John Elway didn’t like Broncos’ lack of fire under John Fox

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Englewood | Published: January 16, 2015 12:39:28 PM

John Elway and John Fox embraced as they agreed to amicably part ways...

John Elway and John Fox embraced as they agreed to amicably part ways.

Hugs and handshakes might not have been necessary had the Denver Broncos gone out ”kicking and screaming” more often under Fox, the 59-year-old coach who’s on the NFL job market with a 49-22 record in Denver on his resume.

Nobody had a better regular-season record in any of the last three seasons than the Broncos did with Peyton Manning at quarterback. Yet, Denver lost two first-round playoff games as heavy favorites at home and suffered a 35-point thumping in last year’s Super Bowl.

Elway, the general manager, said on Tuesday he was disappointed the Broncos didn’t display ”more fire” against the underdog Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, especially coming off a bye.

”At least in that last game, you want to feel like you go out kicking and screaming when you’re right there,” Elway said. ”And two years in a row it didn’t feel like we went out kicking and screaming.”

Still, Elway thanked Fox and said the two remained friends.

”I like John Fox as a man very much. He is a very, very good man. He’s got a tremendous heart, even the new one they fixed is still tremendous. And he’s a guy that I will always have a personal relationship with. Because I, and we, as an organization, do owe John Fox a tremendous amount because of what he did accomplish the last four years.”

What they won’t owe Fox is his 2015 and `16 salaries if he lands one of the other head coaching jobs that are open.

Elway said he did not press Manning for a decision on his future when they met the day after Denver’s 24-13 loss to Indianapolis in the AFC divisional playoffs. He said he told the soon-to-be-39-year-old to take a few weeks to make his decision.

”I told him in four or five weeks – I’m going to stay in touch with him – we’ll get back together and see where he is because the career that he’s had, what he’s done not only in the NFL but in the short time he’s been here with the Denver Broncos, what he’s meant to us is tremendous,” Elway said. ”The bottom line is we want him back.”

With or without Manning in 2015, the Broncos have a talent-laden team ready for another playoff run, maybe behind Brock Osweiler, who’s served a three-year apprenticeship under Manning.

Elway described the parting with Fox as the culmination of a disagreement over what it takes to win the Super Bowl, and stuck to a statement that has lived with him since he signed Manning: ”There is no Plan B. Plan A is still the same – to win a world championship.”

While coaching candidates will be eager to know the quarterback’s plans, Manning will certainly want to know how much things will change under a new coaching staff in 2015.

Of equal importance to Manning is learning whether his late-season slump was primarily due to scheme, age, or health – he played with a strained thigh on his plant leg for the final month – and also whether he believes Elway can bolster his protection in free agency and the draft.

The Broncos made four changes in their offensive line during the season. But pressure, especially up the middle, was a constant concern for Manning, who needs the time and space to step into his throws post-spinal fusion surgery as more of his thrust comes from his hips than his right arm.

After spending $60 million in guarantees to bolster Denver’s defense last year, Elway said he’ll address his O-line this offseason.

”Having been a quarterback, he knows that I’m going to try to take care of him and that offensive line,” Elway said.

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