There aren’t many coaches with as busy of an offseason as Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
On top of getting back to business on the football field, whether it’s organized team activities, minicamp or film work, the coordinator also took part in the league’s first ever Coach and Front Office Accelerator, a two-day program focused on providing “women and all minority prospects direct networking opportunities and exposure to club owners.”
After previously thinking programs like the accelerator were just about the NFL checking boxes, the coordinator left the event with a different outlook.
“I quickly recognized that not only were attendees meeting NFL owners and executives, but they were also being exposed to the sharpest, highest-performing individuals in the league,” Joseph wrote in a Monday Morning Quarterback column for Sports Illustrated. “The program also gave me the unique chance to meet other minority candidates in coaching and personnel.
“Other than the combine or pre- and postgame pleasantries, we don’t get to interact with, let alone build relationships with, other personnel departments and coaches we haven’t already coached or played with in the past. So yes, attending the accelerator program, despite my initial expectations, was well worth it.”
Joseph didn’t stop there, either, with the coordinator taking part in the Quarterback Coaching Summit, an event put on by Jimmy Raye II, James Harris, Doug Williams and Jim Caldwell — four former minority coaches and players — in an effort to identify minority offensive coaches and play-callers of the next generation.
It was an eye-opening experience for the defensive-minded coach to say the least.
“It was great to witness some of the brightest offensive minds in the country talk about football, from tutoring the QB on and off the field and encouraging their growth as a leader, to growing the QB as a team leader, to daily QB drill work,” Joseph wrote. “Every coach who had a chance to present put their best foot forward; they’re ready to preserve the legacy of the game.
“As one of the lone defensive coaches in attendance, I can guarantee that the league is in an optimal place to enhance diversity on the offensive side of the ball.”
But despite all the good that comes from the diversity programs, there is still an uphill climb in furthering the inclusion of minority head coaches and front office personnel.
“Hope can’t be our only game plan as a league when we are trying to provoke real change and growth,” Joseph wrote. “The NFL has taken the lead on a lot of issues that we have overcome in this country, and it’s time to be intentional in how we lead that change.”
Sadly, practices and events like the accelerator program and QB summit weren’t the only things Joseph took part in this offseason, with the coordinator, owner Michael Bidwill and members of the defensive backs room attending cornerback Jeff Gladney’s funeral in his hometown of New Boston, Texas.
Gladney and his girlfriend were killed in a car crash this past May. The cornerback was one of three NFL players under the age of 25 to die this offseason.
It’s a trend that must change, wrote Joseph, who echoed the same sentiment when talking to Arizona reporters following Gladney’s death.
“We witnessed every person that invested into Jeff’s life lose a piece of themselves that morning,” Joseph wrote. “We saw two parents searching for how they could have prevented this tragedy. Here’s my concern for the league. We can’t get accustomed to losing three or more players every off season.
“As a league, we can’t stand by and allow players to lose their lives in tragic accidents as soon as they step off the field. We can’t let ourselves grow numb to death, to mass loss of life in the league or a grocery store or an elementary school. It takes an entire village to help our greatest assets, the players, navigate this once-in-a-lifetime experience in the NFL, so it’s up to us to keep them from slipping away.”