Former Bengals defensive backs coach Vance Joseph is attending the NFL Combine for the first time as a head coach. Leading the Denver Broncos, Joseph will surely be utilizing his experience in Cincinnati to his advantage. That’s especially true as he only has one year of defensive coordinator experience and that was under a first-time head coach in Miami.
Joseph is now one of four former Bengals coaches under Marvin Lewis who currently serve as NFL head coaches, the other three being Mike Zimmer in Minnesota, Jay Gruden in Washington and Hue Jackson in Cleveland.
“Marvin has been there for I think 14 seasons now. That is a great example of longevity,” Joseph said at the Combine last week. “How Marvin works and how Marvin has kept his staff intact, that has been key to Marvin’s success.”
Joseph also mentioned an interesting fact in regards to the Bengals’ draft process, and that’s having the coaches play a big role in the draft process.
“As far as the draft, they’ve drafted very well in Cincinnati,” Joseph said. “The coaches are very involved. Mr. [Mike] Brown is very involved. But his process of going out and seeing each player that he has drafted over the last 13 or 14 seasons, it’s worked for him. His roster is obviously a big time roster with a lot of big time players.”
Joseph said he actually plans to utilize the Bengals’ draft strategies and processes in Denver in his first head coaching gig.
“I think having the coaches involved in the process is important because those guys are with players every day, they know what they want to coach and they know what it looks like,” he said. “It’s important to have the coaches involved.”
When asked at the Combine about Joseph, Lewis had only positive things to say, as expected, of the coach who was always highly praised during his time in Cincinnati.
“He’s got a great demeanor. Great knowledge of the game,” Lewis said of the coach who worked under him for two years. “Broad, broad, great picture. He’s excited for the opportunity.”
Lewis was also asked to supply some public advice to Joseph as the NFL’s second-longest tenured head coach.
“Every day is a new day. There are things that happen, particularly during the in-week season that you’re not prepared for,” Lewis said. “But you’ll get through it and the next time around you’ll be better prepared and it will be a much smoother transition through whatever little hurdle that comes up during the season.”
The Bengals have recently had to endure considerable coaching turnover due to coaches leaving for promotions elsewhere. In addition to the four current head coaches who were assistants and coordinators in Cincinnati in the last four years, Matt Burke and Jay Hayes, position coaches on defense, both left in 2015, too. And, Burke is now the defensive coordinator in Miami, a role he got promoted to when Joseph was hired in Denver. Reportedly, the plan all along was for Burke to follow Joseph to Miami and eventually become his successor as defensive coordinator.
“Matt, he came to us very highly recommended by Jimmy Schwartz, (defensive coordinator of the Eagles) who I’m very close with,” Lewis said. “Schwartizie had him on the staff there and really felt so strong about him. Matt’s very intelligent, he understands football and did a great job in Cincinnati for us. I’m excited for him to get his opportunity down.”
But, while seeing these guys rise to new challenges around the league is a good thing, it also hasn’t always been great for the Bengals to lose such talented coaches. That’s especially true in Burke’s case, as he originally left for the same job with a new team. It just happened to be a job where he had more opportunity to climb up the ranks, which was accurate as he’s already been promoted just one year after leaving for the Dolphins.
“I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been able to hire coaches in Cincinnati – really good coaches – and they’ve been able to use that for opportunity beyond which is what you want,” Lewis said of so many of his coaches leaving for promotions and head coaching jobs elsewhere. “You want to help uplift people and move forward in their careers and have opportunity, just like I had. I’ve been very fortunate in this league.”