So John Fox -- the coach who saddled the Carolina Panthers with 10 games worth of Jimmy Clausen as a starter in 2010 -- now gets one of the best NFL quarterbacks in history to work with in Denver.
Doesn't seem quite right, does it?
But it's apparently true. Peyton Manning -- the most scrutinized and celebrated free agent since Reggie White went to Green Bay in 1993 -- has chosen Denver as his new home, with the contract more or less a formality.
That means Fox and John Elway -- who won his two Super Bowls in Denver in his late 30s and obviously could relate to Peyton in a way no one else in this recruitment process could -- will surely trade Tim Tebow and hand the offense over to Manning. I would, anyway -- can you imagine the circus if the Broncos keep both?
Manning won't be coached in the usual way. He is, after all, is basically his own quarterbacks coach and his own offensive coordinator -- or as close as you could be to one while still playing quarterback. Fox gets a new challenge here, coaching the sort of iconic, first-ballot hall of famer he never has before (Michael Strahan was close, but he didn't play quarterback).
Will Fox like it?
He will love it.
Fox doesn't like to be flexible necessarily, but he can do it if he needs to. He did what he had to do with Tebow last year, and that string of comebacks were remarkable. Ultimately, though, despite all the breathless coverage, Denver was 9-9 in 2011. Fox and Tebow were a shotgun marriage, and neither Fox nor Elway ever bought into that college-style offense longterm. Fox prefers a more traditional dropback quarterback, and he just got one of the best in history.
Of course, it may work out badly. Maybe Manning really can't come back from multiple neck surgeries. Maybe he gets hurt again in the first game and then Denver has traded away Tebow. Then, maybe Fox and Elway both get fired.
But I don't think that will happen. I have always been a Manning fan, both of his mind and his professionalism and his ability. He's still got it -- or else he's well on the way to getting it.
I am a little surprised Peyton wants to play in the Denver cold after being insulated in a dome for so many years in Indianapolis. I am a little surprised he chose Denver over San Francisco, a team that I believe is closer to the Super Bowl today than Denver (at least Denver before Manning decided to come) is.
But it is what it is -- do you think Fox will get Peyton to start saying that one?
I can tell you one thing -- Peyton won't be running the third-and-long draw without a fight. His easy smile masks a huge competitive streak, and he's not going to go along with the "a punt is not a bad play" philosophy.
Fox will once again be stretched, but in a different way this time. Tebow stretched his idea of what a quarterback could do running the ball in the NFL. Manning will stretch the coach's idea of how much control a quarterback should have over the passing offense.
Fox will do fine with it. The guy can coach, especially on defense -- we've all seen that. Now he has a quarterback that he can hand the keys to without inwardly shuddering. It's undoubtedly a relief.
As for how this affects the Panthers -- not much, since Manning will stay in the AFC. But there are two ways I see the Broncos and Panthers possibly interacting before long:
1) The tickets to the Denver game in Charlotte this season will be very hot.
2) Fox may get one of his folks to at least make a call to his old team and inquire whether DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart might be available at the right price. Fox likes both of his former backs, he likes to collect lots of running backs and the Panthers just signed a third running back themselves in Mike Tolbert.