Two teams that will not be playing in January meet Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, so the two close friends in charge of them will spend the winter searching for answers.
Whether Vance Joseph meant to or not, on Wednesday he gave his buddy Adam Gase a map for the path forward.
“If you just stay with the process, you have good coaches, you have a good scheme, you have good players and you stay with the process, it will turn,” Joseph told Miami reporters Sunday. “What you don’t want to do is panic and start questioning the process, start questioning the process, start questioning what you’re doing from a football standpoint, start questioning your players. You don’t want to do that.”
Now, a cynic will say, “What does Vance Joseph know?” His Broncos have lost seven straight games and his job as Denver’s coach might be in jeopardy after just one season.
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But Joseph’s philosophy works. Last year’s 10-6 Dolphins season proves that, when Joseph was Miami’s defensive coordinator and Gase was his boss.
Both Gase and Joseph are trying to capture that magic again, if not this season, then next.
In the meantime, they will play a game Sunday that will be for little more than bragging rights.
When the schedule came out in April, Dolphins-Broncos — a showdown between Gase and his former defensive coordinator — seemed like a possible playoff elimination game.
In truth, it will be little more than three-hour way to determine who drafts before the other in April. The Dolphins are 4-7. The Broncos, in Joseph’s first year as coach, are a game worse.
Gase will be back in Miami in 2018. He is not going anywhere, even after this disappointing season.
But Joseph might not have such assurances. Teams rarely fire coaches after just one season, but nothing has been normal about the 2017 Broncos. They have lost seven games in a row. They have started three different quarterbacks — none of them good. And they are, by Broncos football czar John Elway’s own admission, “a soft team.”
If Joseph is out of work come January, he will not stay that way for long. Gase would probably be among the long list of NFL coaches willing to hire him in some capacity.
Or at the very least, Joseph could use him as a reference. Check out Gase’s endorsement from Wednesday:
“I think it was just that I had a lot of trust in him,” Gase said. “I had gone against him multiple times and always felt like he was a problem. He always knew … I felt like he always knew what we were doing. He just did a great job preparing his guys and they were always tough games, no matter who we had on offense, it just always seemed like it was a challenge. ... I knew last year I was going to have to hand it over to somebody that could take it and run with it, because I wasn’t going to have enough time, and he was somebody I trusted enough to do that.”
Here’s another reason Sunday at Hard Rock will have the feel of a family reunion: Gase spent six seasons in Denver, including two as Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator.
Gase probably owes his job in Miami to the job he and Manning did in 2013, when the Broncos broke more than a dozen NFL records, including points scored, touchdowns, games of 50 or more points and passing touchdowns by one player.
But Gase said he learned even more a few years earlier, when he was a position coach under Josh McDaniels, who lasted just two tumultuous seasons as Denver’s head coach.
“Going through that whole experience was probably good for me, becoming a head coach and kind of seeing how things changed — the good and the bad,” Gase said. “I know offensively, I learned probably the majority of the things that I lean on, from him. ... I just saw a lot of pieces get moved around and was exposed to a lot of really good coaches.”
Are Gase and Joseph really good coaches having really bad years? Check back in a couple years. For now, they are just worried about winning a game.