John Fox's split with Denver Broncos just the first domino to fall

John Fox went to the playoffs all four years he was the Denver Broncos' coach, winning the AFC West with quarterbacks as diverse as Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning. But on Monday, the day after a crushing loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, Fox and the Broncos parted ways, the first domino to fall in what is expected to be a tumultuous offseason in Denver.

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Fox's departure is a bit of a stunner, because he compiled a 46-18 record, won the division each of his four years and had previously taken the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl. But when John Elway signed Peyton Manning three years ago, then loaded up on stars to surround him, the expectation was that the Broncos would win a Lombardi Trophy. They got to the Super Bowl last year, but were overwhelmed by the Seattle Seahawks. Elway then went on a free-agency spending spree to shore up the defense and made no secret about the fact that Denver was gearing up for another Super Bowl push.

In Elway's brief written statement, it was clear that falling short -- far short -- again played a part in the decision to go in a different direction.

"While we have made significant progress under Coach Fox, there is still work to be done," Elway said.

And Elway will have to do a lot of that work this offseason. Both coordinators -- Adam Gase on offense and Jack Del Rio on defense -- have interviewed for head coaching jobs with other teams, and Fox's entire staff was told they could look elsewhere. The Broncos have a number of significant players -- including receiver Demaryius Thomas, tight end Julius Thomas and receiver Wes Welker -- set to hit free agency this offseason.

And hovering over it all is the future of Manning, who would not commit to returning when he was asked directly after the loss Sunday night. That might have been a signal that Manning was waiting to see what would happen around him before he made up his mind.

But Fox could have a very soft -- and quick -- landing. He immediately becomes a coveted candidate by teams seeking coaches. One potential landing spot is Chicago, where former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi -- who had Fox as a defensive coordinator in New York -- is acting as a consultant to the Bears.

Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @judybattista.

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