John Fox had to change the culture in Denver when he succeeded Josh McDaniel as head coach. Lovie Smith didnt need to do nearly as much of that when he took over for Dick Jauron in 2004.
Its not like we had to change Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, their mindset, any of that, Smith told CSNChicago.com. And I was following a defensive coach.
Fox follows two offensive coaches in McDaniel and Mike Shanahan.
But as much as anything happening at quarterback, Fox has twice used a clear personnel strategy around which to build his team. He has been a defensive assistant his entire career and set about rebuilding his two teams with exactly the same starting point, literally.
In 2002 the Panthers selected franchise defensive end Julius Peppers with the No. 2 pick of the draft.
This year, despite being one of the lowest-scoring teams in the AFC last season, the Broncos and Fox again went with a defensive linchpin who can rush the passer linebacker Von Miller with the No. 2 pick of the draft.
Peppers was defensive rookie of the year under Fox. Miller is a virtual lock for the same honor this season.
Drafting to the coachs concept of franchise strength is a familiar pattern for successful turnarounds. Among others:
Offense-based Andy Reid took over the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999 and the Eagles began their franchise turnaround with quarterback Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 pick of that draft. Reid had the Eagles in the NFC Championship game his third season (where they lost to Lovie Smith, Mike Martz and the St. Louis Rams).
Smith, a career defensive coach when he took over the Bears in 2004, used his first-ever draft pick on a defensive tackle (Tommie Harris) for the all-important under-tackle spot in his scheme. Smith had the Bears in the Super Bowl his third season.
New head coaches are moving into the job for a reason, because of our expertise on a certain side of the ball, Smith said. It should be the strength of your football team, not only when you come there, but the entire time youre there.
If not, what are you doing there? I think most teams follow that. At the same time, if thered been a great offensive player there that fit our needs, we wouldve done it. But you do have to get your strength back.