May 28, 2013; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos head coach John Fox reacts before the start of organized team activities at the Broncos training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox was ranked number eight by the NFL Network in its power rankings of head coaches. That’s a fair rating in my opinion; Fox is a top 10 coach but not an elite coach. Should the Broncos win a Super Bowl under his watch, he would make that jump.
More importantly than rankings is this question; is Fox the right coach for the Broncos going forward and can he win a Super Bowl?
There’s no denying the fact that Fox is a very good NFL coach, his record proves that. He’s rebuilt two different teams from the dregs of the league to conference champions. Fox took over the Broncos after a 4-12 season and has since led them to three straight AFC West Championships, and an AFC Title last year.
The criticism of Fox has always been his ultra conservative nature and fondness for the running game. He often gets heat from media and fans alike for things like taking a knee with 30 seconds to go in a tied playoff game versus the Baltimore Ravens. I’m not going to defend that decision, Fox should have let Peyton Manning try to win the game in regulation.
However a lot of that criticism is misplaced, Fox has shown the ability to adapt to his talent which is the sign of a good coach. In his first season with the Broncos, Fox found himself with Tim Tebow at quarterback and changed his entire offense on the fly.
Fox quickly realized that putting Tebow in a traditional offense was going to be a complete disaster. So in concert with his offensive coaches, Fox installed an offense that hasn’t been seen in the league before or since. The Broncos were running the option and it worked. They only finished 8-8 that season but that was good enough to win the division as well as a thrilling playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Some might say that the offense the Broncos ran under Tebow was too conservative but I would argue the opposite. That type of offense has more risks to it than any passing offense. Tebow was pitching the ball on the run, pulling the ball away from the running back after reading the linebacker and running the ball himself. There are far more things that can go wrong on those types of plays as opposed to a drop back pass.
The next season the Broncos signed Manning and the offense has been wide open ever since. In 2013, the Broncos threw the ball 58% of the time. Not exactly the ground and pound offense that often is associated with a Fox led team. The Broncos went for it on fourth down as much as anyone in the league and even faked a punt in a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Conservative offenses don’t set records for points and yards as the Broncos did last season. Yes it’s easier to go to that type of offense when Manning is your quarterback, but Fox has once again adapted to the talent.
In all honesty, the Broncos have gotten too far away from the running game and need find a better balance in 2014. In the Broncos four losses last season, one of the common themes was their inability to run the football. Both the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks were able to disrupt the Broncos offense with an aggressive pass rush, and they had no running game to fall back on.
If the Broncos are going to achieve their final goal, a World Championship, then Fox must impose his will a little more on the offense. The Broncos must be able to grind out yards when the timing of the passing game is off or being disrupted. They also must be able to run the ball when Manning has given the Broncos a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Too many times in 2013, opponents were able to get back in the game because the Broncos were unable to run the football effectively. The Broncos have said all the right things in the offseason as it relates to running the foot ball, but the proof is on the field.
I tend to agree with offensive coordinator Adam Gase; the Broncos don’t really need to run the ball more, they just need to run it better.
As for the original question about Fox; I do believe he can lead the Broncos to a championship but I also know this. John Elway has made every move with the goal of a Super Bowl victory and is not afraid of making a change if he needs to. Despite the contract extension in the offseason, Fox is under some pressure to deliver.
Fox has all ready proven that he was the right coach to re-build Broncos three years ago, but now he has to prove he’s the right coach win a championship. If he can do that, then a number eight ranking will be far too low.