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Vance Joseph says he has no qualms about returning to Denver as Sean Payton’s DC

AP Pro Football Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Unlike fellow ex-Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, Vance Joseph had no qualms about returning to Denver as an assistant.

Joseph, who went 11-21 as Broncos head coach from 2017-18, said Wednesday in his first comments since rejoining the franchise that fired him that he relished the opportunity to return to Colorado and work for new Broncos head coach Sean Payton.

And “we have a home here still,” said Joseph, who spent the last four seasons as the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator. “It was the perfect spot for me.”

Payton originally tried to hire Fangio, who went 19-30 in Denver from 2018-21. The two had planned to work together following their sabbaticals last season. Payton spent the year as a Fox football analyst after stepping down as Saints head coach and Fangio spent a year out of football following his ouster in Denver.

Payton had to pivot from that plan when he took the Denver job; Fangio’s firing was still fresh and he instead joined the Dolphins as their defensive coordinator.

Joseph wasn’t his first choice but he’s a first-rate coordinator, Payton said.

“There’s a calmness to him and professionalism to him that I appreciate,” Payton said, “and we always found a way to shake each other’s hand after a game or talk to each other. I just think that there’s a poise and a credibility when he presents that’s impressive. I think he’s an extremely good communicator. And I think he’s an extremely good leader.”

Payton said Joseph’s history in Denver was never a sticking point and he suggested that Joseph will get another opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL.

Joseph is just as impressed by Payton.

“It’s been fun to watch him operate every day as an experienced head coach,” Joseph said.

Payton went 161-97 in New Orleans, including a win over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl following the 2009 season. His task in Denver is to turn around the fortunes of a franchise that’s foundered since winning Super Bowl 50 in Manning’s final game more than seven years ago.

Joseph aims to help Payton end the Broncos’ playoff drought and six-year run of losing records. He said he savors matching wits and personnel with him at practices this summer.

“I think he is one of the best play-callers in NFL history,” Joseph said. “I mean his personnel groups he uses on an every-down basis is really tough to figure out where he’s going next.”

Joseph said it wasn’t like he had to bury any bad memories of his ouster to return to the franchise that fired him.

“It was a fair process. It’s a league of winning. So, if you don’t win there’s going to be change,” Joseph said. “So, it was never personal for me. I came here and I worked my butt off and it didn’t work.

“I’m back now and my focus is to play great defense for Sean and to win games.”

Wade Phillips once did what Joseph is trying to do, returning as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator after going 16-17 as their head coach in the early 1990s and then helping them win Super Bowl 50 following the 2015 season.

Asked if he’d heard from Phillips to compare notes and journeys, Joseph said, “I did, about a week after I signed back and he reminded me that he was the coach and got let go and he came back as a coordinator and won a championship.

“So, that was his message to me and hopefully I can follow in his trail.”

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