Two weeks ago, I don’t think anyone would’ve thought the Denver Broncos would be where they are right now. It hasn’t even been a week since John Elway and the Broncos parted ways with their head coach John Fox, a day after their season ended prematurely. Fox went 46-18 in his time with Denver, winning AFC West titles in all four years. Impressive.
But here we are.
In my eyes, it was only a matter of time. Since I came to Predominantly Orange at the beginning of the season, I’ve felt stronger and stronger about Fox not being the one that would take this team to the Promised Land. Let’s go down memory lane for just a second. Here are some of the times I talked about John Fox this season prior to his departure:
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After the Broncos loss to the Patriots, regarding players not being angry after losses and losing on the road:
“However, that’s not really the Broncos’ style; it’s just not how they operate, and it extends to the way John Fox carries himself, which is with respect and class.”
“But sometimes it just feels like there’s a ceiling on this team, which shouldn’t even be conceivable on a team loaded with quality talent headed by a quarterback like Peyton Manning.”
After the loss to the Rams:
“The coaching can be more efficient across the board as well.”
Before the loss to the Bengals on Monday Night Football, pleading for him to take a risk:
“Things like this are what get my blood boiling about Fox. I get his record will show that he’s won a bunch of games/division titles with the Broncos, but over the past couple years it just feels like he’s been holding this team back.”
Going back to a couple days after the loss in St. Louis I had this to say:
As a side note, give credit to John Elway for making a move that was going to be unpopular to some, if not many. Like the Denver Post’s Mike Klis thought, I didn’t think there was anyway Elway would fire Fox after this year, unless they missed the playoffs. Even then I wouldn’t have been confident.
That still didn’t change my opinion that I thought he should be let go. I thought the only thing that could rightfully save his job would be making the Super Bowl again. But even then, in hindsight, it would only be delaying the inevitable. We now know that the two John’s weren’t seeing eye-to-eye and this move was happening sooner or later. Fox may have sped up this process by (allegedly) looking for jobs before last Sunday’s game. Which, if true, is obviously unforgiveable.
Jan 13, 2015; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway speaks to the media at the Broncos training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
John Elway constructed a team full of Pro Bowlers, including ten from this year. This team has arguably had the most pure talent on its roster the last three years. But a coaching staff that underwhelmed and consistently didn’t fit their game plan to their players wasted those three years.
One of the first times I can remember thinking that Coach Fox might not be the best fit for this team come as early as the 2012 playoffs.
The Ravens came to Denver in the divisional round after the Broncos had a first round bye. The Ravens had just performed a certain play that resulted in them tying the game and the Broncos got the ball back in a 35-35 game. The ball was placed at the 20-yard line with 31 seconds on the clock and two timeouts left – just enough to try to see if they could get into field goal range with the hall of fame quarterback to set up strong-legged kicker Matt Prater.
The play call: a kneel down.
The reaction: boos.
The Ravens went on to win in double overtime.
After the game, John Fox had this to say regarding the Ravens’ successful Hail Mary that led to the Peyton Manning knee, courtesy of Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today:
“It was like a prize fighter who gets a right cross on the chin at the end of a round. You’re looking to get out the round. That might not be the ideal time to go for a knockout punch,” Fox said Monday in his season-ending press conference. “One of the things that when you coach players and you are around them, and we had 20 games prior including preseason, you get a better feel for where they’re at. A look in their eye, a feeling. It was pretty devastating”
This is pretty stunning coming from a head coach. This is pretty much the perception of Fox’s time in Denver in a nutshell, especially with Manning at the helm. Once the Broncos get punched in the mouth, (to stay with the boxing analogy) they can’t fight back. Of course, there are exceptions to this perception that the Broncos have provided the last three years. Namely, coming back from a 24-0 halftime deficit in San Diego in 2012 and scoring 35 unanswered points in the second half.
But other than that, when the Broncos played bad, they imploded. This could be due in part to Fox not getting the team ready to play on Sundays. Sure, talent can and did carry Fox a long way. But when it comes to contests in the playoffs, there’s no excuse to come out flat, and that’s what happened to the Broncos.
Oct 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos head coach John Fox congratulates wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) for his touchdown catch in the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Fox’s playoff record in Denver doesn’t even reach over .500 (3-4). Of course, that’s not all his fault. When teams lose, there’s plenty of blame to go around. But Fox deserves his fair share. The Broncos were 1-3 coming off a playoff bye in the Fox era. Two of those losses coming at home (inexcusable) and one in a blow out in the Super Bowl.
Coming out flat is something that former Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen addressed when comparing Fox to Gary Kubiak, both of whom he’s played for. You should read the full story in that link, but something that struck me in that article was Dreessen talking about the differences in preparation between Fox and Kubiak. According to Dreessen, Kubiak runs an up-tempo practice with meetings that have a purpose. Fox on the other hand, likes to drag out practice and has meetings just to have them. Of the two styles, Dreessen said under Kubiak, he felt better on game days.
Of course, this is just one man’s perspective, but I think it’s one many players would share. John Fox is a great guy, a player’s coach. But when it came down to winning uber important games, the Broncos came out flat way too many times and that falls on John Fox.
Parting with John Fox was the right decision to make for the Broncos going forward. Now Elway just has to execute.