Before I begin, a lot of the points I want to make about the overall reasoning behind and ultimately theory I want to propose about Vance Joseph can be found below in this twitter thread:
#Thread on how I theorize that part of the reason Vance Joseph is the Cards DC is that he was brought in by Keim as DC to develop Nick Bosa https://t.co/1BmU8jOsiW— Blake Murf (@blakemurphy7) November 26, 2019
If you’re still here and want a maybe more straightforward explanation, you’ve come to the right place.
I want to put out the following statement based on what we’ve seen in Arizona in terms of coaching moves, draft talk and team expectations...
I believe that Steve Keim hired Vance Joseph partially because he believed he would be drafting Nick Bosa at #1 overall in the 2019 NFL draft.
How can I say this?
Let’s lay out a bit of what I would call a timeline of Cardinals events as we know them to be, Post-Arians.
First, on January 13th was Dan Bickley’s column on why the Cardinals need to hire Pat Shurmur.
Shurmur was considered, I believe, and may even have been a front runner for the job post-Arians in hindsight considering his past experience with Quarterbacks and the Cardinals’ eventual signing of Sam Bradford.
He went to New York instead and AZ hired Wilks and brought in a traditional former head coach with a “flexible” approach on offense and multiple pocket passers that he had worked with before in Mike McCoy.
That part is important to remember, as I think it explains a bit of Steve Keim’s mindset. Hire a coach with a player in mind. Hire the Vikings OC as head coach because you want to bring in Bradford or Keenum or Teddy.
Fast-forward to the end of the Wilks era and it was a disaster. To say the least.
The Cardinals reportedly got a guy who wasn’t maybe their #1 choice at quarterback and ended with a miserable season and the #1 overall pick. Still, they had the QB and he’d shown some flashes.
Keim brings in Kliff Kingsbury as the head coach to fix Rosen and the offense. On the defensive side, it was a question of finding a 3-4 guy (what Keim said he believed was needed for the defense and was a core reason for the defensive struggles). And Vance Joseph was tabbed as the “Wade Phillips” to Kliff Kingsbury’s “Sean McVay” in copying the Rams model.
Things I was told or that Keim said about Vance that made sense:
- He was a 3-4 guy and had previous experience as a head coach in the NFL
- Denver’s defense played well down the stretch (or at least Keim liked it or felt he had)
- Bradley Chubb was the first round pick for the Broncos and had rookie double digit sacks coming out as a 4-3 defensive end with his hand in the dirt
Those 3 things line up well with the theory, but it was the hiring of former Cardinals DC Billy Davis to the staff that likely tipped the scales a different direction.
Davis was the linebackers coach at Ohio State university, where Nick Bosa was drafted from, and with previous knowledge of the player, he would be his positional coach in the NFL.
4-3 DE transition...experience working with a double digit sack rookie drafted highly...previous knowledge of working with Nick Bosa himself on the staff...
Yeah, it lines up. Makes almost too much sense, and many even noticed the connection outside of us on Revenge of the Birds:
Bill Davis is returning to the Cardinals as linebackers coach. Davis spent the last two seasons at Ohio St. -- where he coached -- Nick Bosa. pic.twitter.com/PLIhN8V0aU— Tim Ring (@timringTV) January 11, 2019
Of course, as we know, the Cardinals didn’t draft Nick Bosa.
There was a change in the organization after Kliff Kingsbury joined.
In January, a now infamous video where he said he would take him #1 overall:
To the also infamous “Josh Is Our Guy” comment Kingsbury made...
Y’all are having fun with speculation, but... pic.twitter.com/dy4NbJ82iB— Arizona Cardinals ⋈ (@AZCardinals) February 12, 2019
Yeah, there was a shift by Arizona toward selecting Kyler Murray.
Granted, it’s likely that Kingsbury came in knowing some of that he wanted Kyler Murray but that was news for the Arizona Cardinals.
So...what does this mean?
You could argue it’s a huge negative against Keim and Vance Joseph and that if Vance was hired to build up Bosa and help the team back into a 3-4...then why is he here?
It bears pondering. And I think it means there was a shift in the approach on defense as well.
But in that case it also puts things into a different perspective, one where Joseph maybe shouldn’t be blamed as much as we think.
Like, if you hired a kid to wait tables only to have a hostess suddenly quit and now that kid’s having to greet and seat people and they’re not good at it...is that the fault of the busser?
There’s a good argument your needs changed from finding a teaching coach who could build up a young pass-rusher and build around their skill-set while bringing along the defense to having to field a defense that suddenly lost veterans Patrick Peterson, Robert Alford, Darius Philon and D.J. Swearinger for 6 games to a season or to, well, regression.
And the reason why that defense suddenly had expectations?
Because Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury built the offense into a unit that’s averaging up from the 14.1 PPG they had in 2018. On the defensive side, Arizona gave up 26.6 points a game on defense last year...and it’s hard to build a defense.
It’s easy to think that the Cardinals and Steve Keim had a timeline of building surely and slowly around a franchise QB in Josh Rosen and a franchise pass-rusher in Nick Bosa...but instead of AZ’s defense improving, it’s gotten worse. And the offense got better by a TD and a FG on average, boosting that 14 points a game to 25 points a game.
It could be argued two different ways how Kliff and Kyler have affected the Cardinals. #1 is that potentially their dominance so quickly has exposed the lack of talent on the team and raised expectations in their first year.
Only...you could also argue that it’s not that there’s been incompetence exposed but rather than the PERCEPTION of the team and the expectations changed, especially looking at Vance Joseph.
What if Steve’s original “#KeimLine” of events was to grow from 14 points a game to 21 points a game and get the defense w/ Nick Bosa to grow a bit, finding young talent and moving the team forward slowly over the course of 2019. And all Kyler and Kliff have done NOW is show that the rebuild timeline can be sped up significantly beyond belief, rather than the slower crawl most believed.
And in the end, that will have to bear out when evaluating Vance Joseph.
If Vance was hired to essentially stay with the team for a few years, run a 3-4, build up Nick Bosa and be the HC of the defense while the offense tries to build and improve...he hasn’t failed at that part of his job, has he?
Rather, the offense has been ahead of schedule and THAT is why the defense is reflecting poorly by comparison. As if the defense was bad but building and Nick Bosa was improving weekly, you could check that box off and have a future hope...which currently isn’t happening.
This is all fodder for now but will mean the most entering 2020 after the year is done. Without Nick Bosa to grow and develop, and with Byron Murphy coming in at a high enough level from the start, it’s hard to argue Joseph’s improving or developing the defense.
And without as many ties to the team, did the reason for keeping him around end up changing?
I’m not sure. Or maybe it was never intended as a 1 season turnaround.
But I do know that unless some defensive development happens (and quick) then Vance will end up looking more like a Steve Wilks’ type who wasn’t able to fix the core talent problem on the team and less like the Wade Phillips he strives to emulate.
And there’s 5 games left now for the evaluation of Joseph for 2020 to take place. Keim’s evaluation of if Joseph is still the guy he wants/needs or if Joseph was put into an unwinnable situation that LOOKS worse than it is.
Time, as always, will have to tell.
Thanks for following!
You can listen to the interview with Broncos/NFL Insider Benjamin Allbright on Vance Joseph right here for more from Revenge of the Birds: