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The men who helped make Vance Joseph a head coach

PHOENIX --All you had to do to see some of Vance Joseph's recent influences Tuesday morning at the AFC Coaches Breakfast was turn your head.

In one direction you could see Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who hired Joseph to coach the Bengals' defensive backs in 2014. In another sat Browns head coach Hue Jackson, who worked on the Bengals staff with Joseph as the team's offensive coordinator. Elsewhere in the room sat Adam Gase, the Miami head coach and former Broncos assistant who gave Joseph his first shot as a defensive coordinator last year.

In a single season with Gase, the two coaches experienced the gamut of performance. The wild ride began with a 1-4 start in which the only win was an overtime squeaker over the downtrodden Browns. Injuries, benchings and roster moves followed. Then came the emergence of star running back Jay Ajayi and a 9-1 run that propelled the Dolphins to their first postseason appearance in eight years.

The lessons of that season for Joseph involved persistence and adaptability.

"Adam Gase this year was a model of, 'Stay with the process,'" Joseph recalled. "He made changes that are hard to make. We cut three offensive linemen. We benched [Dolphins CB] Byron Maxwell who [was] traded from Philadelphia with big money. We benched [OLB] Mario Williams on defense who was a big-money free agent.

"That took courage because if those things don't work, now it's on you. We picked those players. That took courage, but it worked and we won nine [out of 10] games."

Joseph played a key role in sustaining Gase's process through his leadership.

"The command he had in our defensive meeting room -- there are some big personalities in there, and he did a great job controlling that room and getting guys to understand it's about team," Gase said.

Joseph's two seasons in Cincinnati saw a steadier ride; the Bengals went to the playoffs for the fourth and fifth consecutive seasons while he served as their secondary coach. Joseph extracted outstanding performances from the Bengals' defensive backs, particularly cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Terence Newman and safety Reggie Nelson.

"He was very well-versed technically. Very thorough," Lewis said of Joseph. "Just a really good communicator, he did an excellent job as a teacher."

Part of Joseph's success in that regard came from what he saw in Lewis, who also provided an example of how to handle the administrative responsibilities of being a head coach.

"Marvin is great with players. He's great with scheduling. He's great with the pulse of the roster," Joseph said. "I've learned from Marvin, just how he handled coaches. He wasn't a micromanager. He let you coach your guys. Now, if it was a big issue, he would come at you and he was a clear communicator. He was transparent with what he wanted. Marvin is easy to work for. "

In Cincinnati, Joseph worked alongside Jackson, then the Bengals' offensive coordinator and now Cleveland's head coach. The two shared a warm embrace at the start of Tuesday's breakfast, and sees ample leadership and motivational skills in Joseph.

"I expect him to lead the team," Jackson said. "He's going to do it his way. He's very fiery. He loves to win, and I think he'll prepare his team to play. He has great poise and he gets his players to play. That's what it takes in this league, and you've got to be able to lead men, and I think he'll do a great job."

The Broncos are banking on that.

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