ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — At some point, the Broncos have to stop blaming the head coach.
"The record may not be reflective of where we’re at but one thing about Vic Fangio, he’s the best coach I’ve ever been around," general manager George Paton said at the Broncos’ press conference Sunday via Zoom. "He left this place a lot better off than when he arrived."
And yet Fangio became the fourth Broncos head coach to be relieved of his duties, either through forced termination or accepted resignation, in the past eight seasons.
"It’s not just the coaching," Paton said. "Everyone wants to blame the coaching. We’ve had five head coaches here in nine years. So something’s not working. We all need to be better across the board."
It has been suggested by the guy wiping the counters at the local diner to the person bellying up at his favorite sports bar that the Broncos will not fix this slump that is now six years old until the team gets an owner. Even Denver mayor Michael Hancock weighed in last week saying the Broncos needed to get their ownership situation resolved with so many decisions looming this offseason.
"The mayor is one of many unsatisfied customers and a disgruntled former employee," Broncos CEO Joe Ellis said in reference to Hancock serving as the Broncos’ mascot, “Huddles,” 35 years ago. "So he’s entitled to share his opinion like everybody else in Broncos Country.
"He’s not all wrong. Just like people weigh in on his city, people are weighing in on our team. I understand the frustration levels and when it comes to ownership. We do need to resolve that, and it will get resolved. I need to lay out for you all a clearer timeline and lay out for Broncos Country a clearer timeline and understanding of what it all entails. I think I will be able to do that at some point here in the near future."
Ellis has been the Broncos’ controlling owner delegee officially since 2014 when the team and Pat Bowlen’s family revealed the team’s owner since 1984 had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Bowlen had actually stepped away from day-to-day duties prior to the 2011 season so Ellis has been in unofficial command for the past 11 seasons. The first five – five consecutive AFC West Division titles, two Super Bowl titles and a world championship – went much better than the past six, which saw each of the Broncos’ seasons end before the playoffs began.
Ellis said in July he will begin the process of transferring controlling ownership either through sale, or to Pat Bowlen’s daughter Brittany, shortly after the 2021 season concludes. A date reached Saturday evening after the Broncos fell to the Kansas City Chiefs for the 13th consecutive time, a streak that is more than 6 years old.
Holding up the ownership transition process is the right of first refusal case the Broncos and three trustees of the Pat Bowlen Trust – Ellis, team general counsel Rich Slivka and personal attorney Mark Kelly – have brought against the estate of Edgar Kaiser Jr. The civil trial was heard by Denver District Judge Shelly Gilman in October. Judge Gilman is expected to rule on the case in the next week or three.
Until the Judge makes her ruling, Ellis said he would not discuss the impending ownership transfer out of respect to the court. But he could talk about the team’s elongated spiral in which the fans have expressed their discontent by not showing up. Before the pandemic, the Broncos had 12,073 no-shows for their final game of 2018, Vance Joseph’s final game as head coach. They had an alarming 19,094 no-shows for Drew Lock’s first NFL start in a December 2019 game against the Chargers.
After the virus essentially shut out nearly all fans in 2020, a disturbing percentage of the Broncos faithful stopped attending games this season. It started on a Halloween Sunday afternoon against Washington when 11,755 paid customers didn’t show. In the final six home games at Empower Field at Mile High, the Broncos averaged 10,188 no-shows with nearly 15,000 failing to be drawn by superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes II on Saturday.
The Broncos lost to the Chiefs, 28-24 in what was a microcosm of so many defeats during the Fangio era – hard-fought but failing to finish in the fourth quarter and dropping a game that could have been won.
"Frustration levels have reached an all-time high for everyone," Ellis said. "And I’m not just talking about me. I’m talking about the fans. It sort of becomes systemic here. What’s been happening is we can’t figure out ways to win games. And that’s got to change.
"We’re going to have to come in with a fresh start with a new coach. George in tandem with him is going to have to raise the expectations and energy level and the inspiration so that our fans will get inspired by the team."
Ellis was just heating up.
"I’m one of hundreds of thousands or millions of citizens in Broncos Country that is just tired of it," Ellis said. "I don’t want to stand up here – I won’t stand up here next year – but I’ve been standing up here for three or four or five years, whatever’s it’s been, and saying the same thing to you guys. It’s got to stop.
"Someone else will stand up here next year and it will be a positive spin and a positive attitude and I just believe this team is getting closer. … Got to figure out how to win. Not figure out how to lose. Figure out how to win. We can do it. We put the pieces in place for this organization to do it."
Broncos podcast: Klis' Mike Drop
Denver Broncos headlines, game previews and interviews with our 9NEWS insider Mike Klis.
HOW TO LISTEN
> Top stories curated daily just for you! Sign up for the 9NEWSLETTER to get can’t-miss stories, Next and Broncos content, weather and more delivered right to your inbox.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Sports
MORE WAYS TO GET 9NEWS
Subscribe to our daily 9NEWSLETTER
HOW TO ADD THE 9NEWS APP TO YOUR STREAMING DEVICE
ROKU: add the channel from the ROKU store or by searching for KUSA.
For both Apple TV and Fire TV, search for "9news" to find the free app to add to your account. Another option for Fire TV is to have the app delivered directly to your Fire TV through Amazon.