Fox finally makes it to Denver for interview|Former Panthers coach seeks to rebuild Broncos

Published 7:01 pm Thursday, January 13, 2011

By By ARNIE STAPLETON , AP Pro Football Writer
DENVER — John Fox brought his spiffy new orange tie to Denver along with a proven blueprint for resurrecting a downtrodden team.
Fox finally arrived in Denver early Wednesday afternoon to meet with the Broncos about their head coaching vacancy after his flight out of North Carolina was delayed three times this week by winter weather.
Fox then met with John Elway, who is leading the team’s second head coaching search in two seasons, to see if he was a good fit with the Broncos, who are coming off a franchise-worst 4-12 season.
Fox touts a top-of-the-pile resume.
“I’ve been doing it. I have a plan, whether it’s a bye week schedule, a training camp schedule. It’s not my first rodeo, so to speak,” Fox said. “So, I think I do have a blueprint to do it. We’ve had success, some years more than others. But you know the full body of work I think holds a blueprint for success.”
Fox has built a team from the ground up before.
“When I went into the Panthers we were 1-15 and it was very similar, a second (overall) pick, much the same situation,” he said.
Fox’s contract wasn’t renewed by the Panthers following an NFL-worst 2-14 season. He is the fifth candidate the Broncos have interviewed to replace Josh McDaniels, who was fired Dec. 6 amid the team’s worst slide in four decades and the embarrassing Spygate II videotaping scandal.
Fox said his interview was as much about him getting a feel for the Broncos to see if the fit was right.
“This is going to be two-sided,” he said. “I want to see what direction they want to go, and whether or not I can be a benefit to that. We’ll find out and that’s why I’m here.”
Although fellow candidates Eric Studesville, Perry Fewell and Dirk Koetter have interim head coaching experience and Rick Dennison has deep organizational knowledge after spending 24 years with the Broncos as a player and an assistant, none of them have the coaching credentials that Fox does.
Fox, 55, spent the last nine seasons as Carolina’s coach, going 73-71 and winning five of eight games in three trips to the playoffs. The Panthers were coming off a 1-15 season when he took over in 2002 and led them to a 7-9 mark in his first year before guiding them to the Super Bowl in his second season.
“I think the rebuild (in Denver) 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 told reporters at Denver International Airport before heading to Dove Valley.
General manager Brian Xanders has said the team’s top priority is fixing the last-place defense, which will be the focus on Denver’s draft, and Fox’s background is steeped 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.
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.
Another advantage for Fox is his deep roots in the NFL, which would allow him to build a strong staff.
Fox’s Panthers teams averaged nearly nine wins a season in his first eight years in Charlotte, but Carolina was the only team with a worse record than Denver in 2010.
Fox insisted he wasn’t beaten down by last year’s difficult season or by the grind of being an NFL head coach for nearly the last decade.
“I still have a big passion for it,” he said. “I’m excited about this opportunity, the Broncos’ tradition. I think getting John involved is critical. And I just want to get a chance to visit these guys and see what their plan’s going to be.”
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(notes). And Fox said he’s a big believer in the former Florida star who started Denver’s last three games.
“Well, I’ll say this: I had dinner with the young man in Gainesville in the evaluation process and I know he’ll do whatever it takes to be a great player,” Fox said. “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.”
Of Denver’s five candidates so far, only Fewell has had interviews with other NFL teams about their head coaching vacancies. He interviewed with the Cleveland Browns and the Panthers, who hired Ron Rivera.
Fewell, the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, interviewed with the Broncos on Sunday as did Studesville, who went 1-3 after being promoted from running backs coach upon McDaniels’ ouster. Offensive coordinators Dennison of Houston and Koetter of Jacksonville interviewed Tuesday.