down conversion, a move that many believe led to the team’s close 17-16 loss in a crucial game against the Cleveland Browns on Saturday.

As recapped by the Sporting News, the Broncos were trailing the Browns, 17-13, early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, as Cleveland’s rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield, connected with Antonio Callaway for his second touchdown pass of the game. With less than five minutes remaining in the game, according to USA Today’s Broncos Wire, Denver had made it to Cleveland’s six-yard line as Joseph faced a “tough decision” on fourth-and-1.

Faced with the choice of kicking a field goal or running the ball and going for a first down or touchdown, Joseph went with the former option, as kicker Brandon McManus narrowed the deficit to one point following his successful field goal attempt. After the Browns failed to score on their next drive, the Broncos still had a chance to seize the victory but failed to do so after Cleveland defensive back Jabrill Peppers sacked Case Keenum on fourth-and-10 toward the end of the game.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Joseph justified his decision to have McManus kick a field goal by saying he “wanted points,” as quoted by ESPN.

“Had about 4:35 to go in the game. We had one timeout and the two-minute warning. I trust our defense to get a stop there, OK. If we don’t get points there, a touchdown has to win it. It was my decision — take points.”

In the above report, Broncos Wire’s Travis Wakeman posited that Vance Joseph had “no faith” in his team’s abilities by opting against a fourth-down conversion, as Cleveland’s run defense is only ranked 28th out of 32 teams. He added that scoring a touchdown wouldn’t have guaranteed Denver the win just yet, but still would have put pressure on Mayfield to lead a touchdown drive instead of running out the clock.

“This decision was typical of Joseph’s entire tenure in Denver in which he’s just kind of rolled with the tide and hoped for the best, rather than seizing opportunities and playing to win, rather than playing not to lose,” Wakeman wrote.

“If this decision and this game isn’t evidence that this team needs a change, what is?”

Commenting on Vance Joseph’s prospects as Broncos head coach going forward, Jon Heath wrote in a separate Broncos Wire article that winning the last two games of the season might not be enough to help Joseph save his job. He pointed out that Joseph went 5-11 in the 2017 season in his first year after replacing Gary Kubiak, and has gone 6-8 so far, with a very slim chance of making the playoffs following Saturday’s loss to the Browns.

The Denver Broncos will wrap up the 2018 NFL season with games against the Oakland Raiders (3-10) and Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) in Week 16 and 17, respectively.