Broncos fans: get ready for a change.
After a disappointing 24-13 loss against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday in the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs, head coach John Fox and the Denver Broncos mutually parted ways. The announcement came just 22 hours after Denver’s season ended. And this may only be the start.
Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said in a statement: “While we have made significant progress under Coach Fox, there is still work to be done. I believe this change at the head coaching position will be in the best interest of our long-term goal, which from day one has been to win World Championships.”
Denver assistant head coaches are in the dark. Official word has not come from the Broncos, but according to The Denver Post’s Mike Klis, Elway told assistants they are still under contract but are encouraged to look elsewhere. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has already been in contact with San Francisco about being the head coach, and Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is interviewing for the same position in Oakland.
Legendary quarterback Peyton Manning was also noncommittal about his return to Denver after the game. The 38-year-old was dealing with an injury on Sunday and ultimately underperformed. The nature of his injury has conflicting reports.
Sunday Manning said, “I had the one thigh injury. Somebody said today two thigh injuries. That would be news to me. So I had that one thigh injury that I had in the San Diego game. It’s hung around but I felt like I tried to manage it.”
He finished just 6-21 on passes longer than five yards. And it’s purely speculation, but Manning’s decision to return may depend on who coaches next year, that is if he is capable physically.
The defeat against Indianapolis, his former team, was the ninth time Manning has lost the first game in the playoffs. No other quarterback has more than four “one-and-dones.” But there was reason to believe Sunday would be different. Vegas had the Broncos as a 10-point favorite. The Broncos had gone 8-0 at home this year. Heck, Denver even beat the Colts at home in the regular season. It was a disappointment any way you look at it.
In the season opener Denver jumped out to a 28-0 lead against Indianapolis before coming away with a 31-24 win. Between then and Sunday afternoon something went wrong, and some might blame Fox and the rest of the coaching staff.
The game plan against the Colts on both sides of the ball was questionable and indisputably ineffective. Offensively, the Broncos continued to throw deep balls that simply did not work. The running game behind C.J. Anderson, one of the few players for Denver that shined, was used sparingly despite being relatively successful. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck had plenty of time to throw and the Broncos defense rarely brought any extra pass-rushers.
Looking at who will coach the Broncos going forward, some rumors suggest former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who is jobless, or former Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who currently calls plays for the Baltimore Ravens, are potential replacements. Current Bronco offensive coordinator, Adam Gase, also figures to be in the running. Adam Schefter has reported Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is on Denver’s radar as well.
Elway and the rest of the front office will have plenty of decisions to make in free agency. Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Terrance Knighton, and Orlando Franklin do not have contracts that run into next year. It is likely Denver won’t be able to retain all these players.
The Broncos have just started their busy offseason. Oh the times they are a-changin’.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Jared Funk-Breay at Jared.email@example.com and follow him on twitter: @jaredfunkbreay