ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — He was the leader from the beginning, and when they finally brought him in, they didn't let him go.
Vance Joseph, who played his college ball just up the street at the University of Colorado, will be the 16th head coach of the Denver Broncos, filling the shoes of the recently retired Gary Kubiak, the team announced Wednesday afternoon. Joseph and the Broncos agreed to terms on a four-year deal after a 24-hour process that started with a interview at Dove Valley and progressed into a steak dinner at Elway's.
Joseph, who will leave his post as the defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins for the job upgrade in Denver, appeared to have the inside track on the opening from the start. It marks the third consecutive hire by executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway that was essentially over before it started.
Denver first made contact with Joseph two years ago during the search that yielded Gary Kubiak—the odds on favorite that time around. In that interview, though, Elway and Co. were impressed with the former Colorado teammate of front office member Matt Russell, and even attempted to bring him in for another interview to become Kubiak's defensive coordinator. Unfortunately for Denver at the time, the Cincinnati Bengals blocked them from the interview as Joseph was still under contract.
Things worked out for the Broncos as they eventually named Wade Phillips their defensive coordinator and went on to win a Super Bowl, and things also worked out for Joseph as he got his chance to be a DC this season in Miami. But when the Broncos were suddenly thrust into a coaching search this offseason, Joseph, two years older and more experienced, was back on the list.
Denver kicked the tires on a lifetime achievement guy in Dave Toub and were intrigued by offensive guru and Broncos legacy Kyle Shanahan, but in the end, they were looking for something very specific.
“You want somebody that is very smart and bright,” Elway said last week when asked what he wanted in his next head coach.“In today’s world, in dealing with players, it’s a different world than it used to be, I think there’s a lot to that as far as dealing with the different personalities and the kids today. Because everybody is so close, so much of it is the relationship that goes on in that locker room, the relationship they have with the head coach and the effort that’s put out there. To be able to motivate a football team, to be able to be on the same page with a football team is as important as anything. Obviously, you want a guy that can manage people and understands what he wants to do on the offensive side as well as the defensive side, but also can manage coaches and manage players, which I think is the biggest part of that job these days.”
Elway wanted a pure leader. He didn't need a guru or a genius, he wasn't concerned about numbers and rankings, he wanted a guy who could rally the troops, a guy who could connect with his guys and get the most out of the Broncos talented roster. That guy was Vance Joseph.
"I know that the guys in the league really love playing for him because he played and he knows how to relate to the players," said Matt McChesney, who played under Joseph during his time on Colorado's coaching staff. "He’s probably about as good as a player’s coach as you’re going to get, I know that he was at CU. You could go to Coach Joseph about anything that was going on in your life, and he was the type of coach that wouldn’t judge or point fingers or necessarily try to fix the situation, he’s just a guy that you could go talk to. I know that a lot of the players at Dove Valley now loved Kubiak because he was the same way, a guy that you could go unload to and talk to about your wife or football or all of this other BS... You’re getting one helluva defensive mind, a guy that can motivate just about anybody that winds up in front of him and if he can’t motivate them, he’ll find somebody that can.”
It's certainly not the sexiest hire, a longtime defensive backs coach and former college backup quarterback who didn't have much success in his first year as a coordinator, but it's the hire that most inspires John Elway and his team that they can get back to the promised land. That in itself should inspire similar confidence in the minds and hearts of Broncos Country.