If John Fox Is Fired, Who Should Replace Him?

Denver Broncos' head coach John Fox surprisingly made headlines earlier this week in regards to the future of his job.

It was wasn’t good news, unfortunately, that was reported via Woody Paige of the Denver Post.

“John Fox is coaching for his job. If the Broncos don't reach, and win, the Super Bowl this year, Fox will be gone. His teams have lost four of five times to the Patriots (even though he said last Sunday he wasn't there last season), and he and his staff have been outcoached in five big games. Fox, who told me he wants to end his career in Denver in his 60s, turns 60 in 2015.”

Now, this really is nothing more than one man’s opinion.

Although, Paige does have something to his not-so crazy notion.

Fox has been walking a relatively thin line the past two seasons. He’s been a solid head coach during his four-year tenure with the team, but, like Paige said, he’s been outcoached in almost all of the Broncos’ biggest games.

The 2013 Division Round playoff showdown against the Baltimore Ravens was a complete nightmare. Virtually all of his regular season matchups with the Patriots have been losses, including this year’s 43-21 dud in Foxborough. Do I even need to mention the complete and utter embarrassment that was Super Bowl 48?

“Foxy” truly does have numerous significant victories under his belt and has never missed the playoffs since arriving in Denver. His overall win-loss record currently sits at 44-19, which really is outstanding. The rest of AFC West has cowered in the shadows of Fox as he’s beat up on the division to the tune of three straight divisional titles, with a fourth currently in the making.

Fox has been consistent and wins games in bunches, but can no longer hide from his playoff shortcomings. Finishing 13-3 back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013, and not coming home with the Lombardi Trophy in either season is unacceptable, more so when the teams he’s had to coach are basically all-star squads.

This season, there’s honestly no good reason that Fox shouldn’t be able to lead his Broncos to the Super Bowl and come out victorious. On paper, this is the most talented team in the NFL and it’s not close. No other contender can match the Broncos position to position. Only Tom Brady and the Patriots stand in the way of their championship aspirations. If the good guys are able to gain back home field advantage for the playoffs, then Broncos Country might as well book their tickets for Glendale, Arizona.

If Foxy cannot get the job done and come back to Denver a Super Bowl champion, then he can expect to be shown the door by general manager John Elway.

The Broncos would have plenty of options to turn to if Fox is fired, and it would be curious to see as to who Elway would hire.

In no particular order, here’s a short list of candidates for the possible head coaching vacancy.

1

Adam Gase

Offensive Coordinator | Denver Broncos
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has been everything the Broncos have wanted the past two years, and more. When he replaced former OC Mike McCoy, who left to coach the San Diego Chargers, plenty of fans were skeptical because of his young age (now 36) and how he would run an offense that had just gone 13-3, claiming the number one seed in AFC in the process. McCoy had gotten the reputation for being too conservative with his play calling, and the talk was that Gase would be the exact opposite. Well, since Gase has taken over, the Broncos have soared to amazing heights, offensively. His offense shattered the Patriots previously held record for most points scored in a single season with a whopping 606, and he helped quarterback Peyton Manning basically break all significant passing records. Manning seemingly rolls out of bed and breaks a record these days. Under Gase, guys like Julius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have blossomed into stars. Many may give Manning most of the credit for the offensive explosion, but make no mistake, Gase is the man running the show just as much as Manning is. While he’s been subject to criticism for shoddy and inconsistent play-calling every now and again, Gase has shown he can turn things around in a hurry. It would be a shame for the Broncos’ youthful and innovative OC to leave for another job, which he nearly did last offseason when the Cleveland Browns came calling.
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2

Jack Del Rio

Defensive Coordinator | Denver Broncos
The most likely option for Elway to turn to in the event that John Fox is fired would be Jack Del Rio. He enjoyed great success with the Jacksonville Jaguars for a period of time and has been solid as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator for the past two years. The Jaguars only made the playoffs twice under Del Rio, and he did finish with a 68-71 record, but he didn’t have a whole lot to work with to be honest. What gives him the edge here, besides his winning ways in Jacksonville with minimal talent, was the handling of the team when Fox took a leave of absence because of a health scare. Fox ended up being OK, thankfully, and Del Rio kept the Broncos on cruise control. He ended with a 3-1 record as Denver's interim head coach, his only loss coming in the Sunday night second half collapse to the Patriots, which Broncos Country knows all too well. Del Rio is a fiery, defensive minded leader of men and has done a lot with a little in regards to his work with the Jaguars.
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3

Jim Harbaugh

Head Coach | San Francisco 49ers
I’ve got to say, if Fox was actually let go by Elway, I’d want this man leading the Broncos. He’s an incredible leader, he's tough and is a proven winner. While he hasn’t yet won a Super Bowl, Jim Harbaugh has been to three straight NFC Championship games, one resulting in a Super Bowl birth, all in his first three years as an NFL coach with the San Francisco 49ers. Those same 49ers were a miserable bunch before he came along and he quickly morphed them into the contender we know today. Harbaugh and his club have been a lightening rod to scrutiny this season and currently sit with a 5-4 record in the NFC West. Many reports have come to light in recent months about a divorce between him and the 49ers. A prime landing spot to consider would have to be Denver and a team brimming with youth and talent, not to mention Peyton Manning, who’s the same quarterback Harbaugh fought so hard to bring to San Francisco in 2012.
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College Coaching Candidates

There haven’t been too many college coaches that have made the giant leap to the NFL and enjoyed success.

However, while in the past it may have been rare to see a college coach do well professionally, college coaches are becoming a nice little trend as of late. Jim Harbaugh, Chip Kelly and Pete Carroll have helped lead the way and were all college coaches that left for head coaching positions in the NFL and have thrived.

John Elway may want to, in particular, take a look at David Cutcliffe of Duke University. Cutcliffe has rebuilt the likes of Ole Miss, and more recently Duke, who’s now joined Florida State and Clemson as the class of the ACC, which is unbelievable. He’s more famously remembered for being a quarterback guru and the man who sculpted Peyton Manning and his brother Eli into what they are today.

Cutcliffe seems to be cemented in the college trenches but given his close relationship with Peyton as well as the lure Denver has, especially with what they have to work with on offense, it could be quite appealing to him.

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Conclusion

This is not some sort of petition to get John Fox fired. This is only a prediction on what COULD happen if Fox is no longer with the Broncos after this season.

It’s unlikely, but is a real possibility that Bronco fans must be prepared for.

If Elway decides Foxys time is up, look for him to head in these coaching directions.

Personally, given the overwhelming amount of news that Jim Harbaugh won’t be with the 49ers for a fifth season, I’d love to see him don his signature black shirt and khakis pants in the Mile High City next season.