When the Denver Broncos hired John Fox I was pretty happy with the hire. I wrote a post explaining my theory on NFL coaches and the three categories they fell under.
1) Good coaches who win with talented teams.
2) Good coaches who can't win with under-talented teams.
3) Bad coaches who can't win with a team that is good or bad.
I then went on to explain why I thought Fox fell into category #1.
In the words of the great Arthur Fonzarelli, I was wr-ehrr-ehrr. I was wr-unn-gghh.
OK, Let's have the Fonz say it for me.
Never mind, just suffice it to say my trust may have been misplaced and my logic somewhat inaccurate.
John Fox did a fine job, just not a great job when it mattered most.
The Tebow season was what is was. Denver was forced to give him a shot and then miracle after miracle happened. Let's focus on the three Manning years when expectations were high and Fox certainly had a deep talent pool with which to work.
First off, he won in the regular season. Denver went 28-10 the last three years.
They dominated their division, going 17-1 vs the AFC West.
They did very well against their conference, going 29-7, although the 0-3 mark in New England was a red flag (Fox did not coach the game in Foxboro 2 seasons ago when Denver collapsed on Sunday, but it's still his loss.)
Mostly though, those regular season numbers are impressive. The playoff numbers are not.
3-4. (1-1 with Tebow)
2 home losses coming off bye weeks.
1 huge debacle in the Super Bowl.
For whatever reason, Denver looked overwhelmed and somewhat unprepared in the Super Bowl. They looked lethargic and incapable of in-game adjustments yesterday. They lacked courage (running on 3rd down) and common sense (Rahim Moore not deep enough) in a stunning loss to 4-seed Baltimore.
John Fox has proven that I left out a category for my coaches theory: Coaches Who Rise to the Occasion in the Playoffs.
Granted this is a short list. Current coaches in the NFL who make this category would be Belichick, John Harbaugh, Coughlin, Carroll and probably Tomlin and Payton. They've all won Super Bowls. Even their playoff losses are usually competitive games where they look prepared and ready to play.
Sports Illustrated recently wrote an article on how much John Elway hates to lose. Lord knows he lost on the grandest stage in the most embarrassing fashions, so he knows as well as anyone how those kind of losses can tarnish a person, a team, an organization. John Elway watched his team generate no pass rush vs Andrew Luck and his coaching staff do next to nothing to adjust to it during the game. John Elway watched his quarterback struggle to connect with his receivers as they were being banged around the line of scrimmage by Colts defenders. A tactic they saw last year in the Super Bowl. A tactic they should have had an answer for. They didn't.
So John Elway woke up this morning looking for his own answers and decided John Fox wasn't part of the equation any more. Fox had his chance and did more good than bad, he just wasn't very good when it mattered most. What would Belichick have done with this roster? What about Carroll? Heck, even Mike Tomlin?
Some would argue four straight division titles and playoff appearances deserve more loyalty, more chances to continue working on what they've built. Multiple Broncos players took to Twitter to share their shock and sadness over Fox's release. By all accounts he was a coach the players loved. Maybe that was part of the problem. Maybe there was too much love and not enough toughness. Too much comfort and not enough accountability. If Elway's willing to move on from this coaching regime, maybe everyone in the locker room will play with a little more urgency in the big games. Let's not pretend John Fox didn't get a chance. He did. He got 4 years and 4 shots at the playoffs and the results were mixed. John Elway wants to win, and if Peyton Manning has one more season in him, perhaps Elway feels obligated to find a coach he thinks is better suited to help him win in his final year.
Either way, Elway must find a coach who can get this talented team (one that will certainly look different regardless of Manning's decision about next year) to become a team other teams fear in the playoffs. A team that is prepared and shows some passion and cajones in the biggest games of the year.
Who is that coach? I'm not smart enough to tell you that, but I am smart enough to admit when I am wr-ehrr-ehrr