Cardinals' Kliff Kingsbury will 'lean on' a motivated Vance Joseph

Vance Joseph joins the Cardinals as a defensive coordinator with a chip on his shoulder after being in a similar position to Kliff Kingsbury not so long ago. Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Vance Joseph sat at the back of the Arizona Cardinals' cafeteria, his dark gray jacket covering a black collared golf shirt, free of responsibility for about an hour.

He had just watched Kliff Kingsbury, one of the NFL's new, young head coaches -- labels Joseph himself held just a few years before -- stand behind a podium on the opposite end of the room and introduce him as the Cardinals' new defensive coordinator in front of the media.

That was once Joseph, who was fired by the Denver Broncos on the first day of this offseason after serving as the team's head coach for two seasons, winning just 11 games. Times are different now for Joseph, who was hired by the Cardinals less than two weeks after being fired, and that might just be for the better. What he learned over the past two years, Joseph can now pass down to Kingsbury.

"For me to lean on him for advice and thoughts will be huge moving forward," Kingsbury said.

Joseph, 46, seemed to be enjoying the beginning days of his latest role, a return to calling plays and diving deep into the weekly strategy of developing game plans -- all things he missed as the Broncos' head coach.

"That definitely is a part I miss of being a coordinator," he said. "Because, as a head coach, you try to be involved 24/7, but it's tough because it's a big job."

He learned the hard way.

Getting fired still "stings," he said, and he joined Kingsbury's staff, admittedly, with a chip on his shoulder. If he had won more in Denver, nothing else would've mattered, he said.

"I can call defenses," Joseph said. "I'm not worried about that. I can call defenses. I want to win. I haven't won in two years. I won 11 games in two years. That's where my motivation comes in."

He added: "I just think, as a player and a coach, when you don't succeed at something, I think your competitive spirits firm up a little bit. Denver's behind me. Obviously, I was the head coach there for two seasons and I didn't win enough games, quite frankly, and it didn't matter why."

Being a coordinator is a "smaller" job, Joseph said. There's plenty he doesn't have to worry about anymore, allowing him to focus on the defense.

"For me, it obviously comes natural, and it definitely is an easier job," he said, "until we start playing games."

Last season, his assistants could tell he wanted to be more hands-on, even though he was still "heavily involved," said Greg Williams, the Cardinals' cornerbacks coach who was Joseph's defensive backs coach in Denver. Joseph sat in on defensive meetings and watched film. He stopped short of scouting offenses, but he still called some of the Broncos' defense.

And with how Kingsbury sees his role, Joseph will be getting the best of his last two jobs.

"He's really a defensive head coach," Kingsbury said. "That's what Vance is. I'll give my insights and we'll have great communication on how we can be the best we can on that side of the football, but that's going to be a deal that Vance is going to head up."

Even though Kingsbury is granting Joseph relative autonomy on defense, that doesn't mean Joseph won't click over to Kingsbury on the headset during the game and ask for his opinion. It's a system -- and a relationship -- that Joseph feels will develop organically.

But whenever Kingsbury needs Joseph's insight -- and not just on defense -- Joseph is ready to help. With Joseph having just gone through what Kingsbury is about to embark on, Kingsbury couldn't have asked for a better resource.

"If he has any questions about scheduling, questions during the season, he can come to me, obviously," Joseph said. "But Kliff is well prepared to be a head coach in this league."

Joseph stressed that Kingsbury isn't a "first-time head coach." He's just a first-time NFL head coach. There's a difference, Joseph said. He believes it's easier to be an NFL coach than a college coach. There's no recruiting, and the players are older and more mature, he said.

"Vance is a very positive guy, very energetic," Kingsbury said. "He's had some great advice for me as this process has gone on, and I think it's more as the season goes on, as things come up, to have that comfort level and that security blanket. 'Hey Vance, dealing with this. What do you think about this instance and what are things you wish you would've done differently?' Or 'What are things you thought you did well?'

"That's an invaluable resource for me at this time."