John Fox out after 4 AFC West titles, 4 playoff nosedives
ENGLEWOOD, Colorado (AP) — The Denver Broncos are looking for a new coach after agreeing to part ways with John Fox following the team’s latest playoff meltdown.
Fox won the AFC West division all four of his years in Denver, but each of those seasons ended in ugly fashion in the playoffs, culminating with Sunday’s 24-13 upset by Indianapolis.
Fox might already have something in the works with another team — he didn’t shoot down a pregame report Sunday night that he could be available if the Broncos suffered a loss.
Neither Fox nor Broncos General Manager John Elway would say what was discussed Monday when they met, other than it was time to split up. “It became clear that it was best for both the Denver Broncos and Coach Fox to move on and make this change,” Elway said in a statement.
So, Fox is out after going 49-22 in Denver, including the playoffs, following a 78-74 record in nine years with the Carolina Panthers, counting the postseason.
The Broncos went 8-8 in Fox’s first year. The stakes were raised when Denver won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes and replaced Tim Tebow as quarterback in 2012.
Manning was murky about his future Sunday night, saying he had to process this latest loss before deciding whether to play an 18th NFL season.
Elway thanked Fox for helping “establish a positive, winning culture for this team” and said he “deserves a lot of credit for the Broncos’ turnaround,” but added “there is still work to be done” to win a Super Bowl.
Fox characterized his meeting with Elway as productive and honest and the two “mutually agreed that the timing was right for this decision.”
“Although we came up short of our ultimate goal, I am proud of our team’s many accomplishments during these last four years,” Fox said in a statement. “I am eager to continue my coaching career and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Fox became the only coach in NFL history to win a dozen consecutive divisional road games on his way to an unprecedented four straight AFC West titles in Denver. But the goal when Manning came on board was Super Bowl trophies. Instead, Manning is 2-3 in the playoffs with the Broncos.
Elway brought Fox to Denver after former coach Josh McDaniels’ 6-0 start in 2009 turned sour and resulted in his firing midway through 2010.
Fox’s first task was figuring out what to do with Tebow, and the coach’s flexibility showed, when he completely remade his offense for Tebow. Denver won seven of the next 11 games and finished 8-8, which was good enough to win the middling AFC West.
Tebow threw the winning touchdown pass in overtime in the wild card game against Pittsburgh, which set up an ugly — but understandable — 45-10 loss to New England in the divisional round.
Then came Manning, along with Super Bowl aspirations.
The Broncos finished the 2012 regular season with 11 straight wins and were shocked when they lost 38-35 to Baltimore in double overtime at home in the divisional playoffs. Fox came under scrutiny after that one — too conservative — mostly for kneeling on the ball with 31 seconds left after the Ravens completed a long touchdown pass to tie the game.
But in 2013, at Manning’s urging, the Broncos were anything but conservative — going to a hurry-up offense that helped Manning and the offense set passing and scoring records on their way to the Super Bowl.
That beautiful season ended ugly, as Seattle clogged the passing lanes in a 43-8 victory — a result that compelled Elway to spend $60 million in guarantees on new defensive players, with the thinking that his quarterback shouldn’t have to win it all by himself.
Those offseason changes mostly muted a debate about Fox’s ability to get his team ready for big games, but the coach came under more scrutiny midway through 2014 when the Broncos revamped their offense, and started focusing on the run more.
And for the second time in those three years, they were stunned at home.
There are several teams looking for a new head coach. Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has a second interview set up with the Raiders, and offensive coordinator Adam Gase interviewed with the 49ers, Falcons, Bears and Bills, who hired Rex Ryan.
Gase, the hottest offensive mind in this year’s pool of coaching candidates, figures to also get a look from Elway.
AP National Writer Eddie Pells contributed.