Sources: Broncos promote Joe Woods to defensive coordinator to replace Wade Phillips

ByJeff Legwold via ESPN logo
Monday, January 16, 2017

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Just three days ago, recently hiredDenver Broncos coach Vance Joseph said the team's secondary coach, Joe Woods, is ready to be a defensive coordinator.

Joseph has backed up his words, as Woods has been promoted to defensive coordinator. Woods will replace Wade Phillips to guide a group that has finished No. 1 and No. 4 in total defense in the past two seasons, respectively.

Several members of the Broncos' front office and coaching staff confirmed the move to ESPN on Sunday. Joseph has steadily filled out some of the more high-profile positions on his staff: Mike McCoy will serve as offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave will be Joseph's quarterbacks coach, and Jeff Davidson (who was on McCoy's staff with the San Diego Chargers)will be the Broncos' offensive line coach. John Benton, who was on the Dolphins' staff with Joseph last season, will be the Broncos' assistant offensive line coach.

Also: Joseph has retained wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert and running backs coach Eric Studesville. Former Denver head coach Josh McDaniels originally hired Studesville, who was retained by John Fox and Gary Kubiak, the head coaches who followed McDaniels.

The Denver Post first reported the moves.

Woods, 46, has been an NFL assistant since 2004 and was recommended to Kubiak by Joseph when Kubiak was putting his Broncos coaching staff together in 2015. Woods has managed one of the most vocal and Type A position groups on the team. This past week, safety T.J. Ward said, "Joe has done a great job in our room," and added that as a potential defensive coordinator, "Joe would do a great job of that too."

Joseph set the table for Woods' promotion on Thursday, when Joseph was formally introduced as the team's newest head coach. Woods, a bright coaching prospect who some in the league have said could be a head coach someday, was believed to be in line to be the Broncos' coordinator if Phillips did not return.

"Joe's a bright coach, and he's obviously ready to be a coordinator in this league," Joseph said last week. "...Joe is a guy who can obviously defend the NFL pass game. ... I love Joe. I've been a friend with Joe for a long time; he's a great ball coach."

Phillips was a wildly popular presence among the Broncos' faithful, and his departure to the Los Angeles Ramslast week to be their DC was chronicled as if he were a head coach. Phillips' defense powered the Broncos' Super Bowl run in 2015.

Joseph had initially left the door open for Phillips to stay in Denver -- Joseph was with Phillips on Kubiak's staff with the Houston Texans -- and called Phillips "one of my football dads." Joseph said he and Phillips routinely spoke "three or four times a week."

But Phillips joined new Rams coach Sean McVay's staff shortly after Joseph's introduction. Joseph said last week he doesn't want to call plays on defense.

Woods now runs the part of the team that's on John Elway's mind. The team's "No. 1 priority" this offseason is to "stay great" on defense, according to Elway, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations/general manager.

And despite almost season-long struggles to defend the run this past season, the Broncos' defense finished No. 4 overall, No. 4 in scoring defense, No. 1 against the pass and No. 3 in sacks. The defense had three first-team All Pro players: cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talibandlinebacker Von Miller.

"That's the spearhead, that back end, because they're engaged, they're physical and they love to play no matter where, when or what we're playing for," Joseph said. "...When you can play man-for-man up close and middle ... if you have rushers and you have cover guys, you can play great defense, because scheme don't matter."

Broncos linebackers coach Reggie Herring also interviewed with Joseph to be the Broncos' coordinator. Herring and defensive line coach Bill Kollar have been on Phillips' staff with multiple teams.

Several Broncos assistants on defense have a year left on their contracts, so they would have to receive permission to leave if Phillips asked them to join his staff in Los Angeles.

For his part, Joseph said Thursday he would like to have his coaching staff filled out within the next "week, week and a half."