SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Despite Broncos GM John Elway hinting otherwise Monday night, quarterback Peyton Manning said his team could have reached Super Bowl 50 had it kept John Fox as head coach.
He gave a quick, firm “yes” when asked if they could have found similar success with Fox, who was fired last year after the second home playoff loss as a favorite in three seasons.
Manning is still fond of Fox, who texted him a note of congratulations for reaching Sunday’s game against the Panthers. Before the game that some think will be Manning’s last, he contacted all his head coaches — down to high school — to say thank you.
He listed traits he learned from each. Jim Mora was a disciplinarian and let him work through his rookie struggles. Tony Dungy, he said, was a special leader. Jim Caldwell, his former quarterbacks coach, is a close friend of Manning’s whose attention to detail always stuck with the quarterback.
John Fox had a great passion for football,” he said. “You really wanted to play well for him and make that great throw for him or that great tackle. All the players loved playing for him.”
Fox helped lure Manning to play for the Broncos after being cut by the Colts in 2012, but he was hesitant to compare him to current coach Gary Kubiak.
“I was grateful to play for Coach Fox,” he said. “I was coming off a year that wasn’t a lot of fun — 2011, not playing, being injured. I had more neck surgeries than snaps that year. John Fox was a big reason why I came to Denver.
“We had a great three years together. We had a special team on the Super Bowl team that got beat by a better team.”
Manning has reached the Super Bowl under four different head coaches as a pro, including the 43-8 loss to the Seahawks under Fox two years ago.
Manning has praised that team — and Fox — all week. As proof, he listed that the staff included future head coaches Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase.
“That was a great football team that year,” he said. “I was honored to be a part of that team. We had a heck of a year. We had three NFL head coaches on that staff. Coach Fox did a heck of a job leading us.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley