Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Super Bowl coaches take advantage of second chances

Of all the comebacks, his was the biggest. Of all the second chances, his was the most dramatic.

After all, John Fox came back from the brink of dying.

He was in trouble. Fox knew that much. He was light-headed, and the back of his throat burned as if there were candles inside. His lips had turned purple. There on the 14th hole of Quail Hollow, he sank to his knees.

Fox gasped for each breath as if it were his last. Looking back, each might have been. He struggled to maintain consciousness because, as he said, if he passed out, who knew if he was coming back?

"When I was on my knees on the golf course, I remember praying to God," Fox said later. " 'You get me out of this, and I'll get it fixed.' That's how scary it was. It was like being smothered. I couldn't breathe."

You want to talk about saving the day? You want to talk about pulling one out of the fire?

That's what Fox did that day 11 weeks ago. There is no fresh-set-of-downs metaphor here. There is no saving the day in sudden death overtime. This was the real deal. Fox was in trouble.

After all, he had put off having a procedure to fix his problem with a heart aorta for so long. In those moments, Fox thought about that, too. Doctors had discovered that he was missing an aorta back in 1997, when Fox was an assistant coach with the New York Giants. And Fox put it off. This year, doctors finally told him it was time to have it fixed. And Fox put it off until after the Super Bowl.

"A dumb medical move," as he would later sum it up.

Two days after his collapse, Fox had surgery to correct his condition. It took him a month to recover, but since then, Fox has embraced his job with the passion of a man who almost lost it. Certainly, it is the finest comeback by a Super Bowl coach since Dan Reeves came back a few weeks following quadruple bypass surgery.

"Basically, I wasn't getting any oxygen," Fox said. "It wasn't a heart attack. That was misreported. It's really called aortic stenosis, which means you're kind of smothering. Luckily, I was able to get the blood flow perked up a little bit so I did get oxygen, and I was blessed to be around a couple of good friends and some good docs."

Most coaches who reach the Super Bowl can appreciate the journey. But Fox appreciates it better than most. After almost losing it all, how can he not?

Fox is 58, after all, a time when a man notices how green the grass is, and not just the stuff in the end zone. There is nothing like a near-death experience to heighten the senses, to sharpen the viewpoint.

Oh, Fox will tell you he doesn't think about his collapse very often. He pronounces himself healthy again.

"I really don't think about it that much now," Fox said. "The first four days, I thought about it a little bit, because it was like being hit by a truck."

For Fox, it was a stern lesson about heeding medical advice.

The thing is, however, a lot of coaches rely on second chances to get to the Super Bowl. No, not the near-death type. The football type.

Consider: Tom Coughlin was on his second NFL head coaching job when he won his Super Bowls. So was Bill Belichick. Jon Gruden. Dick Vermeil.

There is something about coaching that can lead a man to learn as he goes along. Oh, and there is something about it that demands a coach couples with the proper quarterback, too.

Take, for instance, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who wasn't thought of particularly highly when he coached the Patriots and Jets. He was considered soft, and some of his tactics — team bowling, a basketball court — were the butt of jokes. The Jets fired him after one season … to hire Rich Kotite.

Now? Now Carroll looks like one of the smartest kids on the block.

"I found out over time I saw things a little differently than other guys," Carroll said. "Through the years, the biggest change was after I was fired at New England. I sat out one season, and in that time, I had a chance to sit back and kick into a real competitive mode.

"I had schools that I called and they didn't want anything to do with me."

In the end, USC did. And Carroll reinvented himself as a successful college coach. Once he jumped to the Seahawks, he seemed more grounded.

Fox is that way, too. Once, he led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl. But his welcome wore thin, and eventually, he was fired.

In Denver, with Peyton Manning, he has been much smarter.

Sometimes, it happens with a second chance. That's true if it happens on a football field.

Sometimes, it's true if it happens on a golf course, too.

Gary Shelton can be reached at

. Coaching file

John Fox

Age: 58

Family: wife Robin; sons Matthew, Mark, Cody; daughter Halle

Head coaching experience: 2002-10, Panthers; 2011-present, Broncos

Regular-season record: 104-84 (.553)

Postseason record: 8-5; 2003 NFC Championship, 2013 AFC Championship

Super Bowl coaches take advantage of second chances 01/27/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 27, 2014 10:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Illinois is recruiting a 10-year-old. Where will Lovie Smith be by the time the kid can sign?


    Today in ridiculous recruiting news, Lovie Smith's Illinois football team offered a scholarship to a 10-year-old.

  2. Rays series preview: Who are the Orioles?


    After an off day Thursday, the Rays remain at Tropicana Field for a three-game series against the AL East rival Orioles. Here's the information you need to know about Baltimore before the action kicks off.

    Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman, left, has posted the highest ERA of his career this season, while catcher Welington Castillo, center, has slumped recently.
  3. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.
  4. Morning after off day: Rays ready for slumping O's


    The Rays will attempt tonight to do what so far has been impossible this season: climb four games above .500.

    The Rays expect Evan Longoria to be back in the lineup for tonight's game.
  5. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh


    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.