As the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine got underway Wednesday, Head Coach John Fox was one of the first coaches to meet the media.
He addressed a variety of topics, from looking to add two quarterbacks to the roster, the importance of having a talented stable of running backs and the health of Eric Decker. (Read about those topics in the Day One blog)
He also focused a lot on defense, a phase of the game he said is "still critical in winning championships."
Fox said the addition of Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio has been "great."
"I was with Jack back in 2002 in my first season as Carolina's head coach," Fox said. "We've had a working relationship and working past. I think he's an outstanding football coach first and foremost, particularly on defense. We're excited to have him."
Fox said the plan entering the offseason was to "tweak and change" the defense, regardless of whether new Oakland Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen was still defensive coordinator.
"We'll be able to do more – whether Dennis was here or not, we were still going to adjust. You have to remember that we were a new staff. We switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3. I don't think we got to all parts of our notebook."
Now with a new coordinator, Fox said it's safe to assume that some of the pressures and styles of pressure will be different.
"Part of that process is evaluating and getting better on our own team," Fox said. "There are areas we need to improve at – not just schematically, maybe even physically. We have a lot of work to do and we're in that process."
COMBINE NO. 2
This week marks Fox's second combine as head coach of the Broncos, and he said it's not much different approaching the event with the No. 2 overall pick, which the team held last season, and the No. 25 pick, which the team has this year.
"I think you're going to identify your clump (of players)," Fox said. "Whether the clump is up there or down here, it's still an important pick. It's an important opportunity to reload the team, and this is part of that process."
One of the most beneficial aspects of the combine, Fox said, is the interview process.
"You just really get to know them, see what kind of people they are," he said. "You can find out a lot."
So while the combine is just a fraction of the draft preparation process, Fox said it's an important one.
"Whether it's a 15-minute interview or watching them to see if they do 25 or 35 reps on the bench – you actually see them," he said. "So, all of it is good information in the evaluation process."
'A GREAT RIDE'
Fox reflected on the Broncos' season, which resulted in an AFC West title, calling it "a great ride, for a minute."
"We didn't go as far as we wanted to," he said. "It was a great ride while it lasted but in all of the NFL, there's only one happy team and that's the New York Giants. Everyone else has something else to prove and so we reload and everybody is 0-0 now and you go back at it again. It was a great run and now you just have to start over."
Part of that "reloading" process is the draft -- which is why Fox and the rest of the coaching staff are here at the combine the personnel staff. Another aspect is the free agent market, which begins on March 13.
The Broncos have 18 players set to become unrestricted free agents along with two potential restricted free agents. The team is allowed to talk to its own free agents before March 13, but Fox wouldn't speculate on how that process will go.
"You get close to free agency and a lot of guys want to test the market," he said. "It's hard to predict. We'd like to have all of them back, according to the budget, and I'm sure we'll try to do that even before the 13th."
Regardless, the Broncos know the 2011 season was a positive one for the franchise, and Fox wants to build off it entering 2012.
"I think we definitely took a step," Fox said. "We're not done yet. It's not as big of a step as we want. I think in our building, the addition of (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) John Elway, ownership with Pat Bowlen has been superb over a long period of time, one of the winningest organizations in the National Football League. Bringing in John, I think our staff is doing an excellent job. We kind of have a different culture in the building. Our fans have made it very easy. They are outstanding and have given us a great homefield advantage playing there in Denver.
"I think we're moving in the right direction. We still have bigger steps to take."
Fox said the team wants to go into training camp with four quarterbacks, which means the club will look to add two before that time.
But that's a matter of numbers, not a reflection on Tebow.
"The reality is that Tim is a very good competitor, a very good player -- he led us to the playoffs," Fox said. "He's a young player, No. 1, at a position that takes some time. If you look through history, there are a lot of great quarterbacks that took some time and we're in the middle of that process. I know the type of young man he is. He is going to do everything in his power to get better every day and we'll see where that brings us."
Fox was asked if he ever gets exhausted talking about his popular quarterback.
"There's a lot about this job that is exhausting," Fox laughed, joking with the media that press conferences are exhausting. "But that's what we're wired for. I think it's a great story and I think he's a kid that ought to be celebrated. In today's society … these types of guys don't come around very often. So, I think it's kind of neat."
"I think that it's a great story. I don't know the young man, but obviously he's creating quite a stir, so good for him, in a positive way. I think it's good for sports."
-Head Coach John Fox when asked about New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. Linsanity even reached the combine.