A list has appeared on the Internet, and it is sparking debate.
Rotoworld's Pat Daugherty took on the daunting task of ranking all 32 active head coaches, 1-32. Atop the list, Bill Belichick. Second: Mr. Flavor of the Month Pete Carroll. Sixth: Chip Kelly. 11th: Rex Ryan. 19th: Mike Smith.
20th: John Fox.
Of Fox, Daugherty writes:
Fox is nothing if not a kindred spirit to Mike Smith. Fox has been with the Broncos for three seasons, in which time he's had two defining moments. The first was a kneel down. The second, a punt. Sometimes coaches make decisions that increase their team's win probability by 5-6 percent. Other times they literally punt from their opponents' 39-yard line down 29-0 in the third quarter of the freaking Super Bowl. Like Smith, Fox is never going to be accused of not having his files in order. Like Smith, Fox coaches not to lose, even when he has the most-prolific offense of all time. You play to win the game. Unless you're Fox, in which case, you'd rather sleep at night.
I actually find Daugherty's comments somewhat fair. I've said many of the same things, and pointed out Fox's weaknesses.
The one major area in which I disagree with Daughtery is the fact that John Fox has changed.
Fox learned how to coach to win instead of coach not to lose in 2013. He allowed the Broncos offense to flourish, and the team went for it on 4th downs where they wouldn't have a year ago. Then there were the two plays that saved Denver's postseason in 2013, and they were borne of remarkably similar situations to Denver's 2012 playoff loss. A four-minute drill to win the game. Convert a few third downs and advance in the playoffs.
In 2012, on third down, Fox ran. He even knelt. The Broncos lost.
In 2013, on third down, Fox threw. He even threw again. The Broncos won.
Foxball is nearly extinct folks, and if Fox can adapt to a Super Bowl the way he's adapted to everything else, Denver's championship chances look bright. I certainly trust Fox's handling of Peyton Manning and soon-to-be-head-coach coordinators more than the likes of Chip Kelly or Rex Ryan, and I don't understand Daughterty's criticism of Fox leading to a 20th rank where similar gameday critiques didn't drop Andy Reid below seventh.
I'd slot Fox right around 10th.
Fox has been extremely successful in Denver, and he's done it with two vastly different quarterbacks. He's won three straight AFC West titles and earned a Super Bowl berth. He played a huge part in taking Denver's defense, which was a league bottom-dweller for nearly a decade, and shaping it into a strength at times and a competent force at others.
He's not a ra-ra coach, but he runs a tight ship, is good with the media, steady, and has John Elway's trust. If he can improve in a few areas this offseason like he did a year ago, I see the Broncos challenging for a Super Bowl once again. I see the Broncos winning it.
And that's the only coaching metric that matters to me.