Ex-Cowboy Daryl Johnston says Denver needs to choose wisely

Reports surfaced Monday that the Denver Broncos and head coach John Fox had mutually decided to part ways. The 14th head coach in team history left the Broncos with a 46-18 regular season record and a 3-4 postseason record, including an appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII last season.

NFL on FOX commentator Daryl Johnston believes Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and the Broncos need to proceed carefully.

"If you’re going to fire your head coach, you better be able to hire another one who you think is better than the one you just hired," Johnston said on Dallas-area KRLD-FM Monday.

Johnston goes back to 2003 when the San Francisco 49ers fired Steve Mariucci, who had led the club to playoff berths four out of his six seasons with the franchise. However, after a 31-6 thrashing by Tampa Bay in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, the 49ers fired Mariucci, but didn’t have any idea on who to replace him.

"He had a nice little run there, and things were starting to turn," said Johnston. "And all of a sudden, you make that decision, you don’t have a plan in place, you don’t really really get the right here, and then for the next eight years, you’re struggling with mediocrity. And it took almost a decade before San Francisco got back to being one of the top franchises in the NFL."

Denver is on the cusp, according to Johnston, and an shortsighted move like firing Fox without a clear coaching candidate could bind the team in struggling seasons to come.

Last year, Fox had to take a leave of absence starting in Week 10 following an emergency aortic valve replacement. Fox returned after four games to lead Denver to a 13-3 record and an AFC Championship.

"If he is fine from a health standpoint and they are mutually parting ways, everybody else has got a vacancy right now has a pretty good candidate to walk onto the scene. So, somebody could get lucky this year."

The Broncos are now one of six teams looking for a new head coach. The Buffalo Bills recently hired former New York Jets coach Rex Ryan to replace Doug Marrone, who resigned on Dec. 31, 2014.