ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Vance Joseph's journey to become the 16th head coach of the Denver Broncos ended Thursday as he and his family were introduced shortly after 12 p.m.
But that wasn't where it started.
Rather, the entirety of the first-time head coach's 12-year NFL coaching career built toward this moment. Certainly, Joseph — and the Broncos — weren't aware of that when he took a job as an assistant secondary coach for the San Francisco 49ers in 2005.
Beginning with that initial job, however, Joseph aligned himself as a key cog in any system in which he found himself. Each stop was a chance to sit in on conversations with head coaches that would prepare him for situations he'll confront in Denver. The training began in San Francisco — under both Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary — continued in Houston under Gary Kubiak and in Cincinnati under Marvin Lewis and finished in Miami under Adam Gase.
So while Joseph will enter the Broncos' job with just a single year as a coordinator under his belt, he has a wide-ranging set of experiences on which to rely. And as Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager set off on his search for a head coach, that experience proved vital.
"I think he gained tremendous experience being in those conversations," Elway said. "Even though he [wasn't] the head coach, he's been in the conversation of what it takes and conversations that are going to confront you in that position. … He's been in the arena. And now he is the guy."
Elway tried two years ago to get Joseph on the Broncos' staff as the defensive coordinator. Though the Broncos interviewed him as a head-coaching candidate, they planned to have him assist former Head Coach Kubiak, who voiced his support for Joseph this time around. Bengals owner Mike Brown, however, declined to let the Broncos interview Joseph for the defensive coordinator position.
While disappointed, Elway took Brown's decision for what it was: a compliment.
"It was a feather in Vance's cap that Mr. Brown wouldn't let him go," Elway said. "When we talked about that, I totally understood when you have someone the quality of Vance Joseph, you don't want to let him go.
"I think getting to meet him two years ago, understanding what he's about, watching what he did and the way he worked with players in Cincinnati, as well as what they wound up doing in Miami, shows to me he knows how to work with players."
This year's search began almost immediately after Kubiak told Elway in Kansas City that he would be stepping away from the team. The head start gave the Broncos a chance to expedite the process and narrow down candidates. They ended up with Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub and Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, whom Elway called Wednesday to inform of his decision. While he said both of the other candidates made the choice difficult, Elway believed Joseph would continue the culture that both John Fox and Gary Kubiak fostered in Dove Valley.
Perhaps the biggest part of that culture is the consistent winning tradition — and Joseph didn't shy away from that Thursday.
"We have to embrace the culture here," Joseph said. "I mean, who wants to lose? I'd rather take a job where it's expected to win rather than a job where you can win four or five games and it's OK. I'm embracing it, I want the players to embrace it and expect it."
That winning mentality was one of several characteristics that Elway identified during the interview process with Joseph. Among the others were his ability to read the team, the way he fits a scheme to his players and his knowledge of offense that stems from his time as a quarterback.
CEO and President Joe Ellis, who played an integral role in the search, found Joseph's wide-ranging skill set to be paramount in the decision-making process.
"There's a lot of depth to who he is as a person and as a coach," Ellis said. "Certainly, he's an evaluator of talent and I think he'll work well with John and John's staff in that area. His coaches will too. He's very honest, very forthright, very composed in how he presents himself. I think that catches players' eyes. It certainly caught our eyes."
The search concluded Wednesday when Joseph signed a four-year deal with the Broncos. In the end, there was no single answer the committee needed to hear from Joseph to be convinced. Rather, Joseph's demeanor and presence helped the search committee feel comfortable in his ability to lead.
"I don't think there was any one answer," Ellis said. "It was a series of answers and a series of attributes that it was clear to us he had and he presented himself very well in so many different areas … All around, he's just a very well-rounded candidate, and now he's our head coach and we're very pleased to have him here."
Joseph's wife, Holly, may be the most pleased. When Mike Brown decided to keep Joseph in Cincinnati, the Broncos' new head coach needed a while to get over the development. It took his wife even longer.
"It's tough, because in this business you work hard to make advancements," Joseph said. "But I got it. … I had a contract issue. Mr. Brown was honest with me. He didn't want me to go because it was a big year for our football team."
"My wife was the one who was really upset. I healed pretty quick from it. Two weeks, and I was fine. It took her probably a year to get over it. I was fine, she wasn't."
Holly, along with their two children, Nataly and Stone, are in Denver now — and the long road toward a head-coaching career is over for the family.
This time around, Elway made sure he got his guy.
A look at the NFL career of Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. (photos by AP Images)