Maybe Jim Harbaugh took that Michigan job a little too quickly. If the current Michigan football chief's preference was to stay in the NFL, he missed his chance to finally coach Peyton Manning.
All the talk over Sunday's Colts loss being Manning's final game put the focus on the wrong individual. Manning still has a personal decision to make, but the organization created seismic waves by parting ways with head coach John Fox.
Harbaugh is the only coach that can identify with Fox’s steep fall from grace. Two years after resurrecting the Niners and finishing one play short of winning a Super Bowl, his hostile relationship with general manager Trent Baalke disintegrated to the point that their continued partnership was untenable.
By all accounts, Fox and Elway had an amicable relationship.
It's not being called a firing, but like any amicable divorce, it’s being labeled a separation. However, the Broncos' second one and done playoff cameo in three years spelled doom for Fox.
Fox for John Harbaugh would have, could have been a major upgrade. Three sumers ago, Harbaugh undertook a clandestine trip to North Carolina and watched Manning work out. Harbaugh, Manning and Broncos President John Elway could have completed a holy quarterback trinity.
Presumably, the next Broncos head coach should be a little more daring than Fox, who many labeled as an unimaginative, conservative gameplanner.
A veteran head coach is more of a guaranteed commodity, but that’s exactly what Fox was and the standard protocol for hiring successors is to find candidates that are the complete opposite of the predecessor.
Forty-year-old Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is the cerebral sportex which the Colts electric attack originates rom. However, he essentially brings the same credentials as offensive coordinator Adam Gase to the Mile High City.
The Broncos’ 36-year-old coordinator Gase is all but gone, but he was just a figurehead for offensive showrunner Peyton Manning.
Like the U.S. drone program, the Broncos need to shift their philosophy from one that makes foes fearful of their air attack to one that dominates on third and shorts in the trenches.
It’s why the league leader in passing yardage has never won the Super Bowl.
The Broncos ranked sixth in "pressure percentage" on dropbacks during the regular season behind the outside linebacker duo of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
Arizona’s defensive coordinator Todd Bowles would bring an infusion of fresh energy and ideas to a team that sorely needs it on the other side of the ball.
Aside from a brief setback taking over the Philadelphia Eagles defense from Juan Castillo in 2012, Bowles’ defenses in Arizona have been among the league’s most formidable units.
More specifically, the foundation of their success has been pressure blitzing schemes.
Detroit’s defensive coordinator Teryl Austin constructed the league’s best run defense in one season and previously served as the Ravens secondary coach, however, Jim Schwartz set the table.
Schwartz deserves a second shot after reinvigorating a down and out 1-15 Lions squad with his fire and brimstone coaching style. His methods may work in Denver, but he’s not the retread for this franchise at this time.
The Broncos could adopt an enemy coach from Seattle by sinking their hooks into Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Quinn took the reins from Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley in 2013 and hoisted the Legion of Boom into all-time great conversations. In his first season at the helm, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, but that’s not the first bullet point on his resume as his unit became the first defense since the '85 Monsters of the Midway to lead the league in points allowed, yards allowed and takeaways. While the pedigree and football IQ he’d bring are unquestionable, he doesn’t get to import Richard Sherman, Cam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.
If Elway wants a piece of Harbaugh, he’ll explore outside the usual suspects for his Keyser Soze.
San Fran’s long-time defensive line coach Jim Tomsula is a fireball on the sidelines, who’ll sleep at the facility and challenge Manning daily for the most prepared individual in the organization.
Tomsula’s been touted as the best defensive line coach in the business and was the interim coach for one game after Mike Singletary’s firing, but he’s never been a coordinator. However, that blank spot on his resume never stopped the Baltimore Ravens from promoting their defensive backs coach John Harbaugh, who’d been Philadelphia’s special teams coordinator for nine of his previous 10 years.
To bring Manning’s life and career full circle, Elway could dial up a successful college coach with NFL experience and the Mora surname.
