The Denver Broncos have been burdened with high expectations ever since coach John Fox took over. After failing to deliver a Super Bowl victory in four stellar seasons, Denver has opted to go in a different direction, parting ways with Fox on Monday.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the news:
Broncos and John Fox parting ways.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 12, 2015
The Broncos would later confirm the move:
Jeff Darlington of NFL.com shared that Fox's entire staff has been encouraged to look elsewhere:
Elway spoke to entire coaching staff, informed they have permission to look elsewhere. New HC has choice to retain or bring his own guys.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 12, 2015
Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported when the decision was made between Fox and Broncos general manager John Elway:
Fox and Elway met at 2:30 today and they decided— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) January 12, 2015
Darlington provided insight into what caused the split between the two parties:
A member of coaching staff says a deteriorated Fox-Elway relationship was catalyst for Fox departure. Two good men — just real differences.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 13, 2015
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and Lindsay Jones of USA Today shared some insight into how the announcement likely caught many around the organization by surprise:
As recently as yesterday morning, #Broncos GM John Elway told people that even if the team lost in a blowout, Fox would be back. Not anymore— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 12, 2015
Every Broncos player I asked today about John Fox's future said they'd be shocked if Fox was fired. So here we go.— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) January 12, 2015
It was a big shock to Broncos players Terrance Knighton and Brandon Marshall, who expressed their disbelief on Twitter:
Damn— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) January 12, 2015
Wow..— Brandon Marshall (@BMarshh54) January 12, 2015
Chris Mortensen of ESPN alluded to more changes coming for Denver:
The "mutual;" parting of the ways between John Fox and Broncos is just the first of many changes in @Broncos— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) January 12, 2015
Fox led the Broncos to four consecutive AFC West titles and a 46-18 record over his four seasons at the helm, so this move comes as a bit of a shock. The presence of legendary quarterback Peyton Manning undoubtedly helped him turn Denver into one of the AFC's elite teams, but the defense made significant strides during his tenure, too.
ESPN Stats & Info tweeted out how rare Fox's situation is:
John Fox is 9th head coach in NFL history to not return to his team after a 12-win season & 1st since Tony Dungy in 2008. (@EliasSports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 12, 2015
Before Denver's 24-13 divisional-round loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported Fox could be fired if his team went one-and-done in the postseason (via Bleacher Report's Jason Cole). One day later, that has become the reality.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported on the potential candidate pool for the job:
Keep in mind, even with Fox's extension, Broncos coaching budget is far from expansive. A big name, big $$ hire would be surprising to me— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 12, 2015
Doing more digging on Broncos opening - would actually be very surprised if they went in-house, including Gase. Won't be M. Shanahan either— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 12, 2015
Broncos GM and former signal-caller Elway has been on a roll since he began in the team's front office. It's hard to question Elway's judgment based on the stupendous roster he's assembled and the calculated, brilliant risk he took to sign Manning in the first place.
That said, parting with Fox will likely elicit criticism based on the steady success the team enjoyed over the past few years.
Denver may not have Manning for much more than another year, if that, so Elway has to ensure that he finds a worthy successor capable of shepherding the Broncos into an uncertain, new era.
Viable in-house solutions exist in offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, although both could be candidates for other coaching jobs around the league. Based on Elway's demonstrated ability to supply top-tier personnel, the suddenly vacant position should be attractive to outside candidates as well.
Fox himself should generate a ton of interest for any of the remaining head-coaching vacancies around the league. Between his extended stint in Carolina and the heights he reached with the Broncos, it would behoove any team in the market for a new coach to grant Fox an interview.