John Elway's toughest decision still awaits

Photo by Ron Chenoy

Life isn't easy as an NFL executive.   The 2011 season started with a lock out and no practice for players. Then Elway and company had to decide what broken pieces needed to be fixed first on the completely shattered Broncos team (thank you Josh McDaniels!) 

Next big decision was, should they draft Marcell Dareus or Von Miller? Hard to say when you have a glaring gaps in both areas.  

Recently, Elway and company had another tough decision to make and decided to let go of All-Pro wide receiver Brandon Lloyd for a sixth round pick and a box of chick-lets.  

Just like most organizations, everyone wants to be the boss but only a few can really handle being the boss.   Leadership is full of tough decisions, building quality teams, and finding a way to be successful.   I think  the new executive Elway has been up to the task so far but after watching the first six weeks of the season i see a big decision learking for the former Hall-of-Fame quarterback.

The good news is that John Fox is the right man for the head coaching job.  He is a players coach, a solid defensive minded motivator, and more importantly, is not making a jack#$* out of himself like a lot of younger coaches including Todd Haley, Josh McDaniels, and Jim Harbaugh.  

Not sure how these highly energetic coaches can teach their young players how to keep their cool in big games when all three of them can't handle themselves in a professional manner.   Fox may not be sexy but he is just what the Broncos needed.  A back to the basic, defensive minded coach.   This is a great first step for an organization trying desperately to regain their legacy as an AFC powerhouse.

I also think Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is a nice addition for John Elway and the Broncos.  He has had the biggest gap to close this season and is slowly transforming the 3-4 defense to the Fox preferred 4-3.  

Not helping his efforts are all the injuries to the defensive line, the learning curve for Von Miller,  and the absence of many of his veteran defensive leaders (Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, and DJ Williams have all missed significant time).  It is still too early to tell, but I think Allen is going to be a masterful defensive cordinator and once he gets a fully healthy defensive unit and more playing time in the 4-3 i believe he will be a winner for John Elway.

Now for the hard part.  For all i love about John Fox as a head coach I am very concerned about this offensive approach.  Everyone knows the Broncos needed to have more balance on offense but a run first, conservative approach, doesn't take advantage of the new "pass happy " rules of the NFL and it isn't the same game as it was a decade ago.  

This was never more evident than earlier in the season, when the Broncos blew a game inside the five yard line and called the same exact play three times in a row. (By the way, you can see my reinactment of that terrible series of MaGahee up the middle right here and learn more about the conservative mindset of Mike McCoy).

Mike McCoy and Kyle Orton were made for each other.  Boring, predictable, and non risk takers.   The NFL has caused many fans to develop ADD because today's game is built on high excitement and lots of scoring. So don't be surprised Mike McCoy, when fans start to boo your bad decisions when you constantly call 4 yard passes on third down and 9 .   

The first thing McCoy thinks about when getting a new quarterback is reducing the offensive and keeping the QB controlled in a box.   This is the last thing you want to do Tebow.  Bronco fans need to be clear about one thing.  Tim Tebow is going to make some huge mistakes in the coming weeks but if McCoy and Fox are smart they will not try and control those mistakes.  

They need to unleash the Tebow and let do what he does best.  Improvise and create.  Sure the Broncos are going to lose some games but they have a better shot of winning with an out of control Tebow versus trying to fit him into the boring shoebox offense that Orton and McCoy like to operate in.

 They need to do something on the offensive side of the ball.   If the Broncos pull off a miracle and end up with Andrew Luck you cannot have John Fox and Mike McCoy calling the shots.  Let Fox work on the entire team and offer suggestions on defense.  If Tebow wows everyone the next 9 games, then the Andrew Luck conversation is mute but that won't change the tough decision for John Elway.  

John knows that his completion rate went from 55% to 60% when Mike Shanahan came to town.   He knows that he threw more TDs and a lot less interceptions under the new risk taking coach.  Lastly he knows he won two Super Bowls under the offensive mastermind Shanahan versus just attending the Super Bowl with the conservative Dan Reeves.


John Elway of all people, knows what is like to be handcuffed by a conservative coach.  And now with Tim Tebow on the field and even worse the possibility of the Broncos getting Andrew Luck you have to wonder if Mike McCoy is the right man for the job.   Tebow screams risk taking and wildness.   

Now for the big decision.   John Fox is the right man for the head coaching job.  But he is not the right man to call the offensive plays for the Denver Broncos.  The Broncos have two thirds of the puzzle solved.  They have a solid head coach and a potentially great defensive coach.

John Elway didn't like being in a box and neither will Tebow or Andrew Luck.  Conservative coaching is good for rebuilding but will not be the answer for winning championships and John Elway must know that.

Sure you need a balanced offensive gameplan and the Broncos would not have won either Super Bowl without the brilliant running of Terrell Davis.  

However, the play calling was not predictable and Shanahan was not afraid to take some risks.  John Fox and Mike McCoy can learn from history and ask former coach Dan Reeves what happens when you take an exciting QB and try to control him.  You end up sideways with the fans and in the cross hairs of your star Quarterback and it won't take long to be on the outside looking in. It's not too late to change!  I don't expect huge risks right out of the gate but when you are 1 and 4 and want to test drive your new Ferrari QB you don't put him in a no passing zone and drive 20 mph.  

Elway knows better, but will he have the guts to replace McCoy and pull his head coach away from offensive play calling in 2012.  

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