The Denver Broncos want Vance Joseph to be their next defensive coordinator, and Vance Joseph wants to be the next defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. This seems like a match made in heaven, right? Not quite. The 42-year-old Joseph is currently the secondary coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, and if Bengals owner Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis have it their way, he will remain their secondary coach through the 2015 NFL season. The Broncos have shown that they are willing to wait for Joseph, but if the Bengals refuse to change their mind, there is nothing left that the Broncos can do. It will be time to move on to their second-wave of candidates, as a trade for Joseph is out of the question. While it remains possible to trade head coaches, NFL rules prohibit teams from trading for assistant coaches. Joseph’s hands are tied as well. Even if he chooses to resign, he is married to the Bengals for the remainder of his current contract.
Despite seeming un-American and violating the unspoken and unwritten rules of the NFL, what the Bengals are doing to Joseph is completely legal. Joseph agreed to and signed the contract that is in question, making him legally liable to honor the deal. He is being compensated handsomely, and does have the privilege of coaching football at the highest level in the world, but the most frustrating aspect of this dilemma is that very few football coaches ever have the opportunity in their careers to become an NFL defensive coordinator. The Bengals are not only blocking one of their top employees from accepting a promotion that would likely triple (or maybe even quadruple) his salary, they are also severely hampering Joseph’s chances of landing a head coaching job down the line. It is extremely rare for a coach to even land a head-coaching interview without having coordinator experience. Of the seven new head coaches hired by NFL teams in 2015, including Dan Quinn who is expected to be hired by the Atlanta Falcons after the Super Bowl, all have experience as a coordinator in their careers. Lastly, keeping Joseph from taking the job with the Denver Broncos appears to be a direct contradiction of the NFL’s Rooney Rule. Landing the defensive coordinator job with the Broncos would put Joseph on the fast track to becoming a viable head-coaching candidate in the very near future. As one of the few African American head coaches in the NFL, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis knows first-hand how difficult it can be for African American candidates to climb through the professional football coaching ranks. Given this fact, it is extremely surprising that he would slow down the career progression of Joseph, another talented, young African American coach.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has proven during his time in office that he is not afraid to intervene in any issue that arises around the league. He hasn’t hesitated in the past to act as the judge, jury, and executioner in disciplinary matters against players, so why can’t he step in and help mediate the situation involving Joseph, the Bengals, and the Broncos? First and foremost, it would require Goodell challenging Bengals owner Mike Brown, and given that Goodell’s past actions would make one think that he is nothing more than a puppet for the owners of the NFL’s 32 franchises, that is highly unlikely to happen. At a time when the NFL could use some good publicity, Goodell has been handed a situation that should be an easy fix on a silver platter. Let’s hope he does the right thing and talks some sense into Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis and helps Vance Joseph land the defensive coordinator job with the Denver Broncos.