When he was the New Orleans Saints head coach, Jim Mora Sr. used to let Manning take snaps at practices even though he was just an advanced high school student before drafting him in ’98.
Jim Mora Jr. has done well as the chief of L.A.’s blossoming little brother program, but he clearly has that NFL itch.
If nepotism is the theme, Elway should swoop in on Kyle Shanahan. However, it’s dangerous to hire an inferior offensive mind, Manning could emasculate in meetings.
Whomever Denver turns to will have to excel and balance Super Bowl or bust expectations while simultaneously grooming a Manning successor. Who better to balance multiple quarterbacks than Jim Harbaugh’s newest mortal enemy (replacing Pete Carroll).
Fox’s Denver divorce on Monday night was interesting timing. Soon afterwards, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer staked his claim to being the best head coach of this generation.
Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden won more games, but Meyer has already tucked away more national championships than them both. He also boasts the fourth-highest winning percentage of all-time and best since the World War II era.
Harbaugh arrives at Michigan instead of Denver, so maybe now’s the time for Meyer to glide from the pinnacle of college football by doing an NFL flyover in Tebow’s former stomping grounds.
Meyer’s not a gimmicky offensive magician along the lines of June Jones or Steve Spurrier. He’s garnered a reputation as a quarterback guru, but the power run scheme he’s implemented in Ohio State is emblematic of his ability to adjust to his talent and surroundings.
His balanced teams have also been known to curb high power offenses from the SEC to the Big Ten. This would be the first time in his career, he wasn’t tasked with a reclamation job.
Elway’s market for proven coaches is slim. If he sought to lure Meyer from college, he’ll have to throw the type of dollar signs in his direction that Michigan gave Harbaugh.
Although, it’s true certain college coaches such as Greg Schiano, Doug Marrone and Steve Spurrier, have fared poorly, Meyer is in a different class. He’s won everywhere, not just in particular regions or players or schemes.
Meyer, Nick Saban, Pete Carroll and Chip Kelly are the valedictorian of the college coaching society.
Miami’s Saban experiment is used as an example to counter that train of thought, however, when you consider the talent that he won 15 games with in two seasons went 1-15 following his retreat to the college ranks, it puts his record into better perspective.
After a 9-7 season, Saban’s pivotal personnel decision to pass on Drew Brees’ bionic shoulder for Daunte Culpepper’s reconstructed knee would haunt him. Meyer wouldn’t have that decision to make with Manning in the pocket.
Meyer’s become renowned for his Lazarus projects. At his first head coaching pit stop, Meyer turned 2-9 Bowling Green into an 8-3 Mid-Atlantic Conference powerhouse. Utah went 10-2, then 12-0 in 2004, including a BCS-busting Fiesta Bowl win in his two seasons there after going 5-6 in 2002.
But it wasn’t until he flipped Florida from a 7-5 shell of its former self into a national champion in two seasons that the Urban legend took off.
Three years after Ohio State went 6-7 under interim coach, Luke Fickell the Buckeyes have only lost three games and Meyer’s followed Saban as the only head coach to win a national championship at two different schools. Meyer’s gone from legend to deity. Closing the Super Bowl – national championship loop would make him celestial in the gridiron universe.
The pieces are in place in Denver, but it needs a champion’s touch.
When asked about the possibility of him accepting an NFL opening on Tuesday, Meyer rebuffed that possibility with a slight caveat.
“Not right now. I have a commitment to Ohio State and these players.”
For the right job, “not right now” could become his signature on the dotted line. He and backup quarterback Tim Tebow might be a package deal, but it’s a small price to pay—compared to the necessary upgrade over his $4.5 million Ohio State compensation package.
Meyer's Captain Ahab on the college deck, but until he goes after the glory his close confidante Bill Belichick has achieved he'll always be Ishmael.
Firing Fox was a bold maneuver spurred by the urgency of Manning's dwindling window. The only response is to replace supplant Fox with an audacious hire.