ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --If good coaching is defined by getting the most from the players under his or her watch, then consider what some of the players under John Fox's stewardship have accomplished, starting with two players who did what no one else has:
Peyton Manning: The greatest statistical season for any quarterback in NFL history, and two seasons coming off neck surgery that represent the best two-year stretch of his Hall of Fame career.
Michael Strahan: In the last of his five seasons with Fox as his defensive coordinator, he set the NFL's single-season sack record with 22.5. Three of Strahan's four most productive seasons came under Fox's watch.
You can go down the list of players Fox guided to stellar NFL campaigns and it is as lengthy as his own professional resume, which goes back to his first post-graduate job as an assistant at U.S. International University in 1979. In the NFL, Fox's influence began with Rod Woodson, who earned his first All-Pro selection as a cornerback in 1990, when Fox was in his second season as the Steelers' defensive backs coach.
Last year, Louis Vasquez became the 15th different player to be a first-team All-Pro under Fox; including second-teamers, that tally increases to 21. A majority had multiple selections on Fox's watch, including Peyton Manning, Von Miller (a second-teamer in 2011, a first-teamer in 2012).
And that doesn't include players who had arguably their best campaigns under Fox but didn't have All-Pro recognition. Perhaps the best example rests in some of the veterans who revived their fortunes under Fox and his staff.
They weren't as prominent as, say, Manning, but the contributions of players such as Willis McGahee, Kevin Vickerson, Manny Ramirez, Keith Brooking, Terrance Knighton, Joel Dreessen and others were vital to the Broncos going 37-17 over the last three seasons and winning more games in that span than they did in their previous five seasons combined.
That's to say nothing of the team accomplishments, which now include two Super Bowl appearances as a head coach and another as a defensive coordinator. In taking two franchises to a Super Bowl, Fox has accomplished something only five other coaches have achieved, and with an 8-6 postseason record, Fox is 11th-best among coaches with at least 14 playoff games, and has a higher postseason winning percentage than luminaries like Tom Landry, John Madden, Mike Holmgren and Dick Vermeil.
Of course, the Super Bowl XLVIII loss will sting and linger. And it leaves residue. After two losses in the annual ultimate game, Fox knows this.
"If you don't win that last game it gnaws on you. It really kind of never goes away. It's like a scar," he said at the owners meetings last month. "You learn from it, you move on and you do everything you can to get better."
But he's made it twice. More than most coaches, and with two distinctly different teams -- in two contrasting eras, as the game has evolved rapidly since the Panthers lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII a decade ago. Fox has kept himself relevant and successful as a head coach by adapting to the talent on hand; that's how you win with a run-first style in Carolina and with a pass-intensive attack in Denver the last two years.
He's helped the Broncos shed the issues of the late 2000s and return to the game's elite, with their first run of three consecutive AFC West titles in franchise history. He's helped guide the Broncos back from the abyss, and only one step is left to take.
Fox and his staffs have historically extracted the best out of players, and with the voluminous games lost to injuries and suspension by starters last year, it can be argued this was the case again in 2013. Now the Broncos are banking on Fox being able to guide them one notch higher in the coming years.