Vance Joseph has two years of head coaching experience at the NFL level and 12 more as an assistant.
As the Cardinals’ new defensive coordinator, he is expected to have great autonomy on that side of the ball, considering coach Kliff Kingsbury is offensive-minded and new to the professional level.
But on Tuesday afternoon, Joseph waved off the suggestion that this will be a partnership at the top.
“Kliff’s the head coach and I’m the defensive coordinator,” Joseph said. “Any final call on our football team goes through Kliff.”
Kingsbury’s defenses at Texas Tech struggled, but some of that had to do with a lack of talent and the high-flying style of the Big 12. Even though Joseph has a better track record defensively, he plans to ask Kingsbury his preference when critical situations pop up during the season.
“I want his blessing sometimes, especially when you’re in a two-minute drive and they’re driving to win,” Joseph said. “When do you pressure? Is it (an all-out blitz)? Be patient? What are your thoughts on this? Absolutely, I have to, as a coordinator, ask the coach certain things like that, because that’s a Cardinal decision. We’re going to win and lose together.”
While Joseph spoke deferentially, it’s clear Kingsbury plans to give him an outsized role. Defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson said Kingsbury has mostly stayed out of the way as the defensive coaches have pored through tape the past couple weeks, allowing Joseph to spearhead the group.
Kingsbury called Joseph an “incredible defensive mind.”
“I wanted somebody who’s a defensive head coach, and that’s what Vance is,” Kingsbury said. “I’ll give my insights and we’ll have great communication, how we can be the best we can on that side of the football, but that’s going to be a deal that Vance is going to head up.”
Beyond his defensive knowledge, Joseph could prove valuable to Kingsbury in all the off-field duties NFL coaches must handle. He pledged to be a sounding board when needed.
“It’s a big job, obviously, and certain things are going to happen that he hasn’t experienced,” Joseph said. “Obviously he can run it past me.”
Joseph went 11-21 as head coach of the Broncos the past two seasons and is motivated to “re-prove” himself. If the defense improves and the Cardinals start winning more, Joseph may one day be back leading his own organization.
For now, he is comfortable being the second lieutenant, which does come with its perks.
“I do miss preparing and the challenge of putting our guys in the best spots to make plays,” Joseph said. “That definitely was a part I missed about being a coordinator. As a head coach, you try to be involved 24/7 but it’s tough, because it’s a big job. I had capable coordinators, so I spent a lot of time on the team message and how to get our guys to play the best each week.”
Robertson believes streamlined responsibilities will allow Joseph’s coaching acumen to shine.
“I hate to create a simple analogy, but it’s a lot easier to just get in your car and drive home as opposed to driving a bus and having to stop every time,” Robertson said. “I can promise you this: he will be dialed in. He’s outstanding at what he does.”
Images of Cardinals cheerleader Danielle from the 2018 season