ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Following a four-year tenure in Arizona, Vance Joseph had options.
The Broncos' new defensive coordinator said Wednesday that he had "some choices" as he looked for a new opportunity.
For the University of Colorado alum and former Broncos head coach, though, Denver was where he wanted to be.
"Denver is home," Joseph said. "This is a great place with a great fan base. We have a home here still. For me, it was home."
Joseph, whose return to Denver reunites him with several of his former players, maintained that he never harbored hard feelings following his two-year stint as the Broncos' head coach from 2017-18.
"It was a fair process," Joseph said. "This is a league of winning, so when you don't win, there is going to be change. It was never personal for me. I came here and I worked my butt off, but it didn't work. I'm back now, and that's my focus: playing great defense for [Head Coach] Sean [Payton] and win games. I've never had that in my heart, even leaving here four years ago."
That appeal of working with Payton also helped draw Joseph to Denver.
"Just watching Sean operate on a daily basis as a head coach has been fun to watch," Joseph said. "He's doing a great job with the culture of the football team, and his message is really strong. He spends time on his messages, and it's been fun to watch him operate everyday as an experienced head coach."
Joseph, who called Payton "one of the best play callers in NFL history," stood out as the Broncos' head coach interviewed a number of potential defensive coordinators.
"Well, there's a calmness to him and professionalism to him that I appreciate," Payton said Wednesday. "We always found a way to shake each other's hand after a game or talk to each other. I just think that there's a poise and a credibility when he presents that's impressive. I think he's an extremely good communicator, and I think he's an extremely good leader."
Back in Denver, Joseph will look to help the Broncos maintain — and improve upon — their success from previous years.
"It has been a very good defense for a very long time here in Denver," Joseph said. "The challenge for me is to take what they did well last year and continue that and improve. You can always improve in certain areas. It's a good group. It's an engaged group. They want to be coached, and it's an experienced group in the back end. It's fun to watch those guys talk through concepts and follow my lead. It's my job to marry the language of both systems and what they've done well. [Let's] keep doing that."
Should he succeed in that process, he could mirror another former Broncos head coach that later returned as the team's defensive coordinator.
A week after Joseph was hired in Denver, former head coach and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips connected with Joseph. After a two-year stint as Broncos head coach from 1993-94, Phillips returned in 2015 as the team's defensive coordinator and helped the Broncos capture a world championship.
When they spoke, Phillips shared with Joseph their similar path.
"He reminded me that he was let go, and he came back as a coordinator and won a championship," Joseph said. "That was his message to me. Hopefully I can follow his trail."