The pressure now switches to John Fox

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Credit: Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been hearing the same thing throughout his long and storied career, “You can’t win the big one.” “You choke in the playoffs.” “Tom Brady is better because of his rings.” “You are the best REGULAR SEASON quarterback in NFL history.”

Manning has had the Broncos in position to win the last two Super Bowl titles. One run ended at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional round. A game which was fluky from the start and saw Manning throw an interception in overtime to set up the winning field goal. The game should have never been in overtime — we all know what happened with Rahim Moore.

Last season, the Broncos made it to the Super Bowl but were blasted by the Seattle Seahawks by the score of 43-8. It was not even that close. The Broncos were flat footed and beat.

Manning does deserve some of the blame of those losses. He played good but not great in the playoff loss to the Ravens. The quarterback threw across his body in the wind and cold. It is a throw that Manning knew he shouldn’t have made.

The Super Bowl was a total team disaster. From the first snap of the game flying over Manning’s head to the final whistle, the Seahawks were more prepared and a better team.

And that now lies on head coach John Fox.

Fox signed a new contract on Friday that will have him coaching in Denver until 2016. It is a three-year deal which is also how long Manning has left on his contract. The two are now connected.

Manning is used to pressure and has faltered under it at times but now Fox is going to receive as much bad talk and have as much pressure as Manning.

Fox had the best team in the AFC the last two seasons and one of the top teams in the NFL. He has made decisions that are suspect, especially with who he has playing quarterback.

The head coach told Manning to take a knee against the Ravens with the game tied and 31 seconds left. It was frigid that day and kicker Matt Prater had shanked a field goal earlier in the day. Both of those had to play into Fox’s decision. But still, Manning was under center. Something had to be tried.

Fox and the whole coaching staff was beat against the Seahawks. How could the team not be ready for the crowd noise? How could they kick to Percy Harvin at the start of the second half? How could you not kick a field goal in the first half when you were down? All those calls made no sense.

So even after a blowout loss, Fox gets his new deal. He has to get it done with the Broncos and it has to be this season. General Manager John Elway rebuilt the defense for Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. The offense should still be one of the best even with the losses of Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker and Zane Beadles.

All the talent is there for Fox to lead this team to the title. But Fox has some bad playoff losses on his record. Does everybody remember Fox’s 12-4 Panthers getting smoked by the Cardinals in 2008? His team turned the ball over six times. That Carolina was the No. 2 seed.

Manning will still have his pressure but now more is on Fox. He has to coach and coach well in the big moment or this group of Broncos will never get over the hump and win a title.

Chris Schmaedeke is currently the Assistant Sports Editor at the Daily Camera in Boulder. He has worked in sports journalism in Colorado since 2001 when he started at the Rocky Mountain News. He has covered the Denver Broncos for several websites over the past two years.
Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisSchmaedeke


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