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Paul Klee: Allegations complicate feelings on Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph

By: Paul Klee
February 7, 2017 Updated: February 8, 2017 at 11:15 am
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Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph makes a point during a news conference to showcase the new coaching hires Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, at the team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo. The new coaches said that the goal is to build on the strengths of the team's defense while enhancing the Broncos' anemic offense. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

ENGLEWOOD — Vance Joseph is the new head coach of the Denver Broncos.

He's 44, a University of Colorado graduate, a former assistant coach with three college programs and four NFL teams, the patriarch of a family that looks perfect enough to be the model in those picture frames you see at Walgreens. He's also the greatest thing since no traffic, if you ask the dozens of football men who lobbied for him to land his current job.

That's pretty much the extent of what I knew about Joseph, minus a meaningless stat or 10 and the coaching staff he introduced Tuesday.

We — you and I — want to know all we can about the Broncos' head coach. His new gig makes him the most visible public figure in the Mountain time zone, aside from John Elway.

See where I'm going here? Just about anything Joseph does or doesn't do is news, and justifiably so. So when Joseph is hired as coach of the Broncos and the Boulder Daily Camera promptly reports that Joseph was accused of sexual assault as a Colorado assistant coach about 13 years ago, it's a jarring revelation and a bad look for the Broncos. Joseph, in an interview with Nicki Jhabvala, a Broncos beat writer, previously denied the accusations. He added in the interview he was embarrassed by his immaturity. Well, that doesn't add up.

I asked Joseph on Tuesday: If the accusations were false, why were you embarrassed at your immaturity?

"You know, I've addressed that. It was a long time ago. I'm on to football right now. I want to move forward with football," Joseph said.

The alleged incident was a long time and six jobs ago. I get all that. But like I was saying before — about much of a time zone wanting to know as much as it can about the head coach of the Broncos — the elephant in the room should be addressed before it grows horns.

Here's what else I know about Joseph. During an investigation in 2003-04, Joseph was never interviewed by authorities or charged with a crime, according to the Daily Camera report. That doesn't mean he did nothing wrong. Clearly he did something wrong, because Joseph said himself he was embarrassed. He was suspended by his alma mater and, soon after, was an assistant at Bowling Green instead of at Colorado. Something definitely happened. My biggest question was what I asked Joseph: How can you be embarrassed by something but also say it didn't happen? Then I learned he was married at the time. He was partying at the time, a 30-something coach hanging out with CU athletic trainers at the time. Joseph behaved in a manner unbecoming of a university employee, and CU finally sent him packing. I can see how he would be embarrassed, even while he never was charged with a crime.

By now your mind has been made up about Joseph. Either he's a terrible person who never should have been hired by the Broncos (and don't think all this won't be brought up at the first sign of a losing streak in Denver), or it all allegedly happened a long time ago and why are you dredging up the past? Anymore, there is no in-between.

But when readers and friends ask what I think of the Vance Joseph hire, I say that I find it complicated. I like that Joseph arrived here with praise from people I respect, from Adam Gase to Gary Kubiak. The Bengals thought enough of Joseph that team owner Mike Brown blocked Joseph from taking a promotion with the Broncos in 2015, and CU Hall of Famer and trailblazer John Wooten, chairman of the alliance that monitors the NFL's diversity policies, thought enough of Joseph that Wooten recommended him for the Broncos job. I like that his ego meter is set on low, evidenced by Joseph saying he doesn't need to call plays on offense or defense. ("I have a burning desire to call plays," offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said Tuesday.) I like that his resume suggests another Mike Tomlin, and the Broncos should be so lucky: 10 years as an NFL secondary coach (Tomlin had seven) and one as a defensive coordinator (same) before becoming a head coach. All of these things are good things for Joseph.

But I don't like all the other things listed above. As a Colorado guy who knows what the Broncos mean here — what the title of head coach should mean here — I was uncomfortable when I read the details of what allegedly happened. The Broncos must be sold that Joseph's embarrassments ended there, and that the head coach is as advertised: A leader of men.

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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