On this very website, the MHH staff have collectively questioned Denver Broncos head coach, John Fox, and whether he has what it takes to get this team over the hump and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to the Mile High City. A recent report claims that if Fox doesn't win the Super Bowl this year, he'll be fired.
"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."
Interesting. Many members of Broncos Country would agree that it's time for Fox to put up, or shut up. But it's important to remember that Paige is the king of hyperbole. That doesn't make what he said above untrue, but it should be factored in.
Fox's contract extension was inked about 60 days after he coached the Broncos to one of the most embarrassing Super Bowl snafus in the history of the NFL, as his team lost 43-8 to the Seattle Seahawks. Despite a storybook season that saw Peyton Manning and the offense rewrite the record books, when the chips were down, on the biggest stage, the Broncos folded.
Close, but no cigar. That has been the story of Fox's coaching career. Twice he has coached his respective teams to the Super Bowl; the 2003 Carolina Panthers and the 2013 Broncos. But let's focus on his track record in Denver.
In his first season (2011), otherwise known as the "Tebow Season", Fox went with the veteren, Kyle Orton, relentlessly pounding home the mantra that he gave the Broncos "the best chance to win". After leading the team to a 1-3 record, Orton was benched in the middle of their week 5 matchup vs the San Diego Chargers and Tim Tebow was inserted as the starting quarterback.
Over the next 8 weeks, Tebow led the Broncos to 7 wins and the driver's seat in the AFC West. But then the team lost their last 3 games and backed into the playoffs, narrowly winning the Divisional crown at 8-8, because the AFC West was that bad.
In the Wildcard Round, the Broncos shocked the world by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23. With the miraculous first-play from scrimmage in overtime, Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas on a simple slant route that Thomas took 80 yards to the house.
The Broncos were blown out in Foxboro the next week by the New England Patriots. Not long after, Elway orchestrated the greatest recruiting sales pitch ever when he roped the biggest free agent in the history of the NFL; Peyton Manning. Tebow was jettisoned and Elway commenced building the team around Manning.
Despite the question marks surrounding Manning's neck and abilities to throw, Manning led the Broncos to a 13-3 record and the AFC's 1-seed, giving them home-field advantage in the 2012 playoffs. Alas, the Baltimore Ravens came in to Denver and shocked the world by knocking off the Broncos 38-35 in double overtime.
That game again brought to light the chinks in Fox's armor as a head coach. His conservative nature led to the Broncos going into a shell, late in the game, and playing "not to lose". When your quarterback is Peyton Manning, you can't approach the game that way. You must play to win the game (thanks, Herm).
When the juggernaut Broncos dominated the AFC and shattered the record books the next season, it appeared as if maybe Fox had learned from some of his failures. The NFL world would get to see what a Super Bowl would look like when the league's best defense took on the best offense.
It wasn't even close. In many ways, the Broncos were unprepared for that game. From a scouting, scheme, and emotional standpoint, they simply were not prepared to take on the Seahawks. That falls on the coach's shoulders.
And like Paige mentioned, Fox's Broncos teams have gone 1-5 vs the Patriots. So far, the Broncos have been able to overcome these head-to-head losses in the regular season, and still win home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Eventually those chickens will come home to roost though. And we all know what it looks like when the Broncos have to travel to Foxboro. I shudder to think what the result would be, should these two teams meet up in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium.
This year, Elway has provided Fox with the most talented roster he's ever had. It could be argued that it's the most talented roster, at least on paper, in the history of the storied Broncos franchise. If Fox can't succeed, the excuse well will be dried up.
The bottom line is that in the most meaningful games, Fox falls short. And the Manning window won't stay open forever. Following this season, he'll have 2 years left on his contract with the Broncos.
If the team fails to win the Super Bowl in 2014, will Elway want to risk squandering those remaining precious opportunities with Manning, by rolling the dice again with Fox? Or will he stay the course and let the chips fall where they may? Only time will tell. But as the old saying goes, "if you continue to do what you've always done, you'll continue to get what you've always got".