DENVER -- Third and (now) one?
The Broncos interviewed Vance Joseph on Tuesday, beginning at 11:30 a.m., his four-hour session followed by dinner with team officials. He represents the third and possibly last candidate in their search for Gary Kubiak's replacement. Joseph began the process as a slight front-runner because of his discussion with the Broncos two years ago. He made a strong impression Tuesday.
"We enjoyed visiting with Vance Joseph at our facility today. He has great leadership qualities and a strong vision of what it takes to win," general manager John Elway tweeted.
Joseph has an interview scheduled with the Chargers on Wednesday and the 49ers on Thursday. And the Rams want to talk to him in the coming days. If Joseph is offered the Broncos' job, sources say he will accept. Will he leave without an offer? If so that would suggest the pendulum shifts ever-so-slightly toward most notably Kyle Shanahan or, less likely, Dave Toub?
According to sources, Joseph dined with Elway and Broncos officials on Tuesday night at Elway's in Cherry Creek following his interview at Dove Valley. It doesn't mean Joseph can't fly to San Diego on Wednesday morning, but it suggests the Broncos' interest in Joseph remains strong.
The Broncos talked to Joseph about their head coaching vacancy two years ago, then offered him a spot as defensive coordinator, which the Cincinnati Bengals vetoed.
Joseph was expected to nail Tuesday's interview. Beyond his acumen as a defensive coach, leadership ranks as Joseph's defining quality. Elway mentioned the characteristic in his tweet. Former CU teammate Chad Brown noticed it during Joseph's freshman year with the Buffaloes.
"He is a smart guy. He was the scout team quarterback. It was obvious right away that he took that job seriously. He knew that his role and his ability could make the team better," Brown told Denver7. "I remember him smacking a guy on the helmet, telling him to run the play right. You look back at this guy, now with possibly being a head coach, and he knew even then how important all the pieces were to win. He is a leader of men. He has that type of impressive personality."
Being in concert with the front office and managing the roster rank among the most attractive qualities for the modern NFL coach. Joseph has earned high marks in previous stops as a player's coach. While his Miami defense struggled in his lone year as a defensive coordinator -- ranking 30th against the run and allowing the most total yards in franchise history -- Joseph was credited by coach Adam Gase for keeping the unit from fracturing. The Dolphins reached the playoffs for the first time since 2008 despite a rash of injuries.
Joseph made his mark in Houston and Cincinnati. In his last two years with the Bengals in 2014-2015, Joseph, as the defensive backs coach, helped Cincinnati produce a league-best 41 interceptions. The Bengals picked off Peyton Manning four times in a Monday night win on Dec. 22, 2014.
After interviewing Joseph, it's possible the Broncos will conclude their search and make a decision. When Elway began the process, he admitted he had "three or four" candidates in mind. Toub and Shanahan impressed the Broncos with differing skillsets.
Shanahan is the people's choice. And it goes beyond name recognition.
Shanahan is the hottest playcaller for the league's most prolific offense. The Falcons, who face the Seahawks this week in the playoffs, average 33.5 points per game. No other team averages 30 points. Toub, a longtime strength and conditioning coach, has evolved into one of the NFL's top special teams gurus. As such he deals with the entire roster of players. He has interviewed for head coaching spots three times in recent seasons.
Three candidates. One decision to make.
"(Elway) is the king of the comeback," linebacker Von Miller said, expressing confidence his boss will make the right choice.
THE VANCE JOSEPH FILE