The Broncos' John Fox -- By the Numbers

John Fox? Really?

     These were the words from a friend when he heard that the Broncos had agreed to terms with John Fox to be Denver's next head coach. I must admit that my own reaction was somewhat similar, given the fact that I had never paid any particular attention to John Fox's career with the Panthers. My image of Carolina is one of a team that is perpetually near the bottom of their division and rarely among the better teams in the NFC. What I have found since Fox became one of the Broncos' head coaching candidates is that my perception is not completely accurate. In Fox's nine years with the Panthers, they finished in first place in the NFC South three times, in second place twice, third place twice and fourth place twice.

     The question then, becomes how have the Panthers stacked up against the rest of the league with John Fox at the helm. After the jump, we'll take a look at some answers to that question.

     The most basic question is one of Fox's win-loss record. That is the foundation upon which playoff appearances and championships are built. Fox led the Panthers to a 73-71 record in his nine years. By way of comparison, the Broncos had a 78-66 record during the same period. However, those numbers might be just a tad deceiving. Fox led the Panthers to three divisional titles -- compared to Denver's one divisional title during the same span. Both Carolina and the Broncos had three playoff appearances between 2002 and 2010. Fox led the Panthers to five post season wins, including an NFC Championship, for an overall post season record of 5-3. The Broncos went 1-3 in their playoff appearances.

When we look at the Panthers' year-by-year record we find:
Year Record Notes
2002 7-9 Panthers had gone 8-8, 7-9, 1-15 in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
2003 11-5 Won division. Beat Dallas, St. Louis & Philadelphia to win NFC Championship. Lost by 3 points to New England in the Super Bowl.
2004 7-9
2005 11-5 Won division. Beat New York and Chicago before losing to Seattle in the NFC Championship game.
2006 8-8
2007 7-9
2008 12-4 Won division. Lost to Arizona in a divisional playoff game.
2009 8-8
2010 2-14


     We see that Fox led the Panthers to three winning seasons, two .500 seasons, three 7-9 seasons and one 2-14 season in nine seasons. Overall, not the greatest record, but not the worst either. What is a little disconcerting is the roller coaster nature of the Panthers' season records: a winning season one year, followed by a .500 or losing season the following year. It would be worth further research to discern the reasons for this pattern.

     Another perspective on Fox's success can be found by looking at how Carolina has stacked up against the rest of the NFL in a variety of categories. The first set of statistics looks at the following categories: Win/Loss Percentage (obviously the lower the number, the higher the Panthers were ranked in the NFL), Take Away/Give Away Ratio (lower numbers represent more take aways than give aways), Points +/- (the lower the ranking, the more the Panthers outscored their opponents) and Yards +/- (the lower the number, the more Carolina outgained their opponents).

Year Record Win/Loss % Take Away/Give Away Points +/- Yards +/-
2002 7-9 20th 23rd 23rd 22nd
2003 11-5 7th 25th 16th 11th
2004 7-9 18th 4th 12th 19th
2005 11-5 5th 3rd 4th 11th
2006 8-8 13th 23rd 20th 14th
2007 7-9 18th 18th 21st 23rd
2008 12-4 2nd 7th 8th 16th
2009 8-8 16th 8th 17th 15th
2010 2-14 32nd 25th 32nd 31st


As with the Panthers' win/loss records, we see something of a wide spread of rankings. They have fallen in the top ten in some years, but in the bottom ten in others. It is hard to tell from these just where Fox will lead Denver.
 
     A second set of statistics are the Panthers' offensive rankings. We will look at three offensive categories, each with a set of statistics:

Overall Offense: Yards, Points, Give Aways. Please note in Yards and Points, the lower the number, the better Carolina did, in Give Aways, the higher the ranking, the less they gave the ball away.

Year Yards Points Give Aways
2002 31st 30th 29th
2003 16th 15th 20th
2004 13th 13th 12th
2005 22nd 8th 13th
2006 24th 27th 16th
2007 29th 26th 14th
2008 10th 7th 6th
2009 19th 21st 22nd
2010 32nd 32nd 29th

Fox's offense has not consistently been high in most categories and we can see a steady pattern of improvement, followed by a slide, followed by improvement, etc.

