John Fox’s Biggest Challenge, Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning to The Denver Broncos, Tim Tebow to the New York Jets, the Manning, Tebow saga played out like an episode of Days of Our Lives. So now that the dust has settled on both the Manning story and my recent move to a new house (I am still sneezing and unpacking) what it will be like in Denver for Manning and Fox.
There are a lot of moving parts in this move for Manning. First off will he be the Peyton we remember, The Super Bowl XLI MVP, the eleven-time Pro Bowler, and guy who threw 4,000 yards for six consecutive seasons? If Manning is the same player he was after the four neck surgeries, then he is a guy that spreads the ball around, doesn’t lock in on receivers, checks plays at the line due to the defense, and all around slings the ball. Peyton puts the ball all over the field and gets anyone able to catch a ball involved in the game. He is a master of the two minute drill. What team, ahead by ten, looks at Manning with just over two minutes left and feels comfortable, no one? What coach wouldn’t be happy to have him?
Now enter John Fox into the equation. Fox is a defensively minded coach who for years has played conservative on the offense. He likes to pound the ball establish a run game and rely on his defense to win the game. When in Carolina how many times did we see Fox run out the half down by seven, third and long, no problem, how about a draw play. Fox is the master of the bubble screen, the favorite of the dump off, and the general of the safe play. Nothing about Fox-ball says throw it all over the field.
So what gives with this? Is it all John Fox’s approach to the game, perhaps but perhaps not? Fox hasn’t exactly had gunslingers on his roster in the past, with names like Jake DelHomme, Jimmy Clausen, Rodney Peete, and most recently Tim Tebow at the helm, maybe he didn’t have much wiggle room. So was Fox’s philosophy more of a use what you have in front of and make the best out of the situation, or did he thrive on having the game manager type quarterback. Fox has shown the inability to stray from a game plan in the past if he feels his way is right. A lot was made last year of how good of a coach John Fox was by changing his offense to adapt to Tebow’s strengths. People would claim that John Fox can adjust his offense to the players he has, but can he?
Let’s take last year for example, first of all I don’t think Fox and John Elway ever meant to make Tim Tebow their starter. I believe that the Broncos in the first half of the season saw things going nowhere fast. With Kyle Orton struggling and the public outcry for Tebow they had to do something. They made Tebow the starter with all intentions for him to fail. When touchdown Timmy started winning games they had no choice but to keep him as the starter and ride the wave. Deep down I don’t think they believed they had their franchise quarterback and someone they could build around for the future. Like I said a lot of credit was given to Fox for adjusting the offense to play to Tebow’s needs but how much did he really adjust. First of all the way the Broncos were winning their games last year was good defense. Keep the game close and in the fourth quarter let your D go out and make a play to put Tebow in a position to win the game. This is nothing new to Fox which is the same exact recipe he used to take the Panthers to several NFC Championship games. Run the ball well, sure Fox has never really had a quarterback before that he could rely on their legs as much as he did with Tebow but running the ball is not a stretch for John Fox. He has always been a run first coach. John Elway on the other hand does believe in throwing the ball, so fast forward to now and you have Peyton Manning in Mile High. The question to me is not whether or not Peyton will be able to adapt to the Broncos, it’s will Fox be able to adapt to Peyton.
I don’t want you to think that I am bashing John Fox either. For the record I think John Fox is a very good coach. He has a recipe for winning football games and has been successful in the NFL with it. I am not questioning his ability to coach but I am questioning his ability to adapt. Fox has faced many challenges in his long career in the NFL. Some he has thrived with and others have blown up in his face. Coaching Peyton Manning will be a challenge for John Fox not because of what Manning can’t do but rather what he can do.
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