Why the Denver Broncos Parted Ways With John Fox


Dec 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Denver Broncos head coach John Fox against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 37-28. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Some coaches are fired because they go 4-12 and 3-13 in back to back years, some coaches are fired because they can’t get over that 8-8 hump and then there’s John Fox. He was fired, and he was fired, for a number of reasons that we will outline couple of those reasons in a moment but make no mistake, Fox is gone because he came up woefully short in big games.

In the biggest game of them all, the Broncos looked unprepared and uninspired. In last year’s Super Bowl versus the Seattle Seahawks, the Broncos looked like they had not practiced in weeks. The Seahawks knew what plays were coming and were simply better prepared.

I firmly believe that the Super Bowl disaster is where John Elway’s concerns, outlined in a moment, first surfaced. However he really couldn’t fire Fox after an AFC Championship and was forced to go forward with him as his head coach. Elway also had to give Fox the contract extension before this season because he knew that a lame duck coach would be a distraction for a team with championship aspirations. Elway made the move now but I believe he had lost confidence in Fox well before today.

There have been far too many examples like the one in the Super Bowl over the past four seasons and Sunday’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts was just the latest. After the game, many players talked about how they just weren’t ready to play. How is that possible in a playoff game?

Now the players need to take some responsibility but when was the last time the Seahawks or the New England Patriots weren’t ready to play? Fox was obviously not fired for his 46-18 regular season record, he was fired for his 3-4 mark in the playoffs. While that might be good enough for a lot of teams, it’s not nearly good enough for Elway who measures success based on World Championships and not division titles.

Fox is no longer in Denver because of his postseason record but there were other factors that both led to that record, and rubbed Elway the wrong way.

There are reports that Elway was unhappy going all the way back to last season with how the Broncos prepared and the mental toughness of the team. Those factors also played a huge role in today’s decision. Broncos’ fans will probably remember seeing Elway sitting in the press box in New England wondering how the Broncos could look so unprepared and intimidated to play the Patriots. A team that, while talented, the Broncos should be able to play with.

Then there was the disaster versus the St. Louis Rams when Elway was so upset in the days following that game that he felt it necessary to step in. He talked to offensive coordinator Adam Gase about the need for more balance and Elway could not have been brimming with confidence when Gase asked, how should I go about that?

Elway also spoke to defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio about the need to be more aggressive and blitz more, pointing out that the Broncos had the talent in the secondary to do just that. Del Rio obliged for a week and the Broncos played their best defensive game of the season versus the Kansas City Chiefs, sending blitzes and harassing Alex Smith all night. Then for whatever reason, Del Rio reverted back to playing his vanilla defense and showed no ability to be able to adjust.

It really had to bother Elway that he felt like he had to step in because he knew Fox wouldn’t, and it had to bother him more when he watched all of that defensive talent go to waste because Fox and Del Rio refused to deploy it correctly.

So what’s next? I’ll get in to the guy that would be my number one choice on Tuesday but here’s what Elway will be looking for in his next head coach. A guy who won’t coach scared in big games, a guy that will have his team prepared for every game and ever situation and a guy who will demand mental toughness from his team. Based on that criteria, I would be shocked if Gase was seriously considered.

As for the future of Peyton Manning and how the coaching change might effect that. No one knows what Manning is going to do but this decision was bigger than that, this decision was made because Elway no longer had confidence in Fox to lead the Broncos to a championship. Because if we’ve learned anything, it’s this.

Elway has one goal and if he believes that a change is needed to get that done, he’s not afraid to do it.