ENGLEWOOD – A runner-up two years ago, Vance Joseph is John Elway’s pick this time around.
“It’s official. Excited to announce Vance Joseph as head coach of the Denver Broncos!” Elway tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
The 44-year-old ex-Colorado quarterback built a reputation as one of the league’s best secondary coaches as he worked his way through the ranks in San Francisco, Houston and Cincinnati before serving as Dolphins defensive coordinator last season and helping Miami end an eight-year playoff drought.
“Becoming head coach of the Denver Broncos is a dream job for many reasons,” Joseph said in a statement. “The Broncos have an unbelievable winning tradition and great fan support. But what makes this even more special is it’s a place that’s ready to win.
“This is not a rebuilding situation – it’s a reboot. There is a culture of winning here, and the standards around here won’t change. Those are to win championships.”
Joseph, who will be formally introduced as the team’s 16th head coach today, impressed Elway in 2015 when Gary Kubiak got the job and the Broncos even tried to hire him as their defensive coordinator, a move the Bengals blocked. So, he stayed in Cincinnati for another year as secondary coach before joining Adam Gase’s staff in Miami.
Kubiak, 55, stepped down over health concerns last week, capping a tumultuous season by the Broncos (9-7), who missed the playoffs a year after winning the Super Bowl. Elway also interviewed Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub and Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan over the weekend. Joseph flew to Denver on Tuesday following Miami’s wild-card loss at Pittsburgh.
Joseph also had interviews lined up with the Chargers on Wednesday, the 49ers on Thursday and the Rams on Friday. But he canceled his California trip after his meeting with Elway, which was followed by dinner at Elway’s signature steakhouse.
He returned to Broncos headquarters Wednesday morning to negotiate a four-year contract.
Although the Dolphins ranked ahead of only the Colts, Browns and 49ers in yards allowed in 2016, Joseph took his takeaway touch to Miami, where the Dolphins doubled their forced fumbles from 2015 and Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake enjoyed resurgent seasons.
“He took so much off my plate I never had to worry about anything with the defense,” Gase said. “He really did a great job with all those guys in that room. He did a great job at directing those guys and he made my life a lot easier than probably what it could have been. There was a big trust factor there with me.”
Gase lauded Joseph’s management style in saying he’s ready to run his own team.
“He brings a leadership quality that you really love about him. He has such a great personality and such a strong personality,” Gase said. “He has that ... alpha-type personality where he demands a lot from players and they give him everything they have.”
Denver was widely considered the most desirable of the half-dozen head coach openings because of its talented roster, championship culture, front-office acumen, long-admired ownership and fervent fan base.
Joseph also steps into a pressure cooker that chased away both Kubiak and his predecessor, John Fox, who bolted for the Bears’ rebuilding job after going 49-22 with four AFC West titles and a Super Bowl appearance in his four seasons in Denver.
Kubiak was 24-11 when he stepped down Jan. 2, saying the 100-hour work weeks were no longer a good fit.
“This is a great place to work, but the expectations are high,” Elway said last week, noting that standard was set decades ago by owner Pat Bowlen. “Everybody that comes here, whether it’s a coach or a player, understands that the standard is to be able to compete for world championships. Does it add a little bit more? Sure it does. I think if you’re good at what you do, I think you want that challenge.”
When Elway tweeted Tuesday afternoon that his meeting with Joseph went well, it appeared Joseph might leave town without a contract offer. Yet, Elway didn’t let him get away 24 months after Joseph was Elway’s second choice.
Joseph inherits an elite defense that features All-Pros Von Miller, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., and he’ll need an experienced hand coordinating the offense, which sputtered for two seasons under coordinator Rick Dennison.
Joseph steps right into the middle of a QB competition between Trevor Siemian, who was pin-balled behind a leaky O-line, and first-rounder Paxton Lynch, who looked lost in his two starts.
Denver’s defense ranked fourth in the NFL in 2016, its offense 27th.
That divide led to fissures in the locker room, with members of the team’s stellar secondary jawing with the offensive linemen for failing to protect the young QBs or open holes for a backfield that sorely missed C.J. Anderson after he went on IR in October with a knee injury.
Harris told The Associated Press he spent the day talking to friends around the league who have played for Joseph such as Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye and former teammate Antonio Smith, “and they said he’s a great coach and will be a great leader for us in Denver. And that’s what you need, first and foremost in a head coach, a guy that can take command of the room and get everyone to follow him.”