As always when a season ends, we're faced with a slew of questions. Today, the biggest one is What in the f#$% happened last night?
Not to be too self-aware here, but our regular readers might expect this to be a rant about John Fox's decision making.
Granted, I'm still just as baffled as I was last night by the decision to punt from the Seattle 39 while down 29-0 in the second half of a single-elimination football game.
No possible explanation comes to mind.
The challenge on Russell Wilson's forward pass is still just as poor as it was last night.
But neither of those decisions had anything whatsoever to do with the outcome of the game.
You know what did, though?
- Missed tackles
- Getting physically dominated
Obviously, injuries are completely out of Fox's control. And hey - maybe Fox's leadership is why the Broncos were able to reach the SB despite their many significant injuries this season. It's possible, but I think it's likelier that Peyton Manning had a lot more to do with that.
Mistakes - turnovers, fumbles, muffed kicks and punts, penalties - were an all too frequent occurence in 2013, and if the blame for those isn't on the head coach, then it's on his assistants.
As for getting pushed around, that was a rarer event this season, with the Week 15 loss to San Diego the other prime example.
But, last night was the Super Bowl.
And this is what some of the Seahawks had to say after the game:
Bobby Wagner: "We felt like we were getting to them...towards the end of the game, they started folding."
Tony McDaniel: "When we was up about 29 points, just [Manning's] whole emotion was kind of like he was dry. Just the whole team looked like they was giving up, and once we scored again, I knew it was over."
Richard Sherman: "We felt like that later on in the game, like they felt us. They weren't looking to come up there and block."
Those are some damning quotes, the sort you hear about regarding teams about to pick atop the draft.
This was the Super Bowl.
Granted, this Seahawks team is a group that likes to talk, and they probably felt for two weeks like they were going to show up and push the Broncos around. Perhaps that's not what really happened on Sunday night, and it's just their perception or a confirmation of their expectations.
But it sure didn't look that way on television. Aside from some nice plays defending the run, these Broncos got manhandled on the biggest stage.
Ted has correctly pointed out many times over the years that Fox is not a technocrat, and that his value is in managing his coaching staff and providing them the room to do their jobs, and getting his players motivated and ready to go.
That appears not to have happened last night.
I saw where a friend of the site was defending Fox by citing his W-L record while in Denver.
Indeed, Fox's Broncos are 34-14 in the regular season, with three division titles in three years, three playoff wins, and a SB appearance.
Yet pre-Peyton Manning, Fox's NFL coaching record was 81-79 - two games better than .500.
In ten seasons pre-Manning, Fox's teams were better than .500 just three times.
Indeed, his quarterbacks were Jake Delhomme and Tim Tebow.
But isn't that the point?
With Manning, Fox's teams have gone 26-6 with two division titles and two playoff wins and losses.
You know what, though? That's about par for the course when your quarterback is Peyton Manning.
In nine of his past ten seasons, Peyton has led his teams to at least 12 victories. The lone exception was 2010, when the Colts won just 10.
In nine of his past ten seasons, Peyton has led his teams to division titles, with 2008 the lone exception. That team went 12-4 and lost the AFCS title to Tennessee, which won 13 games.
Thanks largely to Manning, many people think Tony Dungy and his one SB title deserve enshrinement in the HOF. Incidentally, this is the same SB title which people tend to laugh off while considering Peyton's legacy.
Thanks almost entirely to Manning, Jim Caldwell made it to the Super Bowl in his first year running that team, and he won 24 games in two seasons with Peyton as his quarterback.
Caldwell parlayed his having run the 30th most efficient (or third worst) offense in the NFL into another head coaching job, with Detroit.
Whom would you suppose is behind that?
None of this is to say that Dungy, Caldwell, and/or Fox aren't good coaches, or that they played no role in guiding Manning's teams to all those 12+ win seasons.
But let's be real here.
As long as you let Peyton do his thing, you're going to win your division. You're going to win a dozen game, or more. All you have to do is get out of the way.
John Fox is going to get his contract extension.
You know it. I know it. We all know it.
What are you going to do, fire (or permit into lame-duck status) a coach who just "took you to the Super Bowl" months after he'd undergone open heart surgery?
Of course not.
But I think it's time to start wondering what Fox brings to this team that's better than what someone else might offer.
If he's not a technocrat, then he should mostly avoid glaring tactical errors, and his teams had better play with relatively few mistakes, and with toughness and intensity every week.
Especially in the Super Bowl.