From a purely business perspective, John Elway has to be banging his head against a wall. Elway’s name has been tossed around as a potential Executive of the Year in the NFL, mostly because of his blockbuster signing of Peyton Manning to a five-year $96 million contract last March.
There’s another notable contract engineered by Elway though. Matt Prater was handed roughly $13 million (four-year deal) for his kicking services. Combine the two and the Broncos invested approximately $110 million in a quarterback to get the Broncos into scoring position, and a kicker to theoretically make the clutch play with a game on the line.
So… how does John Fox justify ignoring these investments with 31 seconds in regulation and two timeouts?
It’s a situation we saw the Atlanta Falcons in on Sunday. Albeit the Falcons were trailing by a point and had no choice but to attempt a drive for a field goal. Nevertheless, they did it and still had seconds to spare.
The Broncos were on their own 20, and would need about 40-45 yards to put Prater in position for what would be a miracle kick. Denver’s task would likely have been steeper than Atlanta’s as they would be trying to accomplish it in frigid weather and not a cozy dome.
Still, and this is easy math, you miss 100% of the field goals you don’t try to set up.
That’s exactly what Fox did by ordering Manning to take a knee and force overtime instead of trying to eke out a win in regulation.
So the first question is how does Fox explain himself to Elway? How do you justify not playing to win in the most important game of the year? Manning may have thrown an interception? There could have been a fumble? Three incomplete passes may have given the Ravens one more opportunity with a punt return, or even perhaps one hail mary heave?
The next question is how shrewd of a businessman is Elway? How does he address the fact that he spent more than $100 million on players tapped to be clutch, only to watch his coach not utilize their abilities when clutch was needed? To what extent does Elway perceive Fox’s late game tactics for what they undeniably were…a textbook case of mismanagement?
Fox will keep his job. The reality is he hasn’t done enough to lose it, and there aren’t an abundance of proven names on the market that would be an obvious upgrade. This isn’t to say Fox should be immune to a slap on the wrist, and ultimatum from management. He was given the players to win, yet still insisted on playing not to lose.
Pat Bowlen likes to win. Elway likes to win. If Fox doesn’t spend the offseason reevaluating his competitive philosophy, the clock could be ticking on his tenure in Denver.