The Denver Broncos and head coach John Fox are parting ways, executive vice president of football operations John Elway announced on Monday.
Fox informed FOX Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer first of the news on Monday afternoon.
Fox, who led the franchise to three consecutive seasons of at least 12 wins, is the sixth head coach let go this offseason.
“While we have made significant progress under Coach Fox, there is still work to be done," Elway said in a statement. "I believe this change at the head coaching position will be in the best interest of our long-term goal, which from day one has been to win World Championships."
With Peyton Manning noncommittal about his future, it seems like an end of an era for this core of players in Denver.
“I had a productive visit with John Elway this afternoon in which we were both very honest about our time together and how to best move forward," Fox said. "After this discussion, John and I mutually agreed that the timing was right for this decision.
“Although we came up short of our ultimate goal, I am proud of our team’s many accomplishments during these last four years. I truly appreciate all of the hard work put in by every player, coach and staff member within this organization.
Fox posted a 46-18 record in four seasons with the Broncos. Before being named the head coach in Denver, Fox had a 73-71 record with the Carolina Panthers.
The report immediately caught a few Broncos off guard:
The Broncos went 8-8 in Fox’s first year, when Tebowmania was in full pitch. The stakes were raised when Denver won the Manning sweepstakes and replaced Tim Tebow in 2012. Manning took the Broncos to the Super Bowl in 2014, but they were blown out by the Seattle Seahawks 43-8.
Elway thanked Fox for helping "establish a positive, winning culture for this team" and said he "deserves a lot of credit for the Broncos’ turnaround," but added "there is still work to be done" to win a Super Bowl.
Fox became the only coach in NFL history to win a dozen consecutive divisional road games on his way to an unprecedented four straight AFC West titles in Denver. But the goal when Manning came on board was Super Bowl trophies. Instead, Manning is 2-3 in the playoffs with the Broncos.
Elway brought Fox to Denver in the aftermath of the Josh McDaniels era, saying he was looking for someone who could breathe some positive vibes into a locker room that had been beaten down as McDaniels’ 6-0 start in 2009 turned sour and resulted in his firing midway through 2010.
Fox’s first task was figuring out what to do with Tebow, and the coach’s flexibility showed, when he completely remade his offense for Tebow after sticking him in the starting lineup in Game 6 of the 2011 season. Denver won seven of the next 11 games and finished 8-8, which was good enough to win the middling AFC West.
Tebow threw the winning touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in overtime in the wild card game against Pittsburgh, which set up an ugly (but understandable) 45-10 loss to New England in the divisional round.
Then came Manning, along with the Super Bowl aspirations that accompanied the future Hall of Famer’s arrival.
The Broncos finished the 2012 regular season with 11 straight wins and were shocked when they lost 38-35 to Baltimore in double overtime at home in the divisional playoffs. Fox came under scrutiny after that one — too conservative, the critics said — mostly for kneeling on the ball with 31 seconds left after the Ravens completed a long touchdown pass to tie the game.
But in 2013, at Manning’s urging, the Broncos were anything but conservative, going to a hurry-up offense that helped Manning and the offense set passing and scoring records on their way to the Super Bowl. That beautiful season ended ugly, as Seattle clogged the passing lanes in a blowout that compelled Elway to spend $60 million in guarantees on new defensive players, with the thinking that his quarterback shouldn’t have to win it all by himself.
Those offseason changes mostly muted a debate about Fox’s ability to get his team ready for big games, but the coach came under more scrutiny midway through 2014 when the Broncos revamped their offense, and started focusing on the run more.
Manning’s attempts and completions went way down following a 22-7 loss to St. Louis in which Denver ran only nine times in 64 snaps. The Broncos looked more like a Fox team in the true, grind-it-out sense, winning the division for the fourth straight time and hosting a divisional playoff game for the third year in a row.
But for the second time in those three years, they were stunned at home.
There are several teams looking for a new head coach. Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has a second interview set up with the Raiders, and offensive coordinator Adam Gase interviewed with the 49ers, Falcons, Bears and Bills, who hired Rex Ryan. Gase might also get a look from Elway now.