You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Key decisions lie ahead for Broncos' Joseph

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 1/11/2017 by Lindsay H. Jones, USA TODAY Sports
Replay Video

Look past the Miami Dolphins’ overall defensive ranking (29th) this season, and don't mind their final game — a drubbing by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round — to see why Denver Broncos general manager John Elway picked Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to be his new head coach.

Instead, listen to what Elway said last week about the qualities he was seeking in his search for Gary Kubiak’s successor.

“So much of it is the relationship that goes on in that locker room, the relationship (players) have with the head coach, and the effort that’s put out there,” Elway, who tried to hire Joseph as defensive coordinator two years ago (a move blocked by the Cincinnati Bengals), said Jan. 2 as the search began.

“If you know how to motivate a football team and to be able to be on the same page with a football team, I think is as important.”

Elway wanted more in a head coach than someone who could scheme up an offense or a defense. He sought the best leader, a motivator and a manager. The Broncos also interviewed Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

The first moves Joseph makes will be critical as he hires his offensive and defensive coordinators. Denver's offense needs major fixing, starting with the line, and the new coordinator will also be tasked with developing first-round quarterback Paxton Lynch while running a competition for the starting job this offseason between Lynch and incumbent Trevor Siemian.

The defensive coordinator will inherit a highly talented group. Joseph has history with Wade Phillips, whose contract has expired, but could choose to promote one of Phillips’ top assistants, defensive backs coach Joe Woods, instead. Whatever choice Joseph makes, it will be important for him to maintain the strong culture on that side of the ball and manage a complex set of personalities. He has connections to many of Kubiak’s defensive assistants, most of whom remain under contract, from when Joseph worked on Kubiak’s Houston Texans staff. Maintaining continuity should be possible, even if Phillips does not return.

Joseph’s ascension might seem quick, with just one full year as a defensive coordinator on his resume. But it wasn’t surprising to those who have known him or decades, dating back to his time as a quarterback at the University of Colorado in the early 1990s. (He was a teammate of Matt Russell, who is Elway’s top personnel assistant).

“Vance Joseph gets it. There’s a reason people say he’s a players' coach. People respect him because he gets it,” former Colorado and NFL quarterback Kordell Stewart told USA TODAY Sports.

“For John Elway to give him a chance, it’s not because he’s a Colorado guy. It’s because he gets it. I get chills talking about it because I know him personally. I love the experience and opportunity he’s getting to extend his range as a coach. He’s a good man, a quality dude.”

***

Follow Lindsay H. Jones on Twitter @bylindsayhjones

PHOTOS: NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND Green Bay Packers fullback Aaron Ripkowski (22) celebrates with the Lambeau Leap after scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants in the fourth quarter in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Best of NFL wild-card weekend


AdChoices
AdChoices

More from USA Today Sports

USA TODAY SPORTS
USA TODAY SPORTS
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon