Hell likely finish well up the track in voting for NFL coach of the year. This season so far has belonged pretty much to Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco and to loss-less Mike McCarthy in Green Bay.
But like Harbaugh, without benefit of a typical offseason for orientation with his new team, John Fox has set in motion a turnaround in Denver that ranks among the NFLs best in recent years and does not appear to be done yet.
Fox was fired after the 2009 season following a 2-14 finish in Carolina (where he previously took a team from 1-15 to a Super Bowl within three years in his first head-coaching job). Now he has the Denver Broncos, up from a 4-12 record under Josh McDaniels in 2010 to 7-5 already and a tiebreaker lead in the AFC West, a spot they have occupied only once (2005) since 1999.
Turnarounds are accomplished ultimately by players but choosing those and remaking an organizations culture is the immutable starting points.
Fox is Denvers third head coach in four years (Mike Shanahan 2008, Josh McDaniels 2009-10). Shanahan was taciturn, McDaniels abrasive. Fox is neither of those.
I think every week he always brings something new to our team meetings and a new outlook, just in his speeches, said quarterback Tim Tebow. He's always encouraging guys, and he's just upbeat, very positive, and players feed off of him. It's been kind of a feel of just do your job and count on the person next to you doing his job, and believe in everybody, be resilient and keep fighting.
Indeed, reforming the culture was the mission statement. Stories of his relaxed, unpretentious style abound through the organization, which are simply Fox being Fox.
At the end of the day, it was a similar situation that I experienced going into Carolina, Fox said. You do have to change the culture, you do have to change the mindset, and it takes a minute. And the guys have responded well.
Changing the changes
Fox himself has made changes in even his own ways of doing things. He is a devotee of the base 4-3 defensive scheme, but has turned Von Miller loose from a linebacker spot unlike his previous style in Carolina.
Offensively, he made the change from Kyle Orton to Tebow and then to more of a scheme in line with Tebows talents, however unorthodox.
Ive been in this business for a while and actually did a lot of research on Tim even when he came out, Fox said. I was well aware of his intangibles and the passion and the enthusiasm he plays the game with. I got to see that all through training camp.
Ironically, Fox caused a stir with a comment to NFL.com that if Tebow were operating in different offense, hed be screwed. The remark, taken out of context, appeared to lump Fox in with Hall of Famer and team executive John Elway as a Tebow doubter.
In fact, the full comment was vintage Fox, complimentary of his quarterback with the seemingly kidding at the end. Fox apologized and lost neither the team nor his turnaround cornerstone.
"He's just been very positive, Tebow said, and I think guys have really responded well.