DENVER -- And then there was one.
The Broncos moved aggressively to hire Vance Joseph as their 16th head coach on Wednesday, reaching an agreement on a four-year deal.
Excited to announce Vance Joseph as head coach of the Denver Broncos! pic.twitter.com/m87uUn9KXs
— John Elway (@johnelway) January 11, 2017
Joseph emerged as the favorite after a four-hour interview Tuesday and a long dinner at general manager John Elway's Cherry Creek restaurant. The Broncos told Joseph after his dinner to cancel his flight to San Diego on Wednesday, a clear indication of their desire to finalize a deal at Dove Valley.
Contracts for first-time NFL head coaches typically average in the $3 to $4-million range annually.
"The Broncos have been a winning club for a long time. I was honored (to be considered). I wanted to let them know I am winner. They are used to winning," Joseph told DenverBroncos.com. "I want to enhance that. ... It's a dream come true."
Joseph, 44, served as the Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator this past season. He first impressed the Broncos two years ago when they interviewed him for the job that went to Gary Kubiak. Joseph carried that momentum into this week, beating out candidates Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the people's choice, and Kansas City special teams coach Dave Toub.
"It's a player's game. If you can reach the players, you can have success in the NFL. That's the one talent you have to have as a coach. Can you get players to play hard all the time? That's my strength," Joseph said. "For my first opportunity, most guys get jobs that are broken. This job is not broken. This job... They were the winners of it all two seasons ago. So I am excited about this opportunity because to have a chance to be part of a winner this quick, it's exciting. I am going bring energy and new ideas."
Joseph will begin interviewing offensive coordinator candidates on Thursday in former Chargers head coach and one-time Broncos assistant Mike McCoy and ex-Broncos quarterback and former Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
Elway praised Joseph’s” leadership” and “strong vision” in a tweet following Tuesday’s interview, referencing buzzwords he used in a press conference last week about his ideal candidate. The Broncos have long been impressed with Joseph, having offered their defensive coordinator’s position to him two years ago after discussing the head coaching position. The top job went to Kubiak, who stepped down nine days ago because of health reasons.
"During this process, we were very fortunate to spend time with three very qualified candidates who all could have been the next coach of our team. For us, Vance Joseph is the best fit. Vance is a very good football coach and teacher who is ready for this opportunity," Elway said. "His leadership qualities, his vision for building a championship team and his ability to get the most out of his players are off the charts. In talking with Vance, the culture that he believes in and the culture of our organization are closely aligned and focused on one thing: winning. He understands the high expectations this franchise has always had under Pat Bowlen, and he embraces them."
In Joseph's lone season in Miami, the Dolphins struggled, allowing a franchise record in yards. However coach Adam Gase praised Joseph for keeping an injury-ravaged unit from fracturing. The Dolphins played their best in the red zone, ranking sixth in touchdowns allowed. Joseph made his mark as a defensive backs coach in Houston and Cincinnati, working under Kubiak and Marvin Lewis.
"I have faith in the front office that they brought in the right guy," Broncos linebacker Shaquil Barrett told Denver7.
The Broncos decided not to conduct a large search as Elway zeroed in on the type of candidate he wanted. Joseph will assemble a coaching staff immediately. The status of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips remains up the air, and he remains unlikely to return. He has been connected to multiple openings in Washington and Los Angeles. Elway said last week he would let the coach assemble his staff, something Joseph was indeed promised during his interview. He hit a home run during his meetings with the Broncos.
"Vance believes strongly in two things that have defined Pat Bowlen’s ownership and championship history with this team: winning and doing things the right way," team president Joe Ellis said. "It was clear during the interview process that Vance’s depth of experience, his leadership and his very honest approach to coaching made him the best choice."
He has to put together a strong staff.
The fact that Phillips, a free agent, was not given a contract extension after the Super Bowl coupled with the locker room division this season between the offense and defense increases the likelihood secondary coach Joe Woods moves into the coordinator role. Joseph worked with several of the current Broncos' coaches in Houston, increasing the chances that Greg Knapp, Reggie Herring and Bill Kollar return. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis is highly regarded in his role as well.
Joseph inherits a team that won Super Bowl 50 and, despite missing the playoffs, finished 9-7 this season. This remains a franchise with an open Super Bowl window because of a strong defense and the room for offensive improvement.
Beyond his acumen to work well with Elway -- a significant issue for now and the future -- Joseph must rev up a feeble offense that boasts two young quarterbacks in Trevor Siemian and first-round draft choice Paxton Lynch. Joseph is targeting McCoy. But, the Bills are trying to secure him for their coordinator's job. Musgrave, a former Broncos backup quarterback who was a prep star in Grand Junction, is a free agent after the Raiders let him go this week. Anthony Lynn, Buffalo's interim head coach and former Broncos special teams standout player, is another name to file away if he doesn't land a head coaching job.
The Denver head coaching job comes with challenging expectations. Kubiak won more games in his first two seasons than any coach in Broncos history.
Joseph is a former University of Colorado quarterback, who played two years in the NFL as a defensive back. He began his coaching career in college, and has spent the last decade as secondary coach before becoming a first-time coordinator with the Dolphins.
Tweeted running back Justin Forsett, whose time with the Texans overlapped with Joseph's, "Congrats to coach VJ. He's going to be awesome! I knew he would be a HC one day from our time Houston."
THE VANCE JOSEPH FILE