Vance Joseph is the new head coach of the Denver Broncos — here are 7 facts you should know about him
Get to know Denver’s first black head coach
The search is over and the choice is made. Vance Joseph was announced as the new head coach of the Denver Broncos on Wednesday, making him the 16th head coach in the franchise’s history.
Joseph’s hire puts him in a category with a very small, but very important, fraternity of black coaches in the NFL. He is the Broncos’ first full-time African-American head coach (Eric Studesville took over for the final four games of the 2010 season after Josh McDaniels was fired) and the sixth black active head coach — Todd Bowles ( New York Jets), Jim Caldwell (Detroit Lions), Hue Jackson (Cleveland Browns), Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals) and Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers). Joseph’s appointment means blacks now account for 20 percent of the league’s head coaches.
Overall, the hire makes Joseph just the 18th black head coach in NFL history. Last July, Dennis Green, the second African-American head coach in the NFL, died of cardiac arrest. At the time of his death, The Undefeated’s senior NFL writer Jason Reid wrote about the intense pressure Green felt to succeed so that the door would open just a little wider for future generations of black men hoping to ascend to an NFL head coaching position.
If Green failed, it would be harder for other African-Americans to ascend to the highest positions in coaching. No matter how you measure it, he got the job done.
In the 1990s, only five coaches had more wins than Green’s 81 victories. Among Vikings head coaches, Green is second only to Hall of Famer Bud Grant with 159 games coached, 97 wins and a .610 winning percentage. During his 10 seasons with the Vikings, they had eight playoff appearances.
After two years of playing in the NFL for the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts, Joseph made his bones coaching in the collegiate game for five years. He started his career at the University of Colorado, his alma mater, before making pit stops at the University of Wyoming, back to Boulder, Colorado, and finishing at Bowling Green State University. In that time, Joseph worked as a grad assistant, secondary and defensive backs coach, and then made the jump to the NFL in 2005.
He spent his first six years coaching with the San Francisco 49ers, the next three with the Houston Texans, two with the Cincinnati Bengals and last season with the Miami Dolphins.
In Cincinnati, his defensive backs intercepted an NFL-best 41 passes from 2014 to 2015. As the Texans’ defensive backs coach for his first two years in Houston, Joseph and his unit held teams to a league-low 52.5 completion percentage and ranked third in passing yards allowed per game (207.7). Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph also blossomed under the coach, earning his first two Pro Bowls selections of his career.
Denver’s new head coach is inheriting a Broncos defensive unit with perennial Pro Bowlers Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward and outside linebacker and former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.
All that being said, who is Vance Joseph and what are some things one should know about his past? Below are seven nuggets about Denver’s new head coach:
1. This isn’t the first time the Broncos and Joseph have flirted with a possible union.
In January 2015, Denver’s front office and Joseph were in talks about him possibly filling the team’s head coaching vacancy when John Fox was relieved of his duties. When Gary Kubiak, who was the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens in 2014, became the top pick for head coach, the talks turned to Joseph becoming the team’s top choice for defensive coordinator.
The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t allow Joseph, who was the Bengals’ secondary coach at the time, to leave for the promotion.
“My path has been the right path,” Joseph told MiamiDolphins.com. “I’ve made it through every step. I went back to college as a graduate assistant and I worked my way up in small-college football to make it to major college and then the NFL. I didn’t miss any steps.
“You need to understand more than just what. You need to understand why. The path I have traveled here has helped me to accomplish that.”
2. He is replacing his former employer.
Joseph replaces his former boss Kubiak, who resigned from the Broncos head coaching position over health concerns after the team’s 9-7 finish this season. Kubiak brought Joseph to the Houston Texans for three years when Kubiak was the head coach of his hometown team.
3. Joseph could work with the man who had the greatest impact on him as a coach.
“I would say Wade Phillips,” Joseph told MiamiDolphins.com. “Good, bad or indifferent, he was the same person every day. I never had a bad day with Wade. We won 13 games the first year in Houston, we won 12 games the second year and we won just two games the third year, and he was the same person. He never wavered. His philosophies never changed. His standards never changed. I have so much respect for that man.”
The pair worked together on Houston’s coaching staff from 2011 to 2013, when Phillips was the team’s defensive coordinator. Houston had the second-ranked defense in the league in 2011 and the following year had the seventh-best unit. Phillips, who was the defensive coordinator for the Broncos the past three seasons, is no longer under contract with Denver.
4. He wasn’t always a cornerback.
— Colorado Buffaloes (@cubuffs) January 11, 2017
“I was a quarterback in college and a defensive back in the NFL, and most people think I was a defensive back my entire life,” Joseph told MiamiDolphins.com. “I was a quarterback from 5 years old to my senior year at Colorado. In high school, I was a very, very good quarterback and in college I was pretty good. I was an option quarterback. I was Kordell Stewart’s backup for two seasons and I played behind Darian Hagan for two seasons, so I was a backup to two All-Americans.”
5. In his first NFL start, Joseph had to cover Hall of Famer Tim Brown, and it was not an undefeated experience.
In Joseph’s first career NFL start, wide receiver Tim Brown amassed 156 yards and two touchdowns. The memory still stands out, even though Joseph is now more than two decades removed from the game.
“What do I remember most [from that year]?” Joseph told MiamiDolphins.com. “That I wasn’t ready to play. I probably should have been on the practice squad for a whole year. But I was pushed into a starting role early on. And my first start was against Tim Brown. I got baptized pretty good. It was on TNT Sunday night football, so everyone saw it. That’s my memory about being an NFL corner with the Jets. Not good. I’m a better coach than I was a player, I must admit that.”
6. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Joseph leading his high school team to its lone state championship.
Joseph was a 14-year-old sophomore quarterback at Louisiana’s Archbishop Shaw High School in November 1987. That season, Joseph quarterbacked the team to an 8-2 regular season and avenged a 21-14 loss to West Jefferson High School in the regular season by beating West Jefferson, 17-0, in the playoffs. Joseph, who was a three-year starter for Archbishop Shaw, guided his team to a 14-6 victory over Covington High School in the title game to give the school its only championship.
7. Joseph also won a national title with the Colorado Buffaloes as a third-string quarterback.
Joseph backed up Darian Hagan during Colorado’s 1990 title run, when the Buffaloes defeated Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl for the school’s only national championship. Joseph played the 1990 and 1991 seasons before redshirting during the 1992 season and playing his final two seasons from 1993 to 1994. During his tenure, Joseph accumulated 454 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions on 34 of 61 passes. He also ran the ball for 237 yards and a touchdown on 50 carries.