Chris Harris: Making the playoffs at 3-6 ‘It’s very hard to do.’

Chris Harris. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports.
Chris Harris. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports.

The Denver Broncos aren’t going to the playoffs. At least, it’s going to be very, very difficult for that to be accomplished at this point.

Denver — who had a chance to win, but Brandon McManus missed the 51-yard, game-winning field goal as time ran out — fell to 3-6 on the season, losing their fourth straight game. And, with that loss, the ability of being able to make the playoffs this season has gotten further and further away from reality along the way.

“It’s a huge difference,” Chris Harris said of being 3-6 rather than 4-5. “You’re right there in the wild card race, you have a chance to get back in it. Now, it’s very hard. I don’t know how many teams or what the percentage is of teams making the playoffs. It’s very hard to do.”

Here’s the percentage: It’s low. Only four teams have started 3-6 and made the playoffs since 1990, according to ESPN in 2016. No teams started 3-6 the last two years and made the playoffs either. So, four teams out of 216 teams have made the postseason over the last 18 years, which means 1.85 percent.

That’s not good.

The Broncos have never struggled through two straight losing seasons since 1971-72, meaning they haven’t done during the Pat Bowlen Era, which started in 1984.

Simply, the Broncos don’t just lose multiple years in a row. During Bowlen’s era, Denver did go through seven 8-8 seasons, but they’ve only missed the playoffs more than two straight seasons once. That came from 2006-2010, which meant the end of the Mike Shanahan Era as head coach, and it also began and ended Josh McDaniels’ Era as well.

Denver would have to go 5-2 to finish 8-8 at this point, and that likely wouldn’t mean making the playoffs. While the odds of doing that are slim, the Broncos would have to almost certainly finish even better than that to make the playoffs.

The bottom line is: This team will miss the playoffs for the third straight season at the end of the year almost certainly, and that could end up costing Vance Joseph his job as the Broncos head coach.

This will be Joseph’s second straight season without a postseason appearance; will he make it to the end of the year?

Today’s loss wasn’t necessarily on Joseph. The coaching was mostly solid — outside of the 62-yard field goal attempt and miss which set up Houston with great field position and hooked them up with a last-second field goal before the half — in this game. He saved two timeouts for the offense, helping them move down the field and set up the should-be, game-winning field goal, which was missed.

But, Joseph’s team has been consistently underprepared over the last two years. In Week 3, they committed 13 penalties, including a 12-men in the huddle call. And they had 10 against the Chiefs a few weeks ago; on the season, they’re 20th in the NFL with 7.0 penalties per game on average.

Joseph’s also been critiqued for being a poor game-manager, playing the wrong players at times, and his assistants have left much to be desired as well.

This week, the Broncos are on the bye. It’s possible, if they decide to move on from Joseph, that will happen this week. Or, he could stay on for a few more weeks and be let go, or last the entire rest of the season, and be fired. Of course, Joseph could be held on the staff to coach in 2019, too, but that seems less likely than the Broncos making the playoffs at this point.

For now, we know the Broncos are almost certainly missing the playoffs for the third straight year. For Denver die-hards, that’s a tough pill to swallow.