Connor’s Corner

The alarming news that John Fox, the Denver Broncos head coach, underwent heart surgery Monday led me to ponder how important head coaches are to their teams in the NFL.

Fox played defensive back in college for San Diego State and has built his coaching philosophy around being defensively sound while being able to run the ball effectively on offense.

Fox was aware of his pre-existing medical condition and hoped that he could wait for the offseason to take care of it, but received the unfortunate news in North Carolina during the Broncos’ bye week that he needed to undergo aortic valve replacement surgery immediately.

Fox led the Denver Broncos to a 13-3 record in 2012 and was well on his way to repeating similar numbers with a 7-1 record currently.

The Broncos have named Jack Del Rio, the Broncos’ defensive coordinator and former head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, as the interim head coach until Fox’s return.

Without Fox, the Broncos are likely to continue to struggle with their pass defense, ranking 30th in the NFL, which will prove costly against the San Diego Chargers and its top-five-ranked passing offense.

The undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, led by new head coach Andy Reid, will cause problems for Denver, and the Broncos have yet to face their conference foe yet this season.

The Broncos said that practices, meetings and team activities will continue to run on the same schedule that Fox had implemented, but with a new leader at the helm I believe the Broncos will founder.

The coaching leadership that Fox will not be able to bring to the team will ultimately lead to a loss in the first round of the playoffs.

I’m not trying to say that the Broncos are going to lose every game for the rest of the season because with quarterback Peyton Manning running the offense that is highly unlikely, but Denver will struggle in the absence of its leader.

The New Orleans Saints had to play the 2012 season without their head coach, Sean Payton, due to a one-year suspension from the NFL for his involvement in the bounty scandal.

The Saints went 7-9 in the 2012 and missed the playoffs in the absence of Payton, but the Saints have been able to turn things around this year by posting a 6-2 record.

The Saints needed their leader and the voice of their team back.

Many critics will say that the Broncos have the best quarterback in the NFL, and they will be completely fine in the meantime, but look at how the Saints performed even with their super-star quarterback, Drew Brees, in 2012.

Manning and Brees have both taken home the Lombardi Trophy once in their career, one more time than Fox has, and are similar generals of the offense while they are on the field.

Fox may have never won a Super Bowl, but he knows what it takes to get his team there when he coached the Carolina Panthers to the championship game in 2003. Fox held 13 different defensive coaching positions before he was named a head coach by the Panthers in 2002.

Fox’s attention to defensive excellence will be the missing link for the team in his absence.

On the contrary, the Indianapolis Colts found themselves in a similar situation in the 2012 season when head coach Chuck Pagano was sidelined for 12 of the 16 regular-season games while recovering from cancer and found success.

Indianapolis seemed to rally around Pagano and used him as a role model to guide its season to the playoffs. I’m not trying to make a connection between the coaches’ medical conditions, but Pagano’s story was easier to rally around.

The Broncos will make the playoffs, but the bruises they are going to take on defense while Fox is absent will culminate in an early exit from the playoffs. I’m not saying that Fox will miss the remainder of the season, but the habits practiced and the corrections that he cannot make in his situation will lead to an early exit.

Manning hasn’t proved that he can be clutch in the playoffs, and Fox’s untimely operation will be a detriment to the Broncos moving forward.

 

CONNOR SONDEL

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