Cardinals to retain DC Vance Joseph, citing late-season improvement

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will return in 2020, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said ̀„Monday during his postseason news conference.

Joseph's defense finished the season ranked last in yards allowed per game (402) and gave up 21 or more points in all but one game, but the Cardinals showed signs of improvement during the final quarter of the season. Joseph's job was never in jeopardy, Kingsbury said.

"I never wavered on that," Kingsbury said. "Just his approach, knowing what I know of him and watching him work and things I saw from the first day I was with him, I knew that I wanted him to be here."

The Cardinals saw tangible growth during the final four games.

They improved drastically in five major categories in that span: yards allowed per play (27th for the season, eight over the final four games); total yards allowed (32nd for the season, 11th over the final four games); passing yards allowed (31st for the season, eighth over the final four games); touchdowns allowed (28th for the season, 13th over the final four games); and sacks (17th for the season, 10th over the final four games).

Kingsbury said he didn't feel the need to reassure Joseph that his job was safe.

"I think he understood where we're at and he knows it's gonna be a work in progress," Kingsbury said. "Just was really impressed that last quarter and how he stuck with it and we really started playing solid defense."

Maintaining stability on his coaching staff, at least at the coordinator levels, was important for Kingsbury.

"I think continuity is huge when you look at the top of organizations out there and how they've been able to keep assistant coaches and keep top players and home-grown players," Kingsbury said. "I think that's a big part of it. I'm just really excited to have these players back in the same systems in all three phases moving forward in the offseason."

Kingsbury reportedly fired defensive line coach Chris Achuff and assistant special-teams coach Randall McCray, according to SiriusXM NFL Radio. When asked about the report during his news conference, Kingsbury declined to confirm it.

Keeping Joseph was a popular decision in the locker room on Monday.

"I like Vance," defensive tackle Corey Peters said. "I think he definitely has the room and the guys like him, so having another year in this system to kind of learn the different things that we need to learn and see the looks, I think that's only going to help us out.

"So I'm looking forward to it. I think we're trending in the right direction. So I'm happy with that decision."

Joseph had to lead a defense that saw its personnel take hit after hit.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson was suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Then, during training camp, Arizona lost Robert Alford, who was going to be the starting cornerback opposite Peterson, for the season to a broken leg. Two defensive tackles, Robert Nkemdiche and Darius Philon, both of whom were expected to play significant roles, were released during training camp. During the regular season, Arizona released veteran safety D.J. Swearinger, cornerback Tramaine Brock and linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Kingsbury relied on Joseph throughout the season, given Joseph's experience as a head coach and longevity in the league.

"He's been huge," Kingsbury said. "Any issue I have or thought I can always bounce it off him, and he's open and honest with things he liked that he did as a head coach and things he'd like to have back, and that's for all the staff. All those guys have a lot more NFL experience than I do and they've all been great."