Why Justin Simmons is ‘really thankful’ to have Vance Joseph back
Jun 1, 2023, 5:29 PM | Updated: 5:37 pm
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Just six current Broncos were on the roster when Vance Joseph was their head coach. But only two remain on the defensive side, where Joseph now specializes as their defensive coordinator.
And of those two defenders, only one — safety Justin Simmons — was on hand when Joseph arrived in 2017. In the wake of the release of kicker Brandon McManus, Simmons is now the longest-tenured Bronco.
Joseph, who returned to Denver this offseason, is Simmons’ fifth defensive coordinator in eight seasons. But this change is welcome.
“He seems the same. Same guy that I remember him to be,” Simmons said. “I loved him when he was here as the head coach. So, I’m really thankful that we got him again.”
The same person — but a different role. For Simmons and the other defensive holdover, Josey Jewell, that means a better chance to work with and get to to know Joseph.
With a defensive background, Joseph participated in game-planning during his 2017-18 stint as head coach. But the actual defensive playcalls belonged to Joe Woods — who, coincidentally, now works in New Orleans as a coordinator under Payton’s successor, former Broncos assistant Dennis Allen.
Justin Simmons has embraced having Vance Joseph back on the coaching staff, saying, “He seems the same. Same guy that I remember him to be. I loved him when he was here as the head coach. So, I'm really thankful that we got him again." pic.twitter.com/d8ZCsJLDJp
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) June 1, 2023
“I think the biggest difference is that [Joseph] was a head coach, so, back then, there wasn’t as much dialogue,” Simmons said. “Obviously, he was with the defense. But he couldn’t be too hands-on — as much as you want to be — just because there are so many more things you have to take care of.
“I feel like I’ve talked to him now more in the past few weeks than I really had the opportunity to when he was a head coach, just because now he’s in the meeting rooms more, he’s able to coach the little things up, and we’re talking formations, this, that and the other. That’s pretty much the main difference.”
And there’s plenty to discuss tactically. In 2017, Joseph and Woods carried over the man-to-man concepts used extensively by the Broncos’ previous defensive play-caller, Wade Phillips. But after Joseph’s dismissal following the 2018 season, the Broncos made a hard pivot to Vic Fangio and his zone-based scheme.
So, what will the Broncos utilize this year?
Simmons says it’s too early to tell.
“A lot of that’s still being ironed out. You’ve got a lot of guys that have been in a certain system one year, then VJ’s obviously really good at what he does,” Simmons said. “I think all that’s still being ironed out — and we’ll kind of keep ironing that out into camp, as well.”
And if that means playing to the strengths of the players, rather than jamming square pegs into round schematic holes, Joseph’s return can be a successful one.