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John Fox, Denver Broncos part ways after four seasons

Whether or not Sunday's Divisional Round loss marks Peyton Manning's final game in Denver, it will stand as John Fox's last game on the Broncos' sideline.

Fox told NFL Media's Jeff Darlington on Monday that he and the Broncos have reached a mutual decision to part ways. The team later confirmed the move through a released statement.

Although general manager John Elway insisted Sunday that Fox was coming back, there were whispers around the league last week that the move would be forthcoming if the Broncos could not get past the Colts.

Fox and Elway did not see eye-to-eye on several issues, reports NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. In fact, an executive with a team searching for a head coach told Rapoport that he expected Fox to be available by Monday afternoon.

"John Fox and I met for more than an hour on Monday afternoon to discuss the 2014 season and our goals for the future," Elway said in a statement on Monday. "During our open and candid conversation, it became clear that it was best for both the Denver Broncos and Coach Fox to move on and make this change."

"I had a productive visit with John Elway this afternoon in which we were both very honest about our time together and how to best move forward," Fox said through a statement released from the team. "After this discussion, John and I mutually agreed that the timing was right for this decision."

Where do the Broncos go from here?

Darlington reports Elway has informed members of the coaching staff that they have permission to look elsewhere, as the next head coach will have the option of replacing or retaining them.

That includes offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, prime head-coaching candidates for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, respectively.

The 49ers will meet with Gase to sell him on the job Tuesday, Rapoport reports.

Darlington added Tuesday that Gase's session with the Niners is expected to be a marathon. Elway plans and hopes to meet with Gase when it concludes, per Darlington, and Broncos feel like they'll get their chance to make their pitch. However, that there's no sense within the organization what Gase ultimately will do.

If Gase ends up in San Francisco, Manning faces the unappetizing prospect of learning a new offense. That would, of course, factor into Manning's offseason decision-making process.

The potential for a housecleaning on the coaching staff suggests Elway plans to do more than minor tinkering with the roster. The Broncos have to address the futures of more than a half-dozen key free agents, including Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, Terrance Knighton, Rahim Moore and Orlando Franklin.

As for Fox, he finishes his Broncos tenure with a 46-18 record over four years, bringing his 13-year career record to 119-89.

He turned the franchise around after the Josh McDaniels debacle, winning a playoff game with Tim Tebow at quarterback before capturing the AFC West title in three consecutive season with Manning running the offense.

Although widely respected in NFL circles, he was severely out-coached in Super Bowl XLVIII and came up short as the heavy favorite on Sunday.

Fox made it clear Monday that he wants to continue coaching.

"All eyes are on Chicago," per Rapoport. The team's ownership wants to pair young general manager Ryan Pace with a veteran head coach. It doesn't hurt that Fox's closest NFL friend is Saints coach Sean Payton, who worked with Pace for years in New Orleans.

Beyond the Bears' opportunity, Fox is now free to interview with the 49ers, Jets, Falcons and Raiders for their own vacancies.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Divisional Round game and ranks the remaining quarterbacks still standing. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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