ENGLEWOOD – John Harbaugh was gone, and he wasn’t coming back.
After three consecutive losses dropped his Baltimore Ravens to 4-5, Harbaugh and his team of 11 years were going to part ways at season’s end, at least according to a few reports and widespread speculation during the team’s bye week.
Look at him now. Coming off that bye, the Ravens have won three in a row and control their own destiny to gain an AFC playoff spot.
Then there was Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. He was toast.
After the Cowboys came off their bye week losing to the Tennessee Titans, speculation was rampant that owner Jerry Jones would finally dismiss Garrett after his ninth season. The Cowboys were 3-5 and had a difficult third quarter of opponents ahead – at the Eagles and at the Falcons, home against Washington and the Saints.
Look at him now. The Cowboys won all four and are now leading the NFC East with a 7-5 record.
The question with Vance Joseph’s job security seemingly wasn’t “if” but “when.” The Broncos were 3-6 and there were time management issues at the end of each half in a down-to-the-gun loss to the Houston Texans.
Coming off a 5-11 record in his first season as the Broncos’ head coach in 2017, Joseph seemed to be a loss away from termination.
“This team never gave up on him,’’ said Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe. “We kept fighting, kept pushing. And now it’s all starting to fall our way.’’
Look at Joseph now. Since the bye week there have been three straight Broncos wins against the Chargers, Steelers and Bengals. The Chargers and Steelers each brought in six-game winning streaks and were heavy favorites against the Broncos.
“You know what? As a player, as a coaching staff, you can’t listen to the outside noise,’’ said Broncos’ left guard Billy Turner. “No offense, but you guys don’t really know what’s going on inside of our facility. You guys don’t know our mindset. The only thing that people on the outside looking in know is whether we won or lost.
“We’re the only ones that know what’s going on within the huddle, within the team, within the facility. Our mindsets haven’t changed all year. It was to get better every week, correct our mistakes and if someone gets hurt, it’s next man up. From a coach’s perspective and a player’s perspective we just have to get better.’’
The Broncos keep winning even though they have lost prominent starters to injury like Matt Paradis, Jeff Heuerman and Chris Harris Jr., and after they traded away franchise receiver Demaryius Thomas.
There wasn’t a let’s-save-the-coach rally within the locker room. This isn’t college. This was simply a group of professionals coming to work, doing their job and suddenly good things started happening.
“We love our coach and we want to protect his job and everything, but if we start focusing on just his job then we lose sight of the whole picture,’’ said Broncos defensive lineman Shelby Harris, who has had back-to-back monster games after not recording a sack through the first 10 games. “We just go out there and play hard because it’s not just his job that’s at stake, it’s everyone’s job. You’re playing for your job every week in this league. We had a lot to prove and we still have a lot to prove.’’