In a nutshell ...
» John Elway didn't see eye-to-eye with Fox on how to get the Broncos over the hump and decided to part ways with his coach.
» Elway wanted to be on the same page as his head coach, so he hired his good friend -- and his old backup quarterback/offensive coordinator -- Kubiak.
» The Ravens then had to replace Kubiak, who did a great job calling plays in Baltimore last year. Trestman, who fell short as a head coach, still has a deserved reputation as a quarterback whisperer, and he was tapped to replace Kubiak in Baltimore.
Now the music has stopped, and everyone has settled into a new chair. But with the merry-go-round comes immense pressure for all involved, for a variety of reasons.
1) Huge win for Chicago
I didn't bat an eye when Elway parted ways with Fox. While Fox won a lot of games in Denver, and you can never minimize wins, he never got Elway the desired Lombardi Trophy despite being blessed with some loaded teams. The one Super Bowl appearance turned into an absolute nightmare, with the Seahawks completely embarrassing the Broncos. This season's playoff defeat to the Colts was very similar to the one two campaigns ago against the Ravens -- both losses came in Denver, after a bye week, to teams with less talent. That's on Fox.
What Fox did accomplish: bringing credibility, fire and winning ways back to an organization that had the life sucked out of it by Josh McDaniels. John Fox is a good coach who was the right hire at the right time for the Broncos. And the situation he encounters in Chicago is a mirror image of what he first found in Denver.
Fox might not be a special in-game coach, but he will restore Chicago's hard-nosed identity. And if his history in Carolina and Denver is any guide, he will win games. At this stage, Bears fans should absolutely sign up for that.
I love the staff Fox is putting together. Vic Fangio is a superb defensive coordinator. That's a coup. And Fox just secured Gase to continue running his offense -- also a fantastic move.
The jury is still out as to whether or not the Bears will keep Cutler. For that matter, the jury is still out as to whether or not anyone can legitimately get Cutler to live up to his potential and act like a leader, whether or not anyone (not named Shanahan) can shed Cutler of his coach-killer rep. But perhaps Gase is that man. Gase is held dear by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning. And Gase already has a working relationship with Cutler's favorite target, Brandon Marshall, who tweeted out a ringing endorsement following the hire of his former position coach in Denver.
In addition, new general manager Ryan Pace is well respected around the league. The 37-year-old up-and-comer is a major upgrade over the jettisoned Phil Emery. Pace and Fox will be on the same page.
Good things are happening in Chicago.
2) Baltimore recovers
This fall/winter on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," I spent a significant amount of time talking to Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett about how instrumental Kubiak was to the Ravens' success. They both raved about Kubiak's system and approach. Thus, it would be disingenuous for me to minimize the impact of Kubiak's departure. Flacco and Kubiak developed a confidence together. The coordinator took advantage of his quarterback's cannon arm and, as Flacco phrased it, "sneaky athleticism." Meanwhile, I voted for Forsett as Comeback Player of the Year -- his game clearly rose to new heights under Kubiak's watchful eye.
So when Kubiak took his dream job to be the head coach in Denver, he left quite a void in Baltimore.
The Chicago mess ended badly. I doubt Trestman gets another crack at being a head coach. It was that bad. But he is still a great offensive mind. And I believe the mercurial Cutler was the primary reason Trestman failed in the Windy City. Heck, Trestman got Josh McCown to play the best football of his life at age 34. And, as we know, McCown got paid by Tampa Bay this past offseason ... only to struggle without Trestman at his side. No surprise that a savvy organization like Baltimore wanted Trestman.
It will be different without Kubiak, but I wouldn't bet against his replacement, who's returning to his rightful role as a play-caller.
3) Wait, Denver did what?
As I mentioned above, I had no issue with Elway allowing Fox to go on his way. I get it. Actually, I applaud it. Other teams -- you listening, Bengals? -- should consider their ceiling with the current head coach in place.
But was this is a real coaching search, or did Elway just hire his buddy?
Kubiak had a mixed-bag tenure in Houston, bottoming out in 2013 with a flat, uninspiring two-win waste of a season that got him fired before it was over. Even when the Texans were winning, game management certainly wasn't Kubiak's forte.
Does Peyton like change? Is he coming back? Does he want to finish his career in a manner akin to Willie Mays stumbling around the Mets outfield?
It's pretty clear Manning can't throw with the same zip or accuracy we witnessed throughout the bulk of his Hall of Fame career.
On this week's edition of "NFL Monday QB" on CBS Sports Network, my colleague Steve Beuerlein provided excellent insight on the situation: "The problem is, the quarterback, Peyton Manning, is not a great fit for that system. It requires the quarterback to be an up-the-field thrower. ... Peyton Manning cannot get the ball down the field the way that Gary Kubiak is going to want to. ... I don't see it being a great fit. And I would not be surprised if Peyton decides to hang it up. Unless he really wants to come back and get after Brett Favre's (yardage) record and give it one more shot. But I think the window is already closing on Peyton as far as Super Bowl opportunities -- and I think he knows that, as well."
And understand, earlier in the show, Beuerlein told me he thought the Kubiak hire was "great" for Denver and Elway. He likes it much more than I do. But I think his take on Manning is a fantastic one.
Denver had a bitter finish to the 2014 campaign. I agreed with the decision to part ways with Fox.
Yet somehow, Elway swung and missed on the replacement.