Denver Broncos coach John Fox has bucked a trend. In a coach-driven league where the guys wearing headsets on the sideline know best, he’s altered his entire philosophy to mesh with a quarterback he and Broncos’ new executive vice president John Elway didn’t even want.
A gutsy move considering Tim Tebow’s success depends on one of the most unorthodox systems we’ve ever seen in the modern era of football. Fox took a big risk – one that undoubtedly went against everything he’s ever been taught – and convinced a collection of 53 guys to wind back the clock to the pre-forward pass times.
Strangely enough, it’s been the perfect fit.
For a decade, Fox has been a successful coach. He took the Panthers to a Super Bowl in his second year as an NFL coach. He brought them back to the NFC Championship in 2006. He’s a capable leader and his experience bred confidence in his coaching techniques.
It would have been natural to stick with them, but instead he put some trust in his players.
A novel idea.
Also a brilliant one.
Of course plenty of the credit goes to a stingy defense, but that same defense was 1-4 with Kyle Orton and a conventional offense. Call it talent, luck, divine intervention – whatever – but the Broncos have rallied behind their quarterback’s gamesmanship and an unconventional coach.
Well worth the gamble as they are two rounds deep in the NFL playoffs.
And most importantly, the Broncos believe. All it took was a dose of humility and using a unique approach to get the most out of the roster.
Easier said than done because in today's NFL, that can be a lot to ask.
Look no further than Mike Shanahan, who stubbornly maintained that the arm of Rex Grossman could be the difference in 2011. Twenty-five turnovers and 11 losses later, it’s clear the Redskins might have been better served using Grossman as a game manager rather than lean on his erratic arm.
Hopefully it’s a lesson learned for Shanahan, who must now set his sights on an offseason that will likely produce the quarterback of the future for Washington.
With fewer options than originally anticipated at the quarterback position this offseason, Shanahan may be forced to tweak his offense to fit the skillset of whatever signal caller is made available to him. Considering the my-way-or-the-highway approach he’s taken with the Redskins, the odds of that happening aren’t good.
That’s a problem.
Last season, Shanahan had the luxury of pushing the QB search back a year to address a struggling defense. A year’s gone by and other holes still remain, but it is unmistakably clear that quarterback is the big piece Washington cannot ignore this season.
I’m not advocating Shanahan take a QB simply for the sake of it. The last thing Redskins need is a bust, but Shanahan must make a legitimate attempt to select a quarterback and be on the same page with him – even if it means abandoning a few of his philosophies.
There’s no need for a radical overhaul – just a situation that a young quarterback can adapt to and thrive in. Perhaps the current structure will suffice, but if it doesn’t, Shanahan must swallow his pride. He can’t possibly wait another year to find a franchise quarterback, but force-feeding one with his offense would be equally dangerous.
The opposite seems to work anyways. Just ask Fox.