Jun 10, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos head coach John Fox reacts during mini camp at the Broncos practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Is 2014 A Referendum On John Fox?

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After two consecutive, heartbreaking exits from the NFL’s post-season tournament, is the head coach of the Denver Broncos, John Fox, on the hot seat? After all, he has arguably the best quarterback of the modern era, Peyton Manning, and a roster replete with talent across the board.

Is he on the hot seat? In a word, no. But that doesn’t mean that the pressure isn’t on blast for ol’ Foxy.

As amazing of a feat as it is, being one of only 6 head coaches in NFL history to take two different teams to the Super Bowl, the fact that both trips were losing efforts takes away some of the luster of that honor.

And the magnitude of how the Broncos lost Super Bowl XLVIII, only adds to the mountain of pressure. 43-8.

“Little louder than we thought, huh?” – John Fox, Super Bowl XLVIII

I think anyone who watched that game couldn’t help but see that the Broncos weren’t as prepared for their opponent and the environment, as they should have been.

I lived and suffered through the Super Bowl beat-downs of the ’80s. But those losses are very different than what occurred last February. How? John Elway willed those teams to the Super Bowl. He carried those teams.

The 2013 Denver Broncos had Peyton Manning, sure, but they also had a stacked roster, across the board. Now, I understand that the Broncos were missing 6 key starters due to injury. There was no getting around that. But that team was deep and very stacked.

I have to admit that I felt alarmed, as it pertains to my opinion of John Fox, following the Super Bowl. I often hear from people, and maybe they’re right, the platitude of “Hey. What’s the big deal? The Broncos are 26-6 over the last two seasons. #1 seed in the AFC back-to-back. Why mess with a good thing?” And I understand that.

But the reality is that before Peyton Manning became John Fox’s quarterback, his record as a head coach in the NFL was 81-79. Just two games over .500.

Over the last 10 years, Manning-led teams have won their division 9 times. Think about that. Does Fox get more rope than he deserves, simply because Manning is his quarterback?

Listen, I’m not trying to throw a wet blanket over the new hope and excitement that training camp brings. But I am trying to point out how good John Fox has had it and continues to have, in Denver.

John Elway and the Broncos’ respective scouting department, have consistently found excellent players for Fox to coach. Whether it’s through the draft, or free agency, the Broncos have improved in each of the last 4 years.

Today, the Broncos will don pads for the first time. I want to see intensity. I want to see guys playing with a chip on their shoulder.

When the preseason games come, I want to see the Broncos physically dominate their opponents, whether it’s the 1st stringers, or the 3rd team.

I don’t want the Broncos to pretend that February 2nd, 2014 never happened. I want them to remember the pain and humiliation. The shock. The bitterness of that defeat.

I liked hearing that during OTAs the Broncos were shouting “35” throughout practice, to remind themselves of the 35-point beatdown they took in the Super Bowl.

When John Elway took over as the Vice President of Football Operations, the first thing he did was hire John Fox. He’s a player’s coach. He’s a defensive minded coach. And coming out of the dictatorial McDaniels regime, Fox’s approach was like an oasis in the desert for the players.

But we’re long past that transition. And at most, we only have 3 years left with Peyton Manning.

Coach Fox, show us that this year will be different. Show us what smash-mouth defense is all about. Although the NFL season is the proverbial “long game”, you have the pieces to emerge victorious.

I know that John Fox’s job isn’t on the line. At least, not right now. But he should be feeling the heat. The 2012 loss to the Baltimore Ravens sucked but paled in comparison to Super Bowl XLVIII.

The good news is that after that heart-breaking loss to the Ravens, you could see that the Broncos came back the next year on a mission. They came to play with a renewed focus and took their game to the next level.

But it wasn’t enough to beat the Seahawks. This year, we not only get to see the Seahawks twice, but we get the entire NFC West, too. You have no choice but to play physical against the teams of that divsion. If you hope to win, anyway.

I’m hoping to see the Broncos take a similar leap forward in 2014. DeMarcus Ware. Aqib Talib. T.J. Ward. The team reloaded with some of the best players at their respective positions. The pieces of the board are set. It’s time to set it in motion.

But as disappointing as the end of the last two seasons have been, there’s no denying that it’s been a wild ride. We’ve seen the Broncos accomplish some remarkable feats. Each year, they’ve bounced back from the bitterness of defeat, only to go on and not only set new records, but go further into the NFL post-season tournament.

After appearing in the Super Bowl, there’s only one way to exceed 2013 and that’s to win it all. Is 2014 a referendum on John Fox’s job? Yes. I think it is. Expectations are at an all-time high. Can ol’ Foxy meet them? Only time will tell.

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