ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Jack Del Rio is following in John Fox’s footsteps in one very important way: he’s handing the Denver Broncos’ high-powered offense over to Peyton Manning and getting the heck out of the way.
Del Rio is filling in with Fox out indefinitely following heart surgery in North Carolina. He’s also keeping his defensive coordinator responsibilities. So, he has a full plate – and no desire to pile on offensive game-planning duties, as well.
Del Rio knows better than to mess with an offense that’s on pace to score more points than any team in NFL history.
Asked how much input he’ll have in the offensive game plan when the Broncos (7-1) visit the San Diego Chargers (4-4) on Sunday, Del Rio’s answer was short and sweet.
“Very little,” he said, chuckling.
Make no mistake about who’s in charge here, however.
When it’s fourth-and-1, Del Rio will be the one with final say, not Manning or offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
“Primarily, I’m a sounding board. But I’m not going in and tinkering on anything on special teams or offense,” Del Rio said. “We have good people there. They’re doing their job and, again, I will be in charge of game day decisions and that type of stuff. But beyond that, no.
“I’m not going to go in and say, `We’re going to go out this week and have a brand new punt team approach. We’re going to do rugby style and run all over (like) I’ve had these ideas in my mind for a long time, so here they come!”
That said, Del Rio did do some tinkering at practice, Manning said.
“He’s pointed out some things that he wants us to improve on offensively and defensively, adding a couple of situations to practice that he thinks we need to focus on and emphasize,” Manning said.
The quarterback had high praise for Del Rio, who served as Jacksonville’s head coach from 2003-11 before joining Fox’s staff in Denver last season.
“I think Jack’s been excellent these past two days. We’ve had two team meetings Monday and today and we had two practices. It’s very easy to see why he’s been a head coach for (8 1/2) years, he’s got great leadership, good command of the room and Jack’s a good leader and I think guys will answer the bell and follow him,” Manning said.
When it comes to his quarterback, however, it sounds as though Del Rio is all ears.
“I think it’s important to spend time with your quarterback and I want him to feel comfortable with anything that he needs to bring to my attention,” Del Rio said.
Manning has bounced things off Del Rio before.
“I’ve always asked him questions about how a defense may react to a certain play or what they may do,” Manning said. “But I think it’s increased even more, certainly. He’s talked about certain (situations) that he thinks we need to be ready for. So, it’s been good communication.
“I’ve enjoyed learning from him and I look forward to following him like the rest of the players during this time.”
Fox underwent aortic valve replacement surgery Monday, two days after feeling dizzy while playing golf near his offseason home in Charlotte, N.C.
Fox spoke with his team captains, including Manning, from his hospital bed over the weekend, and Manning and he expects nothing to change under Del Rio’s watch.
“It is probably impossible to replace Coach Fox’s high energy, charisma, personality. That cannot be replaced by one guy and Coach Del Rio mentioned that. All the players, everybody, has to try to step that up in that department to fill that void,” Manning said.
“He wanted me to make it known that after he got light-headed and sort of semi-fainted, he did chip it to 2 feet and made par on that hole. He wanted that to be known,” Manning added. “So, it tells you Coach Fox’s attitude and personality and obviously he’s in our thoughts and prayers.”
Notes: G John Moffitt‘s locker hasn’t been cleaned out. The third-year pro notified the team Tuesday that he was retiring from football but the Broncos have a roster exemption for him until the weekend. “We’re certainly going to miss John,” Manning said. “John was a good guy. Obviously, he’s doing what he feels was best for him.” … CB Champ Bailey (foot), S Duke Ihenacho (ankle) and WR Wes Welker (ankle) missed practice.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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