ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph has plenty of things on his to-do list in the months to come, that’s just part of the job.
Among the items Joseph has to wrestle with is one of the quirkier situations in the league, in that he retained his job but will oversee a staff that will have eight new assistants. That total will include a new strength and conditioning coach in Loren Landow, who has long worked with a variety of high-profile athletes in the Denver area, including Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin, Peyton Manning, Christian McCaffrey and a long list of current and former Broncos. Landow is expected to be formally announced in his new job when he completes his pre-draft work with a group of this year's prospects.
When Luke Richesson, who had been the Broncos' strength and conditioning coach since 2012, took the same position with the Houston Texans earlier this month, it marked the eighth change on Joseph's staff since offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fired in November.
Joseph also fired six assistant coaches at season’s end. With Landow’s agreement, just one spot on the staff remains open -- an assistant to work with the pass-rushers at defensive end and linebacker.
Joseph said at the Senior Bowl last month he expected “to take my time with that one.’’ But it’s all an inordinate amount of change on a coaching staff without a change at the top and it will be part of Joseph’s challenge as the Broncos work through the pre-draft process and into the offseason program.
Joseph, on multiple occasions, has said his handling of his own coaching staff was one of the most significant issues he faced in his first year on the job as the Broncos struggled in a 5-11 season. That was led by a long list of difficulties on offense as the Broncos started three different quarterbacks and Joseph fired McCoy with six games remaining in the season.
Shortly after the season had ended, Joseph explained it this way: “As a first-time head coach, I can say this: Early on in the season, I didn’t do a good job of pushing our coaches to make the proper changes that I thought could have helped us. I allowed guys to coach -- that was my goal -- but I wasn’t very good at coaching the coaches. I’ll get better at that. That was one of my shortcomings.’’
It was a theme Joseph repeated at the Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Alabama, as Landow's addition means Joseph has made major changes on offensive, defensive and special-teams staffs as well as the strength and conditioning staff.
McCoy had been Joseph’s first hire and was in the first year of a three-year contract. Following the season, two of the Broncos’ longest tenured assistant coaches -- Eric Studesville and Tyke Tolbert -- were among the six assistants who were let go. Studesville had worked for Josh McDaniels, John Fox, Gary Kubiak and Joseph in his time with the team.
It’s all part of the task that awaits Joseph when the players return to work later in the offseason. Some players were vocal about their disappointment at some of the assistant coaches’ departures and the Broncos' woes on offense essentially took three quarterbacks -- as well as the season -- down with them.
Joseph has used the word “culture’’ to describe what he’s looking for, while some of the Broncos' more experienced players have privately said they simply want to do what the team does best on both sides of the ball.
Even the team’s accomplished defense did not escape struggles last season. Just four teams surrendered more touchdown passes than the Broncos’ 29, with 18 of those coming during the team’s eight-game losing streak. Joseph and first-year defensive coordinator Joe Woods had tweaked some of the coverages the team was using. And while the Broncos' defense was consistently put in difficult situations because of the team’s turnover troubles on offense and special teams, there were times when those changes in the defense showed up in mistakes made in the red zone.
Both Joseph and president of football operations/general manager John Elway have repeatedly spoken of the need to better fit the team’s personnel into what is in the game plans each week, and to do that they will have to manage the changes they have made.