Welcome back. Broncos hire Vance Joseph as defensive coordinator

Joseph served as Broncos head coach for two years from 2017-2018
Cardinals Rams Football
Posted at 10:29 AM, Feb 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-23 17:58:08-05

DENVER — The idea of returning to Denver never bothered Vance Joseph. When the former Broncos head coach interviewed for the team's defensive coordinator position on Feb. 17, he left hopeful he would receive an opportunity to come back.

After a two-day interview with the Eagles this week, Joseph felt like he was in good position for either job. Thursday, he found his landing spot, boomeranging back to Denver five years after he was let go.

"I am very excited," Joseph told Denver7.

Joseph emerged as the slight frontrunner on Wednesday as industry sources told Denver7 that they believed Joseph would get an offer, and that former Lions coach Matt Patricia would join his staff as the linebackers coach. One thing unfolded Thursday. Will the second? Joseph, Rex Ryan and Patricia all attracted coach Sean Payton's interest. All are former head coaches.

Payton has been deliberate in filling out his staff, and stealth. However, he allowed on Twitter on Wednesday night that he has filled 16 of 21 spots. Joseph would apparently make 17.

Joseph rejuvenated his career as the Arizona Cardinals defensive boss and was released from his contract to interview with Denver when Jonathan Gannon was hired as head coach. Joseph will become the second former Broncos head coach to return as the defensive coordinator, joining Wade Phillips. Phillips helped lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl 50 title.

Denver boasts a decent defense. The Broncos ranked 14th in points allowed (21.1) and seventh in yards per allowed per game (320.0) last season.

Joseph, a former University of Colorado quarterback and NFL defensive back, was set up to fail in Denver as a head coach in many ways. He was not given final say on his coaching staff and equipped with an aging roster and a battery of failed draft picks. However, his inexperience also showed in personnel decisions, replay challenges and the team's collapse in his final season — a four-game skid after the team crawled back into playoff contention with a 6-6 record. He finished with an 11-21 record before Vic Fangio replaced him.

In four years in Arizona, Joseph's defense experienced severe highs and lows. In 2021, the Cardinals reached the playoffs and Joseph's group tied for 10th in points allowed with 366. Last season, Arizona bottomed out after quarterback Kyler Murray tore his ACL, leading to the firing of the general manager and head coach. Arizona's defense was gashed for 449 points, ahead of only the Chicago Bears (463).

There are very few players remaining from Joseph's previous stint in Denver. The list includes star safety Justin Simmons, standout inside linebacker Josey Jewell and kicker Brandon McManus. Joseph's defenses played well in Denver, but his run was sabotaged by an underwhelming offense that featured a carousel of quarterbacks.

The Broncos defense is led by All-Pro cornerback Pat Surtain II.

"I can't wait to work with him," Surtain told Denver7.

Leading up to Arizona's loss to Denver last season, Joseph did not harbor a grudge with Denver, and that played out on Thursday.

“I’m over it. It was never a sore spot. That’s a great opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. It didn’t work out, but I wasn’t the first guy and I won’t be the last. There were never any ill feelings. It was just a job. It didn’t get done and you move on," Joseph said.

News of Payton's staff continues trickle out. Joe Lombardi, who has worked for Payton on multiple occasions, is expected to join the Broncos as an offensive staff member, possibly as the offensive coordinator. Payton will run the offense and call the plays. ....

Davis Webb, who spent the past two seasons with the Bills and Giants, has been hired as Broncos QB coach, source confirms. The Bills offered him a coaching job after 2021 season, but he signed with #Giants. He is 28 and a former third-round draft pick out of Cal in 2017. ...

The Broncos are also expected to hire Florida’s Keary Colbert as wide receivers coach. Colbert played briefly for the Broncos in 2008, and his last coaching positions were with Alabama, USC and Florida.