By WOODY PAIGE
Vance Joseph missed opportunities to win three Super Bowls with the Broncos.
Joseph’s challenge is to win a fourth championship for them and, finally, one for himself.
Generally forgotten is that Joseph was a Broncos’ player.
For one bright and shining training camp, Joseph wore the orange and blue armor in Camelot with Hall of Famers John Elway, Shannon Sharp and Gary Zimmerman, and Terrell Davis, Rod Smith, Steve Atwater, Bill Romanowski and Gary Kubiak.
It was the conclusion of Joseph’s playing career.
But he would appear in old Mile High Stadium and produced a stat – one sack.
In 1997 Joseph was invited, as a free agent cornerback, by coach Mike Shanahan to Dove Valley. Vance had spent two seasons in the NFL with the Jets and the Colts before being released in ’96.
Problem in Denver for Joseph was he was lost among 90 players and not even in the top 12 in the secondary’s depth chart. He was listed behind veterans Ray Crockett, Darrien Gordon and 1996 second-round pick Tory James, and others.
I remembered Joseph because he had been a redshirt and reserve quarterback Colorado from 1991-1995, watching Darian Hagan and Kordell Stewart. He was one of those squatty I-Bone Buffs’ quarterbacks recruited from Louisiana – where, at Archbishop Shaw High School outside New Orleans, Joseph was the backup, then successor, to his brother Mickey – who played quarterback for four years at the University of Nebraska. (Mickey is running backs coach at Louisiana Tech; their cousin also is a college coach.)
Vance began playing quarterback on a peewee team when he was 5.
At 12, in 1984, Vance was the best player in America.
He was chosen “”Mr. Biddy World’’ after the Biddy Basketball international tournaments. Never heard of Biddy Basketball? Avery Johnson, Larry Bird and Julius Erving are among the famous graduates of the kids’ program.
Vance would play point guard for the high school team, and the Joseph brothers starred on the Eagles’ only state championship team (1987).
However, at CU, Joseph was a utility player – QB, running back, returner. Buffs’ teammates and coach Gary Barnett knew the smart, intense, resolute marketing major would become a coach. Vance wasn’t drafted, but signed on with the Jets, and the 6-foot, 200-pounder was shifted to cornerback. He started four games as a rookie injury replacement in ’95, but wasn’t brought back. He went to camp in Indianapolis, was cut, later returned and was cut again.
Thus, Joseph returned to Colorado, accepting a non-guaranteed contract with the Broncos. Elway and Kubiak burned him daily, but other defensive players, including ex-CU pal Alfred Williams, encouraged him to keep pushing. The Broncos played Buffalo at home in the exhibition opener, then traveled to Mexico City for a famous game with the Dolphins. Elway and Dan Marino were adversaries for a rare time – until Elway completely tore the biceps in his throwing arm. Afterward Elway feared his career might be over. The injury actually was a blessing. Elway, who always felt tightness in his surgically-repaired shoulder, was out for just a few days and actually was better off.
Joseph wasn’t so fortunate. He was released before the season – the most incredible season in Broncos’ history. They won their first Super Bowl.
“”My career ended in Denver,’’ Vance has said. “”It was time to start coaching.’’
He would go back to Boulder as a graduate assistant, then made stops at Wyoming, CU again and Bowling Green before getting a lowly assistant’s job with the 49ers in 2005. There, Vance befriended another young coach – Adam Gase.
He was hired by Texans’ coach Kubiak in 2011 as secondary coach. Asked who had been his most influential coach, Joseph replied: “”Wade Phillips,’’ Houston’s defense coordinator. When Kubiak and Phillips were fired, Joseph was hired by the Bengals – and that’s when he got Elway’s attention. On a cold, rainy December night in Cincinnati in 2014, Joseph’s defensive backs intercepted four Peyton Manning passes in the 37-28 victory.
When John Fox was fired and replaced by Kubiak (after Elway had interviewed Joseph), John and Gary honed in on Joseph as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator. But the Bengals refused to allow the Broncos to talk to him. Phillips was named coordinator instead.
The Broncos won another Super Bowl.
Despite being somewhat close in his life, Joseph didn’t play or coach on the Broncos’ three title teams.
Now, Vance Desmond Joseph controls his own championship chances with the Broncos.