TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is not worried about losing his job despite being in charge of the worst defense in the NFL.
The Cardinals are ranked 32nd in total yards per game, passing yards per game and first downs per game; and 31st in third-down percentage and goal-to-go percentage. They’re also coming off a 34-7 drubbing by the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in which they gave up 549 yards, including 424 yards to quarterback Jared Goff.
While Joseph called the game “really painful” and said the Cardinals are going through “hard times,” he’s not concerned about getting fired from his job for the second straight season. He was fired as the Denver Broncos head coach last season after two straight losing records.
“I’m not. I’m not,” he said during his weekly news conference Thursday. “I’ve been coaching a long time in this league. I’ve had success as a coach, so I’m not worried about that. That’s not my call. My job is to fix the defense.”
Joseph hasn’t been successful doing that as of yet.
He’s the Cardinals’ third defensive coordinator in as many years and brought with him a return to the 3-4 that Arizona had success with under the likes of former coordinators Todd Bowles and James Bettcher during Bruce Arians’ time as head coach from 2013 to 2017.
Joseph said Thursday he knew it was going to take time to implement his system and get it to work. He said his hope when he was initially hired was that his system would work in the first few weeks but added that he knew that wasn’t realistic.
“We have a young group,” Joseph said. “We’re in our first year of a system. Even our veteran players have been in a different system for the last three years, so it takes time and it takes courage to live through this in hard times.
“We’re gonna get it fixed and once it’s fixed, no one remembers these times, but right now it’s tough. And so if you’re not strong-willed and you don’t have courage, you can’t fix it. You can’t let the noise dictate your attitude. We have to go to work. We have to simply fix it. We have a plan here and right now, it’s the first year of the plan. It wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t fixed, so that’s why we’re here, so we’re trying to fix it.”
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday that he’s still confident in Joseph because of what he sees from his defensive coordinator.
“I see every day at practice,” Kingsbury said. “I watch the tape and see what’s going on and how it’s supposed to be played. Our focus right now is to get better in all three phases, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Joseph began taking steps to fix the defense this week.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson said Joseph simplified some of the calls to give the defense a better chance at playing faster.
“It wasn’t complex at all. It was just a lot of checks, a lot of moving parts, just a lot communication that was keyed upon and if you don’t get certain communication, things can break down so that’s the only thing,” Peterson said. “Just minimizing the checks, then guys are lining up and playing football versus worrying about if the Y does this and the X does that, checking into X, Y and Z versus just line it up.”
Starting this week, Peterson said the Cardinals now have one call and “not too many checks.”
Joseph believes the Cardinals’ defense is a few fixes — like the one above — away from being better. Joseph referred to Arizona’s issues defending tight ends. The Cardinals have allowed a league-high 978 yards, 13 touchdowns and 49 first downs to tight ends.
But Joseph pointed out that Rams tight end Tyler Higbee, who had 107 yards and a touchdown on seven catches on Sunday, caught three of those passes for seven yards and then gained the rest of the yards on each play after the catch.
“We can fix those things,” Joseph said. “So, sometimes the public sees it as huge issue, OK? And for us it’s simple fixes. So, again, it’s hard times right now. We’re all going through it. It takes courage to go through these times. OK? That’s where we are and it’s going to get fixed.”