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Latest double-digit loss could mean one-and-done for Vance Joseph

Denver Broncos v Washington Redskins

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 24: Head coach Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos looks on against the Washington Redskins in the second half at FedExField on December 24, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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Entering Week 16, several coaches would have their fate influenced in large part by whether and to what extent they succeed, or fail, in the final two games of the season. One of those men is first-year Broncos head coach Vance Joseph.

Eight straight losses had created a sense that Joseph would join a not-so-short list of coaches whose tenures last only 16 games. Two straight wins had created an opening for Joseph a potentially earn a second year by finishing with four victories in a row.

Then came Sunday’s 27-11 loss to Washington, the eighth double-digit loss of the season for the Broncos. G.M. John Elway has noticed the lack of competitiveness in too many of the games, and he surely noticed it again on Sunday.

If he didn’t, quarterback Brock Osweiler underscored it, via post-game venting that dovetailed with his yelling-at-no-one-in-particular during the game.

“This is the ultimate team sport,” Osweiler told reporters after Sunday’s game. “That’s the beauty of football. It takes all 11 guys to be doing their job on one specific play. It takes a playcaller to put you in position to be successful in that given play, and if all 12 of those people -- the [offensive] coordinator and the 11 guys on the field -- aren’t gelling, then it’s going to be a tough day at the office. . . .

“Now, playing in enough games and watching enough games this season, it boils down to what I just said. In order to have success as an offense in this league, you need to have a playcaller putting the players in positions to have success and then the 11 guys on the field need to make the playcaller right and all 11 guys need to do their job. Unfortunately, all 11 guys haven’t done their job this year.”

Obviously, there’s another person beyond the 11 guys on the field and the playcaller. The head coach has a significant role as well, and it’s on the coach to ensure that everyone competes, and is prepared to compete, at the appropriate level.

And here’s the thing that Denver avoided by four points on Sunday, but that they didn’t avoid four times this season: Losing by 20 or more points. Yes, the Broncos have lost four games this year by a blowout margin. The woeful Browns, in contrast, have lost only one game by 20 or more points.

Add it all up, and at a minimum next week’s regular-season finale against the Chiefs requires the Broncos to at least be mildly competitive. Even then, it may not matter; after seeing the crowd or lack thereof at the stadium named for a defunct company on New Year’s Eve, Elway’s New Year’s resolution may be to pull the plug on the coaching staff and try again.