Published: August 3, 2013
DENVER - On a viciously cold afternoon in January, John Fox revealed his pessimistic, conservative, limited football philosophy.
In the final seconds of regulation against the Baltimore Ravens, Fox pondered what he would do with the NFL's highest-powered offense
Fox, after careful - or careless - thought, decided to do nothing. He exposed himself as cowardly, commanding Peyton Manning to kneel down, sending the Broncos to overtime and a bitter overtime loss.
Optimism is running loose in Colorado. Fans of the Broncos, our state's secular religion, expect a run to the Super Bowl.
Here are my questions, ones that bring a few needed clouds into all this sunshine:
Has Fox repented? Does he embrace the full, frightening power of his team's attack? Or does he remain the coach who was frightened of, in his words, "the bad stuff" that might happen in those final seconds against the Ravens?
The boundless hope surrounding the Broncos is not groundless hope. Manning will be throwing to one of the NFL's finest collection of receivers.
Newly arrived wide receiver Wes Welker stunned everyone, including himself, when he dropped a Manning pass at Saturday night's soggy scrimmage.
The Broncos have won two playoff games - count 'em - since the 1998 ride to the Super Bowl title, but they could win everything in 2013.
They could, if Fox has learned his lesson.
Fox was surly after the Ravens loss. This makes sense. He was close, so close, to the AFC title game. Instead, he departed Mile High as a loser.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco tossed a pass into the Colorado sky, and Jacoby Jones somehow caught the toss for a 70-yard touchdown. The Broncos tumbled from a virtually certain victory to a 35-35 tie in an instant.
According to Fox, fans were shaken. So were his players. They needed time to recover.
I don't agree. I've talked with dozens of Broncos fans since the Ravens loss. Talked to fans who were numb at Mile High. Talked to fans who were warm in front of their TVs.
All fans said the same thing. They wanted Fox and Manning and the Broncos to retaliate. Fox was blessed with two timeouts and a field-goal kicker, Matt Prater, who might have launched a game-winning 60-yarder.
Only Fox worried about "bad stuff."
Don't get me wrong. Fox has often delivered superb work as the Broncos leader. In 2011, he devised an offense that enabled scatter-armed Tim Tebow to run the Broncos to a playoff victory. Last season, Fox revived a team that stumbled to a 2-3 start.
If these Broncos want to reach the Super Bowl, Fox must understand he leads a team that will soar because of its offense. Fox's decision at the end of regulation against the Ravens was what you expect from a defense-first coach.
This is not, and was not, a defense-first team.
Fox has defended his decision to kneel down against the Ravens. Said he would do the same thing next time. I almost wish Fox would hike to the pinnacle of Mount Elbert and use a super high-powered megaphone to announce to the state, "I still don't get it! I have not learned a thing from the biggest mistake of my career!"
But maybe his public words do not reveal his private thoughts. Maybe Fox understands he made a massive, cowardly error on a cold day.
I hope so.