In the past few weeks that Broncos QB Tim Tebow has taken the NFL by storm, not much attention has been paid to the mastermind behind success of Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Some will say putting Tebow in as the starter has been the resurgence that Denver needed, while others would argue that the Broncos defense has been the anchor in giving Tebow the close games for the comeback wins. But beyond the players on the field, there’s one guy that has played the biggest role in everything the Broncos have done over the last seven weeks: John Fox.
I’m going on the record today to say this: if the Broncos win the AFC West, John Fox should get Coach Of The Year.
I’m sure many of you believe Mike McCarthy of the Packers should get the nod, due to Green Bay’s realistic shot of perfection, and I wouldn’t argue that point. But what Fox has been able to do under so many circumstances shouldn’t be ignored. No team had more odds stacked against them than the Denver Broncos.
While the AFC West is probably one of the weaker divisions in football, it certainly wasn’t one that folks outside of Colorado thought the Broncos could win. Coming into the 2011 season, you could have made an argument for the Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders as being AFC West champions this year. San Diego’s high-powered offense, led by Pro Bowl QB Philip Rivers, gives defenses reason to stay up at night. Raiders RBs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush running rampant and a 6-0 division record in 2010 gave fans hope that they could only get better from a year ago. The Chiefs were division champs last year and earned a playoff berth with one of the league’s younger teams, so a possible repeat was within reach in Kansas City. There wasn’t much to be optimistic about in Denver.
After the firing of Josh McDaniels, the Broncos headed into the lockout-riddled offseason with a new regime (Fox and his staff) and no time to mesh with players on their roster. No OTA’s and the inability to make immediate roster moves meant the Broncos were paralyzed into making real strides going into the 2011 season. Fox had to make due with what he had, which was an uncertain offense and a defense that ranked dead last from a season ago. What Fox did, though, was makes some executive decisions that ultimately has the Broncos where they are today- on top in the AFC West.
Denver drafted Von Miller, who has had a great rookie year thus far with 10.5 sacks. They brought in WIllis McGahee, who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. They revamped the defense, which is currently playing at a very high level (minus Sunday’s game against the Vikings.. I partially blame Miller’s absence for the high score) and cut ties with Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd to let them use there talents elsewhere.
Of course, this post can’t go on without acknowledging the Tebow Factor. Fox knows damn good and well that Orton > Tebow in the overall art of quarterbacking. Much of that was the reason why Orton was named the starter before the season started. But when the Broncos slipped into a 1-4 hole, Fox knew a change had to be made. Broncos fans finally got what they wished for: Tebow Time. From that day on, the phenomena of Tim Tebow has been nothing short of must-see TV. While Tebow lacks a lot of physical skill it takes to be a QB in the NFL, Tebow doesn’t lack heart and determination. The Broncos have since responded to Tebow’s leadership and have gone 6-1 since he’s been named the starter. Tebow’s stats do not wow anyone in the fantasy football world (which, if you follow me, you know I could care less about), but he’s been awesome, because all he does is win.
Fox isn’t a fool, though. He knows that playing Tebow means they had to dumb down the playbook, admitting, “If we were trying to run a regular offense, we’d be screwed“. (Note: Fox has since retracted his statement, saying, “What bothers me about that quote is I love the guy.”). He realizes that, while Tebow may not complete a simple out route or throw a 40+ yard pass (before YAC), he can implement a game plan to put his team in a position to win, especially in a close game. He’s done that and, because of it, they’re currently 7-5 and in the lead for the AFC West.
Some would say that the Broncos caught a little bit of luck in the division. The Chargers are having one of their worst seasons in years, the Raiders are inconsistent and the Chiefs are dealing with huge losses of key players, such as Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry. But playing the hand that’s dealt shouldn’t be a knock at what’s happened in Denver.
As much as I love Tebowing and Tebow Mania as the next football fan (it’s extra sweet for me, being as though I’m a Gator fan), I can’t credit anyone else but John Fox for the success of the Broncos. Fox knows that Tebow isn’t the future. But he also realizes he’s the “right now,” the spark that the Broncos needed in order to build momentum and hope amongst themselves and their fan base. While most coaches would have kept a guy like Orton in or even went to their second-string guy and give him a try (the Broncos’ number two QB is Brady Quinn; Tebow was the number three QB before being promoted to starter), Fox took a chance and adjusted his playbook, and the Broncos haven’t looked back since.
You can have Mike McCarthy for your Coach Of The Year. He deserves it. But no one deserves it more than John Fox at this very moment. Nobody.