The return of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to the Denver Broncos ahead of the 2017 season was supposed to solve their woes on offense. In many ways, says AP reporter Arnie Stapleton, McCoy made them worse. Stapleton suggests that in part it was because McCoy failed to play to his team’s strength, perhaps because he was angling for his next head-coaching gig.

Stapleton joined Gil Whiteley and Mark Jackson on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 to preview the Broncos-Colts “Thursday Night Football” matchup, but he spent significant time explaining why the Denver offense was so much more productive in the third week with Bill Musgrave steering the offense.

“I think they could have gone 4-4 during the 0-8 losing streak if they would have just done what they did last week [against the Jets], which was condense the three wide receiver sets, go heavy with the tight ends, protect the tackles, protect the quarterback. Everything that they did last week is what Mike McCoy should have been doing eight weeks ago and what Bill Musgrave should have been doing three weeks ago,” Stapleton said.

Despite stubbing their toe against the Raiders and Dolphins in the first two games with Musgrave as McCoy’s replacement at offensive coordinator, the Denver offense took big steps forward in a 23-0 victory over the Jets.

Stapleton suggests that McCoy’s insistence on a pass-heavy offense that caused Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler to struggle mightily could have been partly caused by McCoy trying to both prove wrong his former employer, the Chargers, and to show that he still has the makeup of a head coach in what remains a league dominated by passing offenses.

“For any guy wanting to get back into the head-coaching ranks and prove to the owner that he was wrong, you go to a team and you want to throw the ball — you just do,” Stapleton said. “The thing this team does best is run the ball. He wasn’t going to get another [head coaching] job offer handing the ball off to C.J. [Anderson] and to Jamaal Charles and Devantae Booker … You’re not going to build a resume by running the ball. Mike is just like anyone else, so he’s going to throw the ball, and what this team does best was run.”

It was more of the same in Paxton Lynch‘s only start of the season, at Oakland, with Musgrave at the helm and then again in Miami with Siemian back at starter after Lynch went down with an injury against the Raiders.

“They got away from the run. And what they did worst was spread it out three-wide, and that’s when all three quarterbacks got killed,” Stapleton said.

Musgrave went back to leaning on the run against the Jets, and the results proved to be far more successful.

McCoy was praised in Denver and welcomed back with open arms after being fired as head coach of the Chargers because of the work he did re-engineering the Broncos’ offense to suit Tim Tebow in 2011 and then again in 2012 and beyond with Peyton Manning.

But, after seeing McCoy in action for a second time as Denver’s offensive coordinator, Stapleton can now look back on McCoy’s first tenure with the Broncos and see why things went sideways during some very promising seasons.

“I still think he was the architect of ‘take a knee’ in the playoff game (2012 vs. Baltimore) when they had 31 seconds and Rahim Moore screwed up,” Stapleton said. “And [the blame] all went on John Fox, but I think it was Mike McCoy that said, ‘Let’s take a knee; let’s get to overtime,’ and then they blew it.”

Forcing a pass-first offense on a team built to run ultimately blew McCoy’s second stint in Denver, and now looks like one of the main culprits in blowing a season that could have seen the Broncos still in the hunt in the suddenly wide-open AFC West.

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