The Denver Broncos have found their successor to Gary Kubiak in the University of Colorado alumnus Vance Joseph. Joseph, the first black head coach in Broncos history, is a first-time head coach and the 16th overall for the franchise.
He was the defensive coordinator for a 2016-2017 Miami Dolphins team that finished the regular season ranked 29th in total defense. He takes over a Broncos team that won Super Bowl 50 but failed to reach the postseason in the 2016-2017 year after finishing the season 9-7. Joseph was the last of three candidates interviewed by the Broncos for the vacancy. Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan were also considered, but ultimately passed over in favor of the 44-year-old Joseph. Joseph attended CU from 1991-1995 but rarely saw game action. He was recruited as a quarterback and spent the majority of his career backing up Buffaloes great and eventual NFL quarterback Kordell Stewart.
He sometimes doubled as a running back, but never exceeded more than 139 yards in a season.Joseph transitioned to the cornerback position when he played in the NFL, spending one season with the Jets in New York and one in Indianapolis with the Colts. He had two interceptions in his two year NFL playing career. After his playing days were over, Joseph returned to Boulder and began his pursuit of a coaching career by becoming a graduate assistant for the Buffs. He stayed in that position for two years until he took the defensive backs coach job at the University of Wyoming. He continued on in the same position at two more schools: CU and Bowling Green University. The NFL was his next stop. After one season as the assistant defensive backs coach, Joseph was promoted to defensive backs coach for the San Francisco 49ers in 2006. He then proceeded to take a secondary that was ranked dead-last in passing yards allowed per game and improved his unit to 20th in two years. It was a similar story when Joseph took the same position in Houston under a familiar face: Kubiak.
In the year before Joseph arrived in Houston, the Texans ranked dead last in passing yards per game. The next year he brought the Texans secondary from worst to first in the league. After a brief stint in Cincinnati, Joseph’s track record of success eventually led him to the sunshine of Miami to become the defensive coordinator of the Dolphins. In the 2015-2016 year before his arrival, the Dolphins defense ranked 25th in total defense and allowed 24.3 points per game. However, the defense did not see marked improvement under Joseph. They ended the 2016-2017 regular season ranked 29th in total defense and surrendering 23.8 points per game. Despite the regression, many people across the NFL believe that the decision was a great one by General Manager John Elway. Kubiak is among the plaudits.
The Denver Post compiled various reactions from across the league.
“Vance has been in preparation for this opportunity for many years,” Kubiak said. “He is a leader of men who gets the most out of his players. V.J. is demanding, yet passionate in his relationships with them. He is a tremendous addition to the Bronco family.”
Marvin Lewis, Joseph’s former boss in Cincinnati, believes that Joseph’s thorough research and willingness to share his opinion will serve him well in his new post.
“When you sit in staff meetings and in game plan meetings and his ability to interject and have an opinion on things — a well thought-of and researched opinion — I think there’s no question in my mind that he has the ability to lead the room and lead men and get them pointed in the right direction and take those steps to be a head coach,” Lewis said.
However, not everyone is thrilled by the hire. Prominent Denver sports journalist and ESPN contributor Woody Paige has a different view. Before Joseph was hired, Paige shared his opinion on the then-candidate in The Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs.
“You want truth? Vance Joseph has been a defensive coordinator for one season, and the awful Dolphins of 2015 allowed fewer yards to offenses than the 2016 Dolphins,” Paige said. “Sure, the Dolphins had injuries this season, but the Broncos’ defense also did (Vance Walker, Brandon Marshall, Derek Wolfe, T.J. Ward, DeMarcus Ware). Yet, Wade Phillips’ defense was third in yards allowed and ranked No. 1 in the NFL overall by Football Outsiders, fourth by Oddsshark and in the top five in every respected rating.”
As for Elway’s reasoning behind the hire, he agrees with Kubiak’s assessment that Joseph gets the most out of his players.
“Vance is a very good football coach and teacher who is ready for this opportunity,” Elway said. “His leadership qualities, his vision for building a championship team and his ability to get the most out of players are off the charts. In talking with Vance, the culture that he believes in and the culture of our organization are closely aligned and focused on one thing: Winning. He understands the high expectations this franchise has always had under Pat Bowlen, and he embraces them.”
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Joseph’s contract is for four years. He has already begun to rebuild a staff that has lost their defensive, offensive and special teams coordinators. On Jan. 13, the Broncos hired former San Diego Chargers head coach and previous Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to the offensive coordinator, and hired Bill Musgrave, who was also a candidate for their offensive coordinator position, as their quarterbacks coach.
The Broncos are still looking to replace former defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who took the same position with the Los Angeles Rams, and former special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, who took the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars.