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Vance Joseph is returning to the Denver Broncos. Five years after he was fired as the team’s head coach he is returning as the defensive coordinator, a source confirmed to OutKick.
Joseph will work under head coach Sean Payton after beating out current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan and current Patriots senior football advisor Matt Patricia for the job.
But while that’s an impressive feat given the quality of the competition, that’s not what’s most impressive here.
Vance Joseph Gets Second Stint With Broncos
Joseph, you see, was the head coach of the Broncos from 2017 through the 2018 season. His teams compiled an 11-21 record and had back-to-back losing seasons. So Joseph, under significant criticism and dissatisfaction, was fired.
Now he’s back, albeit in a different role and with a different administration and ownership, and that says a lot about Vance Joseph.
All of it good.
Joseph is going back to the same place where he was something of a punching bag for those two seasons of mistakes — certainly among many fans.
But Joseph is able to return because he always has stayed above the fray. The man is brutally honest with players and unafraid in delivering his opinion and the facts. But in the face of criticism, he’s always been an eagle soaring among clouds declining to engage with chickens making noise on the ground.
When Joseph was fired, he released a statement.
“I want to thank John Elway, Joe Ellis and the organization for the opportunity to serve as the head coach of the Denver Broncos,” Joseph said in that statement. “It’s disappointing not being able to finish what we started, but I’m incredibly proud of the players and coaches for how they fought and worked every week.
“I also appreciate the support staffs who put in countless hours behind the scenes helping our team. This is a special place with great fans. Holly and I, along with our entire family, truly enjoyed being part of this community and wish the Broncos all the best.”
Not All Coaches Exit With Grace
Understand that most coaches don’t release statements on their way out. They just failed and most think they deserve more of an opportunity to succeed. Joseph certainly felt that way.
Most leave understandably angry. Others leave wishing they could burn the whole place down.
Brian Flores famously sued the Miami Dolphins and practically everyone else when he was fired after the 2021 season. He was peeved and didn’t mind showing it.
The difference between Flores and Joseph is one didn’t allow his emotion to guide him to air grievances publicly. He didn’t let the rest of the world see his disappointment or anger or frustration. He exited gracefully.
That’s not to say Joseph isn’t human.
When he was deciding whether to interview with the Broncos and soon afterward as well, Joseph reached out to NFL people he trusted to get their opinions on whether returning to a familiar place in a diminished role would be too, too humbling.
Joseph spoke to former Broncos head coach Wade Phillips. Phillips was Denver’s head coach in 1993-1994. He returned to the franchise as the defensive coordinator in 2015-2016.
Phillips ultimately told Joseph it could be done. But that opinion wasn’t universal.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it,” said one Joseph advisor.
Obviously Jospeh has decided he is capable of maneuvering whatever discomfort going back and facing old wounds might offer. It’s a decision that shows strength of character.