“Peyton Manning and John Fox are a package. It would be senseless for the Broncos to fire Fox and hire a replacement for Manning’s “one last run” at the playoffs. Also, it would be silly for the Broncos to retain John Fox if Manning announces his retirement.”
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photo: John Leyba, Denver Post
As the dust settles on a third straight Broncos season that ended in sadness fans and members of the media are scratching to come up with explanations as to why the team once again failed to get over the top. There are debates as to the meanings of strains and tears and questions about Peyton Manning’s health and his future. There are calls for John Fox to be fired and folks loudly hoping that Jack Del Rio takes the Oakland job. There’s talk of Brock Osweiler’s ability to be Denver’s starter next season and of the quarterbacks that may be available to Denver in the draft. There are fingers being pointed left and fingers being pointed right and people thinking others are stupid for believing what they do.
This is the natural fallout that comes with disappointment. And we really all should be disappointed.
This Broncos team was supposed to be better prepared for a long playoff run even than it was last season when it made it all the way to the Super Bowl. The pieces were in place on defense – or so we thought – to make the Broncos less vulnerable to post-season quarterbacks and Denver’s offense was more well balanced than it had been before. The Broncos were presumed to be less reliant on an aging Peyton Manning and more well rounded in nearly every way. They had upgraded the receiving corps by turning Eric Decker into Emmanuel Sanders and discovered a ground game highlighted by the surprising CJ Anderson.
This thing wasn’t supposed to end a week after Denver’s bye. Certainly the Broncos weren’t meant to be beaten at home by Jim Irsay’s Indianapolis Colts – the team Peyton Manning is most motivated to beat.
This morning blustery Broncos Country has every reason to be orange crushed.
Here’s hoping, however, that at Dove Valley, a certain number seven is reacting more purposefully to all that has happened than the rank and file residents of Denver. While Peyton Manning and John Fox and Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase and all the rest are plenty deserving of criticism it’s a year to soon for John Elway to determine than any or all of them should be let go. I write this as Denver’s most outspoken Payton Manning critic: Elway should give these Broncos one more year.
Not everyone will be back, obviously. Successful teams lose players and coaches during the off-season. Elway can’t bring back every free agent and he can’t convince assistance not to accept coaching offers elsewhere. But what he can do is keep from blowing up the Denver Broncos. The fact is that, as much of a bummer as it is to be eliminated from the playoffs – be it in the first round or in the last one – it’s even more depressing for a team to waffle through multiple seasons attempting to find an identity – cycling through coaches and starting quarterbacks trying to find a formula that works. Ask a Cleveland fan or a Miami fan or even a Chicago fan what it’s like to see your team change stripes repeatedly and repeatedly fail to strike a mix that will lead it to the post-season.
Peyton Manning and John Fox are a package. It would be senseless for the Broncos to fire Fox and hire a replacement for Manning’s “one last run” at the playoffs. Also, it would be silly for the Broncos to retain John Fox if Manning announces his retirement. If Manning wants to give it a go in 2015 Elway’s best bet is to stay the course, bring back Fox and whichever coordinators aren’t yet with the Raiders and strap in for one more season with the current core.
I come back to the Nuggets. After their most successful regular season ever ended in playoff tragedy the yellow and blue canned George Karl (who was then the NBA’s Coach of the Year) and made a switch at General Manager. Since then the Nuggets haven’t sniffed fifty wins or the playoffs and have danced around the fact that they are basically a rebuilding team under Brian Shaw. Had the front office had a little more patience the team would have probably made one more run – had one more opportunity to break the perceived glass ceiling that held them back. Instead it might now be a decade before the Nuggets see the level of success they had right at their fingertips.
It’s too soon to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
If no major changes are made the outcome of a 2015 Denver Broncos season is likely to resemble the outcome of this one. The Broncos will, under Manning and Fox, win the AFC West again. They’ll win ten or more games and probably even get a bye. The they’ll get beaten in the playoffs and fall short of reaching their lofty goal. Broncos Country will have been on another ride, seen a few more records broken, and enjoyed a fifth-straight division title. Then the same conversations that we are all having today can be had again – and then the whole thing can be blown up.
For now Elway and company must realize that playoff-capable teams are precious and that once Manning or Fox (or both) depart for good it may be years before the Broncos appear in the post-season again. Yes, Manning is limited and yes he’s only going to get older. No, John Fox is not Bill Belichick. The Broncos aren’t a perfect team but they’re a good team and they should stay one for as long as they possibly can. The Broncos should stick with plan A and give the fans one more season to look forward to before the era of uncertainty begins.