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John Elway: John Fox is Denver Broncos' new head coach

1:33 PM, Jan 14, 2011   |    comments
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"Coach Fox is a great fit for us not only with his coaching ability but also with his personality," Elway tweeted.

Fox, who coached the Carolina Panthers for nine seasons (2002-2010), led them to an NFL worst 2-14 record last year. His contract was not renewed by the Panthers, who have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. The Broncos have the second pick, after a franchise-worst 4-12 season.

"He is a dynamic and proven leader who will energize our entire organization," Elway tweeted. "John has coached great defenses, turned teams around and been to Super Bowls."

Elway spoke with the media as he left Broncos headquarters on Thursday afternoon.

"He's a really good fit for us," Elway said about Fox while sitting in his car. "With his defensive background, he's dynamic, the players really like him, he's very knowledgeable on the defensive side but also runs a great football team. And for what this building needed, John Fox was the perfect fit for us, so we're looking forward to it."

The 55-year-old Fox has 22 years of NFL experience, including a 73-71 (.507) regular-season record with the Panthers. His tenure in Carolina included three 11-win seasons, two NFC South Division titles, three playoff appearances, two NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance in 2003.

Elway said Fox's experience helped win him the job.

"I think it's part of it, but also, the one thing I saw in John was he had great football wisdom. And I think that comes with the experience that he has, but not only does he have it on the defensive side, but overall, his football wisdom was what won us over," Elway said.

"We were all agreed and everybody agreed that he was the guy, and so we're thrilled to have him," he said. "I'm thrilled to death with it. I'm looking forward to it." 

"I'm very competitive," Fox said as he left the team's Dove Valley headquarters Thursday night. "Last year was obviously a very disappointing and very hard season, but that's all the more reason to jump back in and get things turned around here."

Fox and general manager Brian Xanders spent much of the day putting together a coaching staff. Speculation centered on Fox keeping Mike McCoy as Denver's offensive coordinator and hiring former Seahawks head coach Jim Mora Jr., as his defensive coordinator.

"There's been no decisions in that area yet," Fox said.

The Panthers went 1-15 in 2001, then improved to 7-9 in 2002 under Fox. In 2003, when Fox led the Panthers to an 11-5 record, he joined Vince Lombardi and Bill Parcells as the only coaches in NFL history to take a one-win team and turn them into a playoff team within two seasons.

During that turnaround, Fox took an NFL-worst defense in 2001 and transformed them into the NFL's second-best defense in 2002.

"We couldn't be more excited to have him lead our football team," Elway said through Twitter.

The Broncos official Twitter account released a statement from Fox shortly after the announcement.

"I am very thankful to Pat Bowlen and John Elway for giving me the opportunity to coach a football team with such a proud tradition. The Broncos have a culture of winning, and I am excited to continue that legacy," Fox said. "I can't wait to get to work, pushing our players to be the best they can be and representing this community as head coach of the Broncos."

In the five seasons before joining the Panthers, Fox served as the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants.

Denver is coming off a franchise-worst 4-12 season.

Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow sent a message about Fox via Twitter after learning about the news.

"Welcome to Denver Coach Fox! Can't wait to get to work with you!" Tebow wrote.

The Broncos hired Fox without conducting a second round of interviews. He was the fifth and final candidate to interview for the job. He was selected over Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Jacksonville Jaguars assistant Dirk Koetter, who were in the final three.

Elway said it was a tough decision between the coaching candidates.

"Everybody did a great job," he said. "We were very happy with the candidate list we had, but at the end, John was the guy we decided to go with."

Fox replaces Josh McDaniels, who was fired Dec. 6 amid the Broncos' worst slide in four decades and the embarrassing Spygate II videotaping scandal.

"I think the rebuild probably is going to require a little bit more on defense than offense but you know, I think I have a blueprint that we executed in Carolina and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work here in Denver," Fox said before his interview with the Broncos on Wednesday.

Fox arrived in Denver on Wednesday to meet with Elway after his flight out of North Carolina was delayed three times by winter weather. He was the fifth and final candidate interviewed.

Unlike McDaniels or Mike Shanahan before him, Fox's experience is rooted in defense. He spent 13 years as a defensive assistant with the Steelers, Chargers, Raiders, Rams and Giants, including seven seasons as defensive coordinator, before taking over the Panthers, who owned the league's worst defense.

In his first season in Carolina, the Panthers rose all the way to No. 2, the biggest turnaround since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

"It's a good thing that he's a defensive-minded coach; that will really help the defense," linebacker Joe Mays told The Associated Press. "It's also good that he's a proven head coach, as well. I think it's a good hire."

"He's had success in past, so why not here?" wide receiver Eric Decker said.

Prior to his stay in Carolina, Fox spent five seasons as the New York Giants' defensive coordinator, and in 2000 they went to the Super Bowl by shutting down the high-scoring Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship.

Although fellow coaching candidates Eric Studesville, Perry Fewell and Dirk Koetter had interim head coaching experience and Rick Dennison has been with the Broncos for 24 years as a player and an assistant, none of them had the coaching credentials that Fox does.

His Carolina teams posted three 11-win seasons, won two NFC South titles and went 5-3 in the playoffs, appearing in two conference championships and losing to New England in the '04 Super Bowl.

But they were inconsistent. Although his teams averaged nearly nine wins, they never posted consecutive winning seasons under Fox.

Still, Fox touted a top-of-the-pile resume that included a road map for leading the Broncos back to respectability after a five-year playoff drought.

"It's not my first rodeo, so to speak," Fox said. "So, I think I do have a blueprint to do it."

General manager Brian Xanders has said the team's top priority is fixing the last-place defense, which will be the focus of the draft, and Fox said he wouldn't have a problem if the Broncos want to stick with the 3-4 defensive scheme they've employed since 2009 even though he mostly used a 4-3 look in Carolina.

Elway said last week when he was hired as the team's new chief football executive that his new coach should be willing to work with rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. Fox said he's a big believer in the former Florida star who started Denver's last three games.

"I know he'll do whatever it takes to be a great player," Fox said Wednesday. "He's got a lot of the intangibles I look for and where that goes, it's hard to predict. He's in the development stage for sure, but I think he has the makings to be as good as he wants to be."

Fox met with some members of the holdover staff on Thursday after agreeing to take over the Broncos, but no decisions were immediately made on whether any of them would stay in Denver.

Studesville went 1-3 after being promoted from running backs coach when McDaniels was fired and provided the foundering franchise with a much-needed breath of fresh air. He'd like to stay on if Fox will have him. However, he told The AP on Thursday that he didn't know what his next move was.

"But I would like to tell the organization and fans that they are first class," he said, "and I appreciated every second of it."

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)

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