ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It is one man's opinion, but the man just happens to be a quarterback headed to the Hall of Fame five years after his last season in the NFL. Peyton Manning has an impact on everything and everybody inside the Denver Broncos' complex most days. He believes following John Fox's leave of absence due to open heart surgery, Jack Del Rio will be everything the Broncos need him to be as the team's interim coach.
And that people will see that in how the Broncos perform in the coming weeks and months as Fox recovers from surgery to replace his aortic valve.
"It's very easy to see why he's been a head coach … he's got great leadership, good command of the room," Manning said following Wednesday's practice. "Jack's a good leader, guys will answer the bell for him. He's pointed out some things he wants us to improve on, offensively and defensively, added a couple of situations to practice that he thinks we need to focus on and emphasize. I think guys will answer the bell and rally around him."
Fox's and the Broncos' season took an unexpected turn Saturday when Fox experienced dizziness and light-headedness during a round of golf in Charlotte, N.C. After multiple tests, Fox had surgery Monday and remains in ICU, Del Rio said, in a Charlotte-area hospital.
Del Rio was formally named the team's interim coach Monday morning, just before the Broncos took the practice field for the first time since Fox's health troubles. Wednesday Manning, who said he had spoken to Fox's wife Robin on Tuesday and had spoken to Fox both Saturday and Sunday, said the Broncos were ready to get to work for Del Rio.
"Coach Fox is in our thoughts and prayers, it is probably impossible to replace Coach Fox's high-energy charisma, personality," Manning said. " … All the players, everybody, has to try to step that up in that department … He wanted me to make it known after he got light-headed and sort of semi-fainted, he did chip it to two feet and made par."
Manning added; "We're following Coach Del Rio's lead."
Del Rio said he made it a point to keep the Broncos on the same schedule they've used in the team's third year under Fox. Unlike some other teams who have recently faced the prospect of an interim coach, like the New Orleans Saints during Sean Payton's suspension last season or the Houston Texans with Gary Kubiak's current leave of absence, the Broncos still have their offensive and defensive play-callers in place. And that stability should help them.
Del Rio has said he will continue to call the defensive plays on game day and the Broncos' offensive staff, led by offensive coordinator Adam Gase, will handle things on that side of the ball. Del Rio will also leave special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers to his work as well.
Asked how much input he would have on offense, Del Rio said with a laugh; "very little." And while he will make the fourth-and-1 decisions, Del Rio said he looks to Gase and Rodgers to do what they've done all season.
"I'll do the head coach duties," Del Rio said. " … I'm not going in and tinkering on anything on special teams or offense. We have good people there, they're doing their job and again I'll 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 with a brand new punt team approach, we're going to do rugby style and run all over, [that] I've had these ideas in my mind for a long time so here they come'."
As a result, though Fox's office is empty at the moment and his absence is certainly noticeable, the Broncos' actual day-to-day routine looks the same on all fronts. Del Rio has also spoken to Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians this week to see how Arians juggled play-calling duties and game-week preparations when he was the Colts' interim coach last season.
Del Rio said he's also carved out some time each day to handle the administrative things that come with filling in for Fox. Asked if he has had to change his own routine some to keep everyone else's the same, Del Rio said;
"Little bit, little bit, basically add a little time to organize head coach thoughts. Mainly staying in our routine, we've got a good routine, [we] believe in the routine, we have good people, just trust good people to do their jobs well.
" … We were very business-like," Del Rio added. " … I think, really, that's what it's about, something occurs, you've got to adjust and how do you handle it, and can you get your focus back, get back in the groove and do the things you need to do and I feel really good about the way things started this week."