Bengals secondary coach, Vance Joseph has gotten more attention this offseason than he likely received in the rest of his coaching career. It started when Joseph interviewed for the Denver Broncos head coaching position in January. Gary Kubiak ended up securing the job, but then set out on a mission to bring in Joseph as the team's defensive coordinator. That's when the drama really started.
The Bengals wanted to speak with Joseph before allowing him to leave, potentially about their long-term plans for the rising coaching star. And to the Broncos' dismay, the Bengals ended up blocking Joseph from taking the defensive coordinator job in Denver. Some said Mike Brown and the Bengals may have been taking the fault for Joseph because he wanted to stay in Cincinnati. Others, took a very different approach, such as Benjamin Hochman with the Denver Post who said, "the Bengals should understand the spirit of the Rooney Rule, for they have an African-American head coach."
From Hochman's commentary, it didn't seem he really understood much about the Bengals or the way the NFL operates. Coaches routinely are denied the chance to leave their jobs for other non-head coaching opportunities. And, it happens to caucasians and African Americans alike. In fact, it happened to Marvin Lewis in 1995 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were considering him for their defensive coordinator position and the Pittsburgh Steelers denied the move.
It turned out the San Francisco 49ers also wanted to bring in Joseph to be their defensive coordinator for 2015, but the Bengals denied their request, too. Joseph will be sticking around in Cincinnati for the 2015 season and hopes to have a big impact on the team. Maybe enough of an impact that he can one day become the Bengals' next head coach.
Joseph was hired by the Bengals in January 2014 to join Mark Carrier in coaching the defensive backs, the largest position group on the team's roster. While Carrier was able to focus on the safety position in 2014, Joseph concentrated in on the veteran cornerbacks, Leon Hall, Terence Newman and Adam Jones and developed the younger cornerbacks -- Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard.
We spoke with Kirkpatrick this week about the role Joseph had on him during the 2014 season and he only had complimentary things to say. "He's had a great impact! He's a great teacher, very patient, always puts us in the best position setting us up for success," Kirkpatrick said of Joseph's impact on him last season.
Kirkpatrick believes Joseph helped him to develop more at the cornerback position than he had been able to in his first two season with the Bengals, before Joseph joined the coaching staff. "He pretty much helped me understand how to break down film so much better and more efficiently," Kirkpatrick said. "It helps in such a big way to learn better off-the-field studying, which makes the game easier on the field."
This season, while Kirkpatrick hopes -- and expects -- to step into a starting role, Joseph will begin coaching Josh Shaw, who the team selected in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. Though he likely won't see much playing time on the Bengals' defense this year, Joseph sees big things in Shaw. "He's going to be a corner with the ability to play nickel; that's a huge thing for us. And obviously in a pinch he could play safety... He's playing all three positions and he's a very, very, very smart guy. So that's exciting for me."
The 2015 season will look to prove how effectively Joseph is at molding young players like Kirkpatrick and Dennard into starting cornerbacks, and Shaw will be the next player to get the Joseph-treatment.
In January, Lewis referred to the decision to keep Joseph in Cincinnati as a "hard one," adding, "My boss and owner sees him as a star, and a guy that, as I told Vance, he could be sitting in my chair very quickly."
The quote easily explains why the Bengals decided to hold on to Joseph and proves he must have impressed in his first season with the team. Whatever Joseph is doing, he's given Kirkpatrick enough confidence to tell Cincy Jungle this week, "As far as the starting role is concerned, it's not a question, I know it's mine. I personally have extremely high expectations set for myself coming into this year."
The expectations aren't only high for Kirkpatrick, they're clearly set high for Joseph, too.