Rushing Offense: Yards, Touchdowns, Yards/Attempt and Fumbles Lost. In Yards, Touchdowns and Yards/Attempt, lower numbers are better while the reverse is true for Fumbles Lost.

Year Yards Touchdowns Yards/Attempt Fumbles Lost
2002 25th 21st 31st 27th
2003 7th 24th 17th 25th
2004 28th 19th 28th 14th
2005 19th 8th 29th 10th
2006 24th 28th 19th 10th
2007 14th 28th 15th 14th
2008 3rd 1st 2nd 5th
2009 3rd 10th 3rd 17th
2010 13th 31st 12th 28th


The Panthers seem to have made strong progress in rushing offense. Overall, however, their performance in these areas was as up and down as the rest of the statistics we have looked at above.

Passing Offense: Yards, Touchdowns, Interceptions, Net Yards/Attempt. In Yards, Touchdowns and Net Yards/Attempt, lower numbers are better. In Interceptions, higher numbers are better.

Year Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Net Yards/Attempt
2002 30th 30th 25th 27th
2003 18th 16th 12th 9th
2004 9th 5th 13th 12th
2005 17th 5th 13th 12th
2006 15th 17th 17th 20th
2007 29th 17th 17th 30th
2008 19th 24th 9th 4th
2009 27th 24th 27th 22nd
2010 32nd 32nd 25th 32nd


During Fox's first years, the Panthers passing game appeared to be steadily improving, before beginning to slump during the second half of his tenure.

A third and final set of statistics are the Panthers' defensive rankings. We will look at three defensive categories, each with a set of statistics:

Overall Defense: Yards, Points, Take Aways. Please note, the lower the number, the better Carolina did.

Year Yards Points Take Aways
2002 2nd 5th 7th
2003 8th 10th 18th
2004 20th 15th 2nd
2005 3rd 5th 2nd
2006 7th 8th 28th
2007 16th 15th 11th
2008 18th 12th 15th
2009 8th 9th 4th
2010 18th 26th 11th


Fox's defense appears to be fairly consistently strong. It was often in the top ten in key categories. One question that does arise is: Why did the defense start very strong, then gradually decline?

Rushing Defense: Yards, Touchdowns, Yards/Attempt and Fumbles Recovered. Please note, the lower the number, the better Carolina did.

Year Yards Touchdowns Yards/Attempt Fumbles Recovered
2002 8th 6th 1st 7th
2003 11th 6th 12th 23rd
2004 17th 28th 12th 13th
2005 4th 4th 4th 2nd
2006 11th 7th 9th 28th
2007 18th 21st 4th 5th
2008 20th 15th 23rd 8th
2009 22nd 21st 22nd 1st
2010 23rd 28th 10th 10th


Once again we can see how Fox's defenses were strong in the early years, but not so strong in later years.

Passing Defense: Yards, Touchdowns, Interceptions, Net Yards/Attempt. Please note, the lower the number, the better Carolina did.

Year Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Net Yards/Attempt
2002 4th 7th 15th 4th
2003 9th 13th 12th 8th
2004 18th 7th 1st 21st
2005 9th 2nd 4th 4th
2006 4th 20th 22nd 9th
2007 17th 15th 23rd 16th
2008 16th 10th 21st 6th
2009 4th 2nd 5th 9th
2010 11th 6th 11th 17th


The Panthers' passing defense rankings show the same kind of up and down patterns as the rest of the rankings during Fox' tenure. 

Overall, these rankings show a team which has averaged being in the middle of the league -- sometimes excelling, other times lagging behind. What I found encouraging was the improvement in Fox's first year. Carolina had ranked in the bottom five in nearly every offensive and defensive category in the league on their way to going 1-15. Fox was able to get them into the top ten in nearly every defensive category. This is precisely the major type of help the Broncos need.

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