Up until Sunday, Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator Vance Joseph had been on Cloud Nine for the past two weeks.
First, his team secured a spot in the playoffs. Then, he was named as a candidate for multiple head coaching vacancies. Finally, he was reported to be the leading candidate to be the Denver Broncos next head coach.
Joseph’s run of good fortune ended abruptly, at least for the moment, when his Dolphins defense faced the three-headed monster of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and MVP candidate Le’Veon Bell.
On Sunday, in the wild card matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) and Dolphins (10-6), Joseph’s defense looked awful, falling 30-12 to officially eliminate Miami from postseason play. And it could have been even worse.
Not only did Pittsburgh’s offense move the ball freely on Miami’s defense, but it was also a record-setting day. Led by running back Bell, the Steelers got in the end zone on their first three possessions and put points on the board in five of their first six possessions in the game.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Miami was consistently able to slow down the Steelers offense, and by that time it seemed as if Pittsburgh had taken their foot off the pedal, putting multiple backup players in the game.
Pittsburgh’s offense finished the day with 367 total yards of offense and four touchdowns. All-Pro receiver Brown had 124 yards through the air and two touchdowns, while Bell added a franchise post-season record 167 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Now, after this terrible performance from Joseph’s defense, the question turns to will this change his candidacy status for the Broncos’ head coaching vacancy?
Early indications would suggest not at all. Just moments after the Miami loss, it became official that Joseph will interview in Denver for the vacancy early this week.
Although Sunday’s outing by Joseph’s squad was nothing short of terrible, it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. In the regular season, Joseph’s defense ranked 18th in the NFL in total yards allowed and 29th in scoring defense. Luckily for Joseph, coordinating the Miami Dolphins defense has just about nothing to do with being the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Remember, the Broncos are looking a leader of men, not a great coordinator. Sometimes those things go hand in hand, sometimes they don’t.
General manager John Elway’s, admiration for Joesph goes way beyond this season. In 2015, when Joseph was the defensive backs coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Denver wanted to hire him to be their defense coordinator. However, the Bengals made it very difficult for this to happen, so Denver moved on and eventually hired Wade Phillips.
Since then, Denver apparently hasn’t lost any admiration for the 44-year-old University of Colorado graduate.
As of Sunday evening, Denver had interviewed Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Both the Falcons and Chiefs play in the divisional round of the playoffs next weekend, and neither are allowed to accept a head coaching job until their team is officially eliminated from the playoffs.
With the Dolphins season now over, Joseph becomes the only official candidate that the Broncos have inquired about who could accept the job immediately, potentially giving him the upper-hand.
Of course, Sunday’s outing doesn’t help Joseph’s profile on paper, but Elway and the other Denver executives weren’t going to hire their next head coach based on one game. Now that he is the only candidate available right away, Sunday’s poor outing may have actually helped him land his first head coaching job of his career.