ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton is hiring Vance Joseph, the team’s former head coach, to be his defensive coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Thursday.
Joseph coached the Broncos in 2017 and 2018 before then-general manager John Elway fired him following a 6-10 season that resulted in the team’s third consecutive missed playoffs after winning Super Bowl 50.
Joseph has spent the past four seasons as the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator. Payton interviewed Joseph at the team’s suburban Denver complex on Feb. 17.
Payton had interviewed a group of candidates that included ESPN analyst and former NFL head coach Rex Ryan, Seattle Seahawks associate head coach Sean Desai and current Broncos defensive backs coach Christian Parker. Former Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer also interviewed for an unspecified role.
Joseph joins Wade Phillips as the only other former Broncos head coach to have been fired and later rehired as a coordinator. Phillips was fired after the 1994 season and returned in 2015 under head coach Gary Kubiak.
Phillips, who worked with Joseph for the Houston Texans, reached out to Joseph before his interview with Payton.
Payton, who was formally introduced Feb. 6 as the Broncos’ coach, publicly pledged that in Arizona during Super Bowl week to take his time in assembling his coaching staff — he used the phrase “hire slow, fire fast.” He has conducted interviews with potential candidates on offense, defense and for special teams that have included several coaches he worked with in his 16 years with the New Orleans Saints as well as some assistants who were on Nathaniel Hackett’s staff with the Broncos.
The Broncos’ 2022 defensive coordinator, Ejiro Evero, also interviewed with Payton but accepted the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator position.
Under Evero, the Broncos had the league’s top scoring defense into December before losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams during a three-week span knocked them off that perch. They finished tied for 13th in scoring defense (21.1 points per game), No. 7 in total defense, No. 2 on third down and No. 7 in the red zone.