What is Vance Joseph Doing with the Denver Broncos Defense?

Dec 28, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips reacts following the overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 20-17 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 28, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips reacts following the overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 20-17 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Letting Wade Phillips go is a questionable move at best, and Vance Joseph has created a massive amount of scrutiny for himself with this move…

Remember when the Broncos hired a head coach with very little experience above being a positional coordinator and he came in and immediately got rid of some members of the team most responsible for their recent success?

I bet your mind immediately went to Josh McDaniels, but the above could easily describe new head coach Vance Joseph. Those of us not in close NFL circles truly have no clue whether Joseph will be a good head coach, as we can only go off of what insiders say. The reports are largely good. Everyone who has played with Joseph, all the way back to his days as the backup quarterback at the University of Colorado, to this year’s Miami Dolphins defense confirm that he is a great guy whom players love to play for. That is one of the most important qualities in a head coach, as he is responsible for the big world stuff and the details are handled by his assistants.

That said, an inexperienced head coach letting one of the most qualified defensive coordinators in NFL history, and one who oversaw the greatest Broncos defense ever, walk out the door is beyond baffling. Doubly more so when you take into account that Joseph does not want to call plays next year; a Phillips specialty. Triply more so when you factor in that Phillips was one of Joseph’s tutors on his way up through the league. If I were starting a new job with zero experience, I sure would want to lean on an experienced person who I’ve worked with who I trust. Heck, that’s exactly what I’m doing–as I recently took over for former Grantlander Shane Ryan as business, media, and politics editor at Paste Magazine, and am relying on his expertise to guide me through this new process.

I understand wanting to give Joe Woods a chance, as he has proven his defensive coordinator bona fides as the captain of the No Fly Zone. He will be a defensive coordinator in the NFL either this year or next, and it is reasonable to want to try to retain him, but when it comes at the expense of a man who practically invented the defense the Broncos play, it’s hard to see how this works out.

More from Predominantly Orange

Success is a double-edged sword. When you don’t have it, you’re open to any idea that will help you attain it. When you do reach the pinnacle, it’s easy to make yourself believe it will never leave you. It’s basic human nature. That’s what makes Bill Belichick and Gregg Popovich all-time great coaches. They have sat atop their respective sports for the past two decades, yet have not allowed complacency to set in. It is far too early to make that determination about John Elway, but it’s hard to see how this decision makes any sense whatsoever.

Wade Phillips wanted to come back. The defense loves him. Given the statements coming from Elway over the past week, it sure seemed like the Broncos brass wanted him back too. But he isn’t. He’s in Los Angeles now, and he will no doubt turn the Rams into one of the best defenses in the league. Talent-wise, no one has a better front seven than they do, and with one of the greatest minds to ever coach the game authoring their moves, Los Angeles should challenge for a playoff spot so long as their offense is 10% better than the laughingstock it was this past year.

The Broncos have hall of fame talent on defense. Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., and Aqib Talib are all playing at peak-Canton levels right now, and this squad is built to win a title tomorrow. John Elway has decided to pair that veteran talent with a boatload of inexperience in the coach’s box. Credit to him for completely trusting his new head coach, but man. This is nuts.

It’s unfair to blame Joseph for Miami’s struggles on defense this year, considering that the only keepers they have on defense are Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh, but the burden of proof rests on the Broncos’ new vastly inexperienced head coach. Joe Woods deserves all the credit in the world for what he has done with the Broncos secondary, but calling plays in the heat of the battle is an entirely different animal from the comfort of the dark room of film study.

This is baffling. If Phillips truly wanted to be back in Denver…why isn’t he? Well, John Elway’s statement to the Denver Post from January 2nd is very clear as to why Denver will have a new defensive coordinator.

“That’s going to be up to the next coach. I’m sure he will retain a lot of them. Hopefully he’ll retain a lot of them because obviously we’d like to keep as much continuity as we can, too. So if we can keep much of it together, we’ll try to do that.”

I’d love to highlight some silver lining in this for Broncos Country, but I can’t. This feels like Josh McDaniels all over again. A brash, young, inexperienced head coach is walking into Dove Valley trying to make his mark on a team that has experienced recent success. But if anything, McDaniels’ aggressiveness was more understandable than this move, as the Broncos were a middling team trying to become great, whereas this version is already great, and simply needs some upgrades on offense to return to the Super Bowl contender their roster implies they should be. I have heard from every one of my friends in New England since this was announced, and they are jubilant. When in doubt, sometimes the easiest way to figure out if a move is good or not is to gauge opposing fans’ reaction, and I doubt you will find many Pats, Steelers, Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers fans who are upset right now.

Instead, we’re left wondering if someone with zero head coaching experience can replace one of the greatest defensive coordinators in the history of the game. Anything anyone here at Predominantly Orange writes is conjecture until the product on the field plays itself out, but it’s hard to find any reason to be optimistic right now. The Denver Broncos lost a boatload of talent for nothing, and the rookie head coach ratcheted up the temperature on his hot seat in order to remake the team in his own image. You’ll forgive me if I’m having flashbacks to Josh McDaniels, but the negatives are far more obvious than the positives right now.