During John Elway’s tenure as general manager of the Broncos, the team’s decisions may best be described as “minimizing risk.” From the initial hiring of John Fox to be “the adult in the room” following the Josh McDaniels disaster here in Denver to the focus on the known commodities in free agency over the unknown ones in the NFL draft to the latest hiring of Gary Kubiak and the long list of coaches that represent a certain comfort level for the Hall of Fame quarterback, nearly every move falls into that category.
It is for that reason, and that reason only, that I never understood the overwhelming interest that the Broncos have shown in Vance Joseph.
Don’t get me wrong; from all indications, Joseph sounds like a fine football coach, and perhaps even has the mind to be an elite coordinator. But one has to admit that Denver’s fawning over the former University of Colorado standout appears to fly in the face of not only everything that the team has accomplished so far in this brief offseason, but virtually every move they’ve made in the era of Elway in the front office. The fact is, Joseph has never done this job before.
Now that fact in and of itself does not preclude an NFL coach from any position in the league. Why, just a few years ago, we witnessed Tampa Bay defensive backs coach Raheem Morris promoted to head coach to fill the shoes of departing legend Jon Gruden. Furthermore, I have always found the notion amusing that a coach must always be replaced by someone more qualified (as if all the great coaches who have ever been born already and the sport will shrivel and die the second they all retire).
However, with this team, at this time, Elway has rightfully stocked the cupboard full of veteran coaches with as much experience as any team across the league. Why wouldn’t he? This is a team that’s built to compete for a Super Bowl immediately, so why muddy the waters with a bunch of coaches treading into deep water for the very first time?
Kubiak’s résumé, of course, needs no explanation, but virtually every assistant on this Broncos staff has at least five years of experience in the position they’ll be assuming with the team in 2015. In fact, Eric Studesville, Tyke Tolbert, Reggie Herring, Clancy Barone, Joe DeCamillis, Bill Kollar and Greg Knapp are all among Broncos coaches who have all coached at their current position or higher for at least a decade.
That’s a staggering list, yet it could be improved upon by hiring Wade Phillips, Mike Smith or Dick LeBeau. Hell, even Perry Fewell (orchestrator of the New York Giants’ 2011 Super Bowl-winning defense) would bring eight years of defensive coordinator experience to Denver.
Yet the Broncos continued to hold out hope that the Bengals would snatch up Fewell as a defensive backs coach so that they could pluck the inexperienced Joseph from Cincinnati – right up until the point when Fewell signed on to Jay Gruden’s staff in Washington. It was always a long shot at best for Denver’s ideal scenario to play out, but their total disinterest in the more-experienced option in that scenario was certainly the most curious part of Denver’s plan to me.
But now with Fewell officially off the table for Cincinnati, it’s time for the Broncos to move on from Vance Joseph.
The NFL is often a league of relationships, yet as Fewell was shaking hands with the brass in Washington, Denver was making it very clear to Wade Phillips that he was not their first choice. If Mike Smith was contacted, you better believe that he was told that he was not their first choice. At this point, anyone who is contacted about the job is going to know that they were not close to the top of Denver’s list, despite a wealth of experience more than the man who was the No. 1 option.
Additionally, you can count me among the folks who believe that perhaps the Bengals’ reluctance to make Joseph available might have to do with their perception of a disingenuous request by Denver to interview the man for their head coaching vacancy, when in reality it was almost certainly just a coordinator interview.
My point is simple: It shouldn’t be that difficult for the Broncos to head in another direction. Joseph might have been a nice piece of the puzzle here in Denver, but he’s not coming here without a trade and quite frankly, he doesn’t fit the mold that Elway has adhered to for the vast majority of his hires here in Denver. What’s more, there are a plethora of available coaches who do fit that mold and have the familiarity with Denver and Elway; those are the traits the Broncos front office seems to be placing at a premium with this staff.
The charade surrounding John Elway’s search for a defensive coordinator has gone on for far too long at this point, and it’s starting to make the team look bad. It’s time to move on from Vance Joseph, and hope whoever is hired doesn’t take notice of just how long it took.