(Note: This is the third part in
an Epic a mini ten-part series on the Worst Moves of 2011; we'll also be doing a ten-part mini on the Ten Best Moves of 2011. If you want to see #10: Trading Jabar Gaffney, click here; #9: The Duke Takes on Twitter, click here.)
As Tom Nalen said earlier in the week, it's all Josh McDaniels' fault.
Last time we hooked up, dear readers, I pointed out John Elway's mishaps into social media. I speculated that because of the previous regime, one in which Josh McDaniels went all WW2 propaganda on everyone (loose lips sink ships, y'all), the Denver Broncos were set on making 2011 one in which there were multiple points of contact, interviews were as easy to come by as substance abuse in Oakland, and the organization was open and transparent as a Knowshown Moreno personalized license plate.
Enter John Fox, or as I like to call him, John Voice Box, due to Fox's distinct and gritty voice which is not quite as cool as Sam Elliott's, but would easily get your lazy arse motivated for beer-league softball (or combat under any situation). Fox has always been known as a player's coach, a decent man, and a well-respected member of the coaching fraternity, and despite what I've written previously about his conservative coaching and clunky game management, you could do a whole lot worse than our silver-haired Marlboro Man, who just happened to have finished third in the voting for Coach of the Year.
What Fox isn't known for is embarrassing players in the media. In fact, he's generally well adept at the Air Supply method of speaking to the media--making love out of nothing at all. In other words, there are no careless whispers with Fox. He is a master at distancing language, vague terms, and the ever-present cliches we've come to accept as coachspeak.
So it came as a huge surprise when Fox embraced the organization's new approach to the media and invited NFL.com's (and apparently Brady Quinn's BFF) Jeff Darlington to the Mile High City to partake in a little film session. What came out was our eighth worst move of 2011. In the interview, Fox uttered the following infamous line about Tim Tebow:
If we were trying to run a regular offense, he'd be screwed.
Fox went on to suggest that Tebow can't run a pro-style offense, and although the full context of Fox's interview was positive and complimentary of Tebow's skillset and potential future in the offense Fox was tweaking as a zone-read system, Pandora was already out of the bag, or if you prefer, the cat's box was already open. Fox had publically criticized a player without intending to do it. It had to be both a blow to Tebow's confidence (although one might argue it was motivation) and a low for Fox, who maintains great relationships with his players.
Fox later apologized to Tebow directly and said he would never do another interview like Darlington's again. I don't doubt him. He probably plowed through more than his share of Skoal that week. It just wasn't a John Fox thing to do, and no matter his long-term feeling about Tebow, it was clearly a moment of stupidity to throw his young quarterback under the bus like he did.
So where does the blame lie? As much as I'd like to blame the Broncos' public relations team or Joe Ellis, whom I can barely bring myself to like, respect, or believe has earned anything in his life, I'll pin at least a small portion of the blame safely on the shoulders of McDaniels--not directly, of course. That would be ridiculous. However, it's not ridiculous to again suggest, like I did with Elway's Twitter mishap, that the Broncos and Fox went too far the other way in 2011 as a result of trying to overturn a McDaniels regime that clearly had a case of hoof-in-mouth disease.