Denver was the first stop on the Peyton Manning Free Agency 2012 Tour Friday, and to me would now appear to be the second most likely landing spot for the much-coveted four-time NFL MVP.
They're certainly in the running, and considering I believe Manning will stay in the AFC, has to put them in the conversation with the Miami Dolphins as the team that will lure him to town.
I can't help but imagine former Panthers Coach John Fox finally having a quarterback to get behind like Manning, and reflect on the coach's growth through his experiences with Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore and, ultimately Jimmy Clausen under center. Then came Tebow.
Watching Coach Fox when he was with the Panthers became pitiful near the end of his run - so much so that Foxy even morphed from an "It is what it is and now the injury report" guy in front of the media to openly expressing his displeasure about running Jimmy Clausen during his 2-10 swansong with the Panthers in 2010.
The moment it crystallized in my perception this was no longer the Fox I'd come to know, and mostly love, year before last was when he took an obvious swipe at Tony Pike and Armanti Edwards, sarcastically explaining the managerial decision to keep them off the field even after Clausen got dinged up because he didn't want to "run a college spread."
It was almost comical. That is, I would've laughed at times a lot more if we could've scored multiple touchdowns a game, the way Foxy underwent a metamorphosis from expressionless 90 percent of the time to a guy who openly griped and made light of admittedly horrid circumstances.
This from the consummate player's coach -the guy who once stood in front of the world and confidently said "Jake's our guy" after the last name Delhomme became the butt of seemingly every joke. (More after the jump...)
It was even more pitiful to me to see Fox last year when he locked horns with the only first round quarterback anyone's ever entrusted to him, and obviously lose in having to insert him in the lineup at the behest of the City of Denver - then have Tebow succeed in spite of the virtual "No Confidence" vote Fox had given him.
I thought that whole scenario was bound for the way it played out the year before with Fox and another over-hyped QB coming out of college, but it didn't.
It's ironic, in that, it would appear his blind and somewhat inadvisable loyalty to Delhomme as a player was his undoing in Charlotte, and his general predisposition that Tebow generally sucks - which he shares with many others within and without the Denver organization - threatened his vitality in his new town even before he had a season to show them.
With this said, could you see Fox calling a Halfback Draw on 3rd and 9-15 yards if he had Peyton Manning under center? Manning is such a high spade that he trumps both the irrational "Tebowmania" in Denver, but also Fox's general predisposition toward offensive conservatism. This last may be an understatement, as may be the first.
If Denver landed Manning, it would give Tebow a license to get on the sideline and develop - as he should - and give Fox a license to focus on the defense and let him run this thing - as he should if Manning comes to town.
That could be a great thing for their organization, but more importantly for Coach Fox, who many of us came to know like the backs of our hands over the years since the only way to get relevant information from him was reading his poker tells or deducing the importance or insignificance of any said subject by his unwillingness to address it.
He gave us something to love for a long time, and even proved he and his offensive staff can break tendencies and loosen on the big stage when he delivered us our Super Bowl run and Denver's playoff win versus Pittsburgh last year. This could be the wily old veteran's chance to get back to some sense of normalcy, which I have to empathize with the guy for desiring.
It's a thought.
Knowing Fox's intense loyalty for "his" players, I also wouldn't be surprised if he pushed for the Broncos to look at Matt Moore, since he's a free agent now. He always felt confident with that guy under center, and Fox is a creature of habit if anything.
Anyway, I'd love to see him not pulling his hair out about quarterback play for the first year in what seems like a decade, though it was only 2007 when Delhomme still seemed decent at times. Over the years, he gave me a lot to not care for very much, as well.
All in all, his time with the Panthers was a wash instead of a disaster, in my estimation. Could've been worse, no reason for hard feelings. That, and I'd really love for Coach Rivera and Cam to beat them in the big game.