HOUSTON -- Vance Joseph's playing career wasn't long, but it gave him an important tool for the next phase of his football life.
He played offense at the University of Colorado, but when Joseph went to the NFL as an undrafted free agent, he turned into a defensive back. There he learned how fast the game can go on the back end, and how simple explanations helped him more than complex ones.
That's a lesson Joseph uses still.
"He’s a former player so we see things in the same way," cornerback Brice McCain said. "The way he explains things is very clear. If you don’t get it the first time, he’ll go back over and make sure you get it before you go on the field. Every coverage. He explains why we’re doing it. Technique. Why they’re doing it."
Seven years after the last season in which he played, Joseph is taking over play-calling duties for the Houston Texans' defense. This will be the first time Joseph has called plays in his eight seasons as an NFL assistant.
"It’s special and I’m honored by it," Joseph said. "It’s going to be good. I’m excited about it, (interim head coach) Wade (Phillips) is excited about it, the players are excited about it. It’s time to win a football game. That’s what it’s about -- winning."
Joseph didn't know exactly how excited some of his defensive backs were until I told him about it. He said he was honored to hear it. He didn't realize that many of them see a head coaching position in his future, and respect him enough that they're rooting for it.
Part of the reason for that is the work he's done individually with each player. Nowhere is it more visible than with starting cornerback Kareem Jackson, who struggled through his rookie season in 2010, the year before Joseph became his position coach.
"He’s helped me progress my game tremendously, technique-wise, recognizing splits, formations, the whole nine," Jackson said. " ... The way he explains things, he’s a very technical about things as far as going in depth with it (and) making sure that come Sunday, we definitely know what we’re going to see. The only thing we have to is just react and just play ball. He’s definitely is one of those guys that can progress into a DC or a head coach."
As he progresses, that individual teaching he's so good at won't be as big a part of his job. And Joseph knows that. This could be the first step to his growth toward being a defensive coordinator, but that will depend on how he adapts to the diversity of roles he'd have to take on for that.
Right now it's a gradual change.
"I’m in my meetings still," Joseph said. "I’m doing the intro meeting for the defense and that’s about it. After that I’m with the DBs. It’s normal for me outside of that intro meeting and outside of the coaches meeting. It’s the same role I had last week, a tiny bit more."
The Texans defensive coaches have worked together on the game plan this week. It'll be up to Joseph to know tendencies and make the decisions during the game.
He has a very specific goal in mind as the Texans travel to Indianapolis, where they have never won a game.
"I want to honor Kubiak by winning there," Joseph said. "That’s my goal this weekend."