Peyton Manning is his quarterback. He has five wide receivers that could start nearly anywhere in the NFL and an emerging star at tight end. He has two All-Pros on his offensive line. He has two of the best pass-rushers in the league, a massive run-stuffing defensive tackle, a shutdown corner and an All-Pro safety. To an outsider, Denver Broncos head coach John Fox may seemingly have the best head-coaching gig in all of professional sports. Fox is set to make a salary somewhere in the $5-6 million range for 2014, and he is going to earn every penny of it.
With the salaries and celebrity-status that today’s NFL players are receiving, one of the biggest challenges facing NFL head coaches is managing the egos of their players. Fox has no shortage of superstars and no shortage of egos in his both his locker room and in the executive group he reports to. Couple that with the Super-Bowl-or-bust expectations that have been established in Denver, and Fox is in for a stressful season.
Having a roster full of superstars doesn’t always equate to success. Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles‘ “Dream Team”. Peyton Manning is the biggest name in the NFL today, and he is the least of Fox’s concerns. Demaryius Thomas is in line to be paid amongst the highest wide receivers in the game in the near future, and the same can be said for tight end Julius Thomas. Wes Welker is a big name around the league and has a Hall of Fame resume. Louis Vasquez and Ryan Clady are considered elite at their positions, and are paid as such. Terrence Knighton is in a contract year and has made it clear he wants a hefty payday. Von Miller has been a major headache and distraction over the last 18 months, but is still one of the premier defensive players in the league when he is, in fact, playing. DeMarcus Ware brings another Hall of Fame resume into the Broncos’ locker room and offseason signees T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib add massive contracts and All-Pro talent to the mix. Even punter Britton Colquitt and kicker Matt Prater are among the best and highest paid, at their positions in the league. On paper, this could be the best team ever assembled. Fox is the man tasked with merging a team full of big personalities and bringing them all together. If he succeeds, the Broncos will be hoisting their third Lombardi Trophy in franchise history. If not, he may get run out of Denver.
Fox also has the unenviable responsibility of reporting to the most popular and beloved person in the state of Colorado, John Elway. Elway and Fox have always had a strong relationship and a mutual respect for one another. However, the fact is, Elway could practically get away with murder and still be the King of Denver, CO. Fox can hardly get away with one regular season loss. In his short time as Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager, Elway has established himself as one of the top executives in football, and made it clear that he isn’t afraid to make changes if it will help the Broncos win. While I firmly believe that Fox’s job security doesn’t come down to whether or not the Broncos win a Super Bowl, it would not surprise me one bit if Elway makes a head coaching change if the Broncos show any signs of regressing from 2013.
If the Broncos go on to win Super Bowl XLIX, Fox will likely get very little credit. His boss is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, one of the most idolized figures in professional football, and arguably the top GM in the business as well. His team is stacked with superstar talent, including the most famous football player in the world. If he comes up short, he is likely one of the first people who will be on the chopping block in the offseason. For a coach who has gone 34-14, won three AFC West titles in three years, and led his team to Super Bowl XLVIII, Fox finds himself in a surprisingly pressure-packed and mentally taxing situation.