In a move that presented some dispiriting results to Denver Broncos fans, John Fox spent the first few drives of last week’s opening night keeping Peyton Manning out of the no-huddle. Not to anyone’s surprise, he received mixed results in the process. Manning wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t himself either. He seemed healthy enough. His arm was fine, his neck was fine, but things just seemed slow and resistant. That’s not what those of us who have become accustomed to watching Manning are used to.
Had this continued, Broncos fans would have likely opted out of their Monday morning browse through the newly minted power rankings. Instead, Fox did what he proved he was capable of doing with Tim Tebow: he accommodated his quarterback. By the second quarter, the Manning-style no-huddle was in full swing, and the Steelers secondary was reaping the “benefits”.
Now it’s perfectly clear that Mike McCoy and Fox had planned in advance to let Manning run the offense this way, though it was also true to Fox’s personality that he didn’t send Manning out of the gates firing on all cylinders under his most promising gameplan. Fox and the Denver coaching staff have a way of waiting out the opposition and exhibiting an incredible amount of patience during games. They almost never make the first move, but rather allow their opponents to get just comfortable enough before they roll out the heavy artillery. This is at least the view from a fan’s perspective.
It’s a view that kept the heart rates of Broncos fans through the roof all of last season, as we would spend quarter after quarter watching Tebow try and throw from the pocket, before he would finally break a 13 yard run on third down and we could all let out a sigh of relief. “Finally Fox is letting Tebow loose”.
Fox might be a slow starter, but the more I watch this guy coach, the more apparent his skill and abilities come to light. The guy has a great football mind and the more he sees out of Manning, the more likely he’ll turn him loose to do even more damage than what we saw last Sunday.
Fox knows that Manning works best in a rhythm. He also know that when given the opportunity to establish that rhythm, it has a continuous drive-to-drive and quarter-to-quarter effect. Last Sunday against the Steelers, the Broncos went for nearly an hour stretch where Manning didn’t touch the ball aside from a kneel down before the half. Yet it wasn’t enough to slow his momentum as he wasted little time before tossing a quick screen to Demaryius Thomas, who got some solid blocking and was able to go the distance.
The Broncos offense exudes a quiet confidence of sorts when Manning is calling the shots, and Fox can see that just as clearly as the rest of us. He knows that to be effective, Manning needs to establish a rhythm, and that can’t be done from the sidelines. As worries about Manning’s arm and neck begin to fade into the background, look for Fox to give up more and more slack on the reins that are the Broncos offense.