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The results that matter: Inside Vance Joseph's Year 2 approach


If there's one thing Vance Joseph understands as he heads into his second season as head coach of the Denver Broncos, it's that he will not be judged on May mornings or June afternoons.

The preparation for the season is important, certainly, and that work began months ago. It started with self-evaluation as the season ended and continued at the Senior Bowl.

Joseph and his staff then evaluated prospects at the Combine and at pro days and assisted as the Broncos pieced together a draft class.

Most recently, of course, Joseph guided his team through the offseason program.

And each piece will undoubtedly be an important building block of the 2018 Denver Broncos. But they won't ultimately be how this year's team will be remembered.

They won't do much in shaping Joseph's resume, either.

For that, he'll have to wait until Sept. 9 — when the team trades mid-summer practices for its regular season opener. 

And Joseph seemed to understand that as he spoke to the media on the final day of the offseason program in June.

While he feels like he has improved as a head coach, he knows the results are what matter.

"Obviously, you get better with time — time on the job," Joseph said. "What I did better, I'm not sure, but I think everyone's focused. I'm focused on getting it right. So what I did better, I'm not sure, but it was a good offseason.

"We'll see in the fall if I got better. It all comes down to wins and losses."

All Joseph can do at this moment is focus on the small building blocks that lead to those wins and steer a team away from those defeats.

Experience certainly helps.

A first-year head coach — as John Elway put it at the end of last season — often finds him or herself drinking from a fire hose. And that led, in part, to Elway retaining Joseph for a second season.

Another aspect? Elway wanting to give a fair chance to the coach for whom the organization has high hopes.

"I also want to give him the best opportunity to be successful," Elway said in January. "I don't feel like we gave him that chance. We had some positions that didn't play very well, that I thought would play better than they played. That part is on me. We will get that part fixed this coming year.

"Hopefully we solve those issues and give Vance and his staff the best opportunity to be successful. Looking back, I feel good about the fact that we can stay where we are."

Many of those issues have since been solved, including the learning curve that comes with being a first-year head coach.

As much as they can before training camp arrives, the results appear promising as Joseph prepares for his second season.

"I think the focus has been a lot better," Joseph said. "After going 5-11, everyone is focused. Everyone wants to obviously improve. Last year was a tough year, so the guys who returned understand that. It's hard to win in this league. Even when you start 3-1, you have to continue to work and grind and get better every day. If you don't, you can lose seven or eight in a row. We understand that.

"I think everyone has an understanding that, 'Hey, it's going to take hard work and it's going to be continuous. It won't stop.'"

If there is one lesson to take from last season's 5-11 campaign in which the Broncos began 3-1 but struggled to an eight-game losing streak, it's that the team cannot afford to let losses compound.

That can be done in a number of different ways, but the responsibility starts and ends with Joseph, who admits that last season was "a teaching moment" for him.

"When you lose that many games in a row, my job is to fix it quicker," Joseph said. "Good teams don't lose three and four games in a row, so that's on me. I can do better there and I will do better.

"Hopefully we don't have those kind of losing streaks again, but if we do have some adversity, it's my job to fix it quicker. What I've learned, I don't know yet, but I know I have to fix it quicker and that's my job."

Perhaps it's obvious to point out, but adversity is nearly a guarantee. Only one NFL team has finished a season without a loss, and that hasn't happened since the league switched to a 16-game regular season schedule.

"Every team last year had adversity — even Philly, who won a championship," Joseph said. "They lost their tackle, they lost their quarterback; so it's my job and the coaches' jobs to fix it quicker."

Handling that adversity in a timely manner can be the difference between a Lombardi Trophy and another winter without a postseason berth.

Think back to 2015, when former quarterback Peyton Manning battled a foot injury. Brock Osweiler's four wins in relief weren't just helpful, they were paramount. Without an overtime victory in the snow against New England, the Broncos would have traveled to Foxboro for an AFC Championship date.

That doesn't mean that Manning, Von Miller and Co. wouldn't have found a way to still advance to Super Bowl 50, but the team's ability to handle adversity certainly helped its case.

Two-and-a-half years later, Joseph understands his team must find the same resilience and strength to confront whatever issues may arise next.

"That [is something] we have to do in this league," Joseph said. [There are] going to be hard times. It's not going to be all roses next year. Absolutely, it's going to be hard times. It's my job to fix it quicker."

No one — including Joseph — knows quite how he will handle those situations if and when they arrive.

But those are the moments and the results that truly matter.

And no one seems more eager than Joseph to have another opportunity to prove himself.

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