One way or the other.
As we sat at a picnic table at Dove Valley one recent day after practice, he, not I, brought up the subject of retirement.
“This is my last stop,” the head coach said.
Uh, I wasn’t prepared for the statement, and really don’t know how to respond. The matter hadn’t been broached before publicly.
I was talking to Fox about the fact that he had beaten two of his former NFL teams – the Steelers and the Chargers – this season and had an opportunity to cross off another former employer – the Panthers.
“Don’t forget the Raiders,” he laughed. Oh, yes, the Raiders (from whom he walked away in training camp once).
Fox would, in fact, beat the Panthers and, for a second time, the Chargers. He can make it a 5-0 clean sweep Dec. 6 in Oakland.
Sort of. There is one other NFL team Fox coached for – the Giants, as a defensive coordinator. But the Broncos and the Giants only can play in the Super Bowl (which also would bring together the Flying Manning Bros.). The Broncos have a rightful chance to get to New Orleans, but the Giants will need a strong closing act in December to duplicate last season’s achievement.
Anyway, I joked to Fox: “Too bad you don’t have Kansas and Iowa State on the schedule, too.”
Fox was a vagabond for his career (in five decades) before settling in Carolina in 2002. For a while, he believed that would be his final destination in football. However, that belief evaporated when owner Jerry Richardson surprisingly, and stupidly, blew up the franchise after Fox coached the Panthers to a 12-4 record in 2008. The next year, Fox became a dead coach walking.
Life has a way of working out, though, for Fox. He ended up with the Broncos in 2011 and had John Elway on one hand and, in 2011, Peyton Manning on the other. And here he seeks to end up his coaching.
He is a happy man.
It took a while after his coast-to-coast excursion through college and pro football. Practically nobody remembers – there isn’t a mention in most of his bios – that Fox got his start as a 24-year-old assistant (under famed coach Sid Gilman) at U.S. International University in San Diego in 1979. (Fox had been an unpaid graduate assistant at San Diego State, where he played as a defensive back, in 1978 in his hometown.)
Then, the nomadic life began: Boise State, Long Beach State, Utah, Kansas and Iowa State, five schools in five years; Los Angeles Express in the USFL for a season; University of Pittsburgh as a coordinator for the first time; Steelers, Chargers and Raiders (where he quit in preseason his second year because he just didn’t get along with Al Davis).
Fox served as a personnel consultant with the Rams in 1996 before being hired to run the Giants’ defense from 1997-2001 (and made it to the Super Bowl once). He was named the head coach of the Panthers, reached a second Super Bowl (and lost again), was shoved out and landed softly with the Broncos in 2010. (He initially planned to take off the entire season).
He’s held positions with 16 different college and pro teams in 32 years (do the math).
“I’ve found a home. I was born in the East and was a coach with Carolina, but I’ve always really been a Western guy, and I’m very fortunate to be in Denver. Who could want a better situation?”
That’s when he brought up the “last stop.”
Fox hasn’t talked about it before, so Mile High Sports Magazine has the scoop.
“I’m 57, and I don’t want to be coaching forever. I can’t see myself coaching well into my 60s, so this is it.”
But there’s one remaining objective for Fox: Winning a Super Bowl.
It took Elway 15 years into his playing career before he won a Super Bowl. Fox lost the game twice, Elway three times. Elway would like his third ring, Manning his second and Fox at least one.
There is, though, the other side. If they don’t win a Super Bowl this season or next, or the next, or perhaps the next, this also will their final stop, and a new quarterback, a new coach and a new executive vice president would take over.
But Manning, Elway and Fox strive to ride off together from the Broncos and the NFL as champions.