When Elway was looking for a coach in Denver, the Broncos were coming off a 4-12 season that included the midseason firing of Josh McDaniels and the awkward presence of McDaniels' first-round draft pick, Tim Tebow, who didn't get into the starting lineup until after the coach was gone.
"When I looked at this building when I first got here after the 2010 season, everyone was demoralized," Elway said in a recent interview. "The one thing that stuck with me with John was the positive attitude. Outgoing. Friendly. Positive. To me, that was the No. 1 characteristic. It was the simple fact of the way he was. I felt he could get this organization rehabilitated, get everyone excited about playing football again."
And, Elway said, there was Fox's "knack for football," honed over 34 years in the business, first as a graduate assistant in college, then through five stops in the NFL, starting as secondary coach in Pittsburgh in 1989, before he got the head job in Carolina in 2002.
Never did that knack work better than during the 2011 season, his first with the Broncos.
Unfazed by the prospect of building a system around a player, rather than making the player adjust to the system, Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy set aside their egos and, many might say, set back offense by about 50 years by bringing the read option back to the NFL to give Tebow an offense he could function in.
Then, when Manning came to Denver, Fox and McCoy listened to their quarterback while reconfiguring the offense again.
The entire time, Fox's specialty, defense, has been rock solid. The Broncos are ranked third in yards allowed this season. Last year, defense helped the Broncos win five games in which they didn't crack 20 points.
Asked whether his coaching philosophy changed from one year to another, under such drastically different circumstances, Fox didn't divulge much.
"Not really. You're in this to win," he said. "It's only fun if you win. You try to bring that culture, that environment, to the team."
Notes: The Broncos put out an official injury report because they have a game in three days but they did not practice. Fox listed LB Wesley Woodyard (ankle) and WR Matthew Willis (knee) as "out." ... Fox said there was no reason to panic about K Matt Prater, who has missed three of his last five field goal attempts. "He's made a lot of big kicks for us. I've seen it happen to many kickers before. You just go back and work on it," Fox said. ... Due to the compact schedule, the Broncos had Monday off. They'll practice Tuesday and Wednesday and leave for Oakland on Wednesday night.
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