Broncos second-year coach Vance Joseph gets another shot
AP Pro Football Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — No, Vance Joseph never felt as if he was drinking out of a firehose when the Denver Broncos stumbled through a 5-11 season in his first year as head coach last year.
That’s how general manager John Elway has repeatedly described what it must have been like for a first-year head coach in the NFL.
“That’s not my personality, so I didn’t feel that way,” Joseph told The Associated Press. “My focus was purely on trying to flip it and get us back on a winning path. I think being a young head coach and being a young coach is a different deal. I’m not a young coach. I’ve been a part of teams that have gone through adversity so I kind of knew what the issues were.”
A sieve of an offensive line.
Locker room rifts.
A lack of chemistry, the byproduct of another protracted quarterback competition.
Still, “I think overwhelmed, that’s not the word,” Joseph said.
Denver’s dive, which included eight losses by double digits, was a shock to a city and a franchise that had a ticker-tape parade just two years earlier, and Elway acknowledged that he pondered firing Joseph at season’s end.
“That’s the direction I want to go, but it’s my responsibility to think about other options to see what would be best for the football team,” Elway said in January. “We thought about different options, but ultimately, my goal was to stick with Vance and give him that shot.”
Elway, who had riled up his players by calling them soft during an eight-game skid, said he shared in the blame for Joseph’s deficient debut and needed to surround him with better personnel.
Joseph replaced nearly half of his coaching staff while Elway embarked on a massive roster upgrade .
He signed quarterback Case Keenum in free agency and all 10 members of his ballyhooed 2018 draft class spent four years in college and most were captains. That’s a far cry from the previous two classes that were loaded with raw athleticism, long-term projects and plenty of question marks.
Joseph seems much more comfortable in his second season.
“I don’t see it as a do-over. It’s hard in this league. You don’t get do-overs, unfortunately. But it’s a new year and obviously last year wasn’t good enough,” Joseph said.
The hands-off philosophy Joseph brought to Denver last year has vanished.
“I think it’s a fine line between micromanaging and coaching coaches. And I didn’t want to ever be micromanaged as an assistant coach because in my mind I was doing the best I could for that head coach and the best I could for that football team. And I took great pride in coaching my guys and being the best group on the field every day in the meeting rooms or on the field,” Joseph said.
“So, in my mind every coach would feel that way and every coach would want to coach that way. So, I was cautious in interrupting coaches’ drills, interrupting coaches’ ways of doing things because I had an experienced staff.”
That led to the notion that Joseph was still acting like an assistant coach last year while offensive coordinator Mike McCoy continued operating as though he were still a head coach before getting fired at midseason.
Joseph vehemently denies that was the case.
“I thought Mike did a great job every week of accepting his role and we talked every week about the game plan, so that’s not true,” Joseph said.
“I worked for a lot of coaches who didn’t micromanage me, Gary Kubiak, Marvin Lewis, great guys who have won a lot of games. So, that’s not true. Our staff last year we discussed every game plan that we put forward and again it was the best thing for our players at the time.
“So, our thought process early on was to be an explosive offense. We were 3-1. It wasn’t perfect. But it was working. Now, turning the ball over, not protecting the quarterback, those things affected how we played on offense. But not Mike trying to be in total control, that’s not true.”
Still, Joseph said he has to coach his coaches better, and by that, he means challenging them.
“I don’t coach the receivers, I don’t coach the running backs or offensive line. I’m a defensive backs guy, I’m a defensive guy. So, I think asking the right questions and triggering more thought process on how we can do things better. Or simply seeing it differently than the coach and saying, ‘Why don’t we do it that way?’” Joseph said.
“Now, I can be wrong, but I think simply asking more questions is a simple way of helping the coaches get better and helping our football team get better and not letting anything slide.”
Joseph realizes he won’t get another chance if things don’t change.
“Winning football games is a must this year,” he said. “We have to do that. That’s why they hired me.”
And why Elway stuck with him.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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