Vance Joseph has risen through the coaching ranks quickly to become Broncos head coach at 45 years old. Sean McDermott, Adam Gase, Kyle Shanahan, and Sean McVay are the only younger coaches in the NFL. Joseph began coaching as a graduate assistant at his alma mater Colorado at just 27 years old in 1999.
Anybody who begins a coaching career at such a young age did not have a very long professional career. That is true of Joseph who only played 17 games in the NFL. He had 6 starts in the league. All of them came with the Jets.
The most memorable was his first. Joseph was undrafted out of Colorado in 1995. He had been a backup at both quarterback and running back. The Jets liked some of his tools and thought they could translate to cornerback so they gave him a contract as a free agent.
During the 1995 season, the Jets were a bad team with bad luck. After being hit with the injury bug, they decided to turn to Joseph for a Sunday night primetime game against the Raiders.
At that point, the Raiders were the highest scoring team in the AFC led by star receiver Tim Brown. You might recognize Brown as a Hall of Famer and one of only fourteen players to compile over 1,000 career receptions. The Jets had Joseph line up against Brown with frequency in that game.
The Jets were a bad team with some injuries at cornerback. It wasn’t likely there was much they could do that would have worked. With that said, was it the best decision to have a guy who had never played cornerback in a game before match up against a future Hall of Famer?
At many points frustrated Jets fans through the years have claimed that the present head coach was worse than Rich Kotite. They said it about Herman Edwards. They said it about Eric Mangini. They said it about Rex Ryan. They say it now about Todd Bowles. It’s a fun thing to say to get attention, but it never is accurate. Anybody who says something like that either knows they are really, really exaggerating or has zero sense of history. Say what you will about those guys. They didn’t make decisions like that.
Decisions like throwing Joseph into the lineup against the Raiders were staples of the Kotite Era.
The Raiders beat the Jets that night 47-10. Brown had a pair of touchdown catches on as part of an 8 catch, 156 yard explosion. Joseph allowed one of Brown’s touchdown catches. The rookie allowed another touchdown to Daryl Hobbs.
After the game Brown said things like, “That’s not a smart thing to do,” on the decision to play Joseph and, “I started feeling bad for the Jets.”
From those ugly beginnings, Joseph has worked his way up the ladder to run his own team.