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Friendly Foes

Posted Feb 22, 2013

With two former Broncos coordinators heading up division rivals, the AFC West coaches are plenty familiar.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The rivalries within the AFC West have grown a whole lot friendlier in the past two offseasons.

It started before the 2012 campaign, when then-Broncos Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen left to become the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Following in his footsteps, former Broncos Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy took the San Diego head coaching job this offseason, giving two of the Broncos' three divisional opponents direct ties to Denver.

“It’s unusual," said Head Coach John Fox, now the AFC West's longest-tenured coach with two seasons in Denver under his belt. "I was thinking about it -- I don’t know when that’s ever happened before. But it’s a great opportunity. Mike’s a great coach and Dennis did a great job for us as well."

Filling out the AFC West coaching ranks is Kansas City's Andy Reid, a man Fox said he has "great respect" for after coaching against him in the NFC. Reid shared that mutual appreciation, calling Fox "a phenomenal coach."

But that familiarity -- and even friendship -- between the four head coaches doesn't mean Fox and the Broncos aren't looking for another divisional sweep in 2013.

"On game day, you're trying to beat their brains in, they're trying to beat yours in," he said. "You wish them all the best -- except for when we play them.”

Allen downplayed the notion of familiarity between the coaches having any effect on game-planning, noting that the Broncos team he worked for in 2011 was completely different from the 2012 iteration. McCoy agreed, adding that he doesn't expect his knowledge of the Broncos to amount for much with Peyton Manning at quarterback.

"Obviously knowing the Broncos inside and out, we'll have a good idea on what they want to do -- but they're going to change, also," he said. "With Peyton, he's going to change code words and all those things. So I think sometimes there's too much made of that."

The fact that the AFC West has essentially become the John Fox coaching tree speaks for the success the Broncos have experienced in the past two seasons. Winning often brings opportunities for coaches either to move on to other teams or rise in rank within their own organization.

McCoy said it springs from the attitude within the Broncos' Dove Valley headquarters.

"I think starting from the top down with (Owner and CEO) Mr. (Pat) Bowlen to (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) John Elway, John Fox, the way they do it day-to-day, it's top-notch," McCoy said. "All they want to do is win there."

That's exactly what all four coaches will be trying to do every time they match up with their division rivals.

"It's a unique situation -- those guys are good friends of mine," Allen explained. "But when it's game day, you're trying to win. It doesn't matter whether it's your mom, your grandmother or Mike McCoy."