- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With Denver Broncos coach John Fox set to take a leave of absence to recover from surgery to replace a valve in his heart, the team has named defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio as its interim head coach.
Fox, 58, had surgery Monday morning, Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway said, and was in a recovery room when Elway and Del Rio addressed the media in the afternoon. Elway said the Broncos don't know yet when Fox could return to work or when doctors will let him communicate with Del Rio and the other coaches.
"We'll listen to the doctors,'' Elway said.
"This is about John's health, not only for this season, but John's health for the rest of his life.''
Elway said he talked with Colts general manager Ryan Grigson on Sunday about how Indianapolis handled a similar situation when Chuck Pagano took a leave of absence for 12 games last season to get treatment for leukemia. Bruce Arians was the Colts' interim coach.
Del Rio said he knows Arians, who is now the Arizona Cardinals' coach, and hoped to talk to him soon.
"We believe we have a good football team,'' Del Rio said. " ... We're on a mission, we're on a mission to carry on, to continue what Coach Fox has going with this football team.''
Del Rio said the Broncos were "Coach Fox's team."
"We all want to make him proud,'' Del Rio said. "We all wish him a speedy recovery.''
The move to make Del Rio the interim coach was one many inside the organization expected given his experience. He was the Jacksonville Jaguars' head coach for nine seasons until being fired with five games remaining in the 2011 season.
Del Rio was 69-73 with Jacksonville and led the Jaguars to the playoffs twice as a wild-card team. He will maintain play-calling duties with the defense while he is interim coach.
"I feel good about Jack," Elway said. "John was on board also.''
On Saturday, Fox became dizzy while playing golf near his offseason home in the Charlotte area and was taken to a hospital, where tests revealed he couldn't wait any longer to have the surgery.
Del Rio, 50, joined Fox's staff for the 2012 season after Dennis Allen had departed to become the Oakland Raiders' coach. Del Rio helped push the Broncos to the No. 4 scoring defense last season, the No. 2 defense in terms of yards allowed per game.
Even with the win over the Washington Redskins just before the bye, when they surrendered just 266 total yards, the 7-1 Broncos have not fared as well defensively this season. Hurt by a pile of injuries, they've surrendered four 300-yard passing games to opposing quarterbacks, including a 506-yard, five-touchdown day by the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo.
However, Broncos defensive players say they like Del Rio's no-nonsense, straightforward approach as well as that he had a long career as a player. Del Rio played 11 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints. He also has used so many personnel groupings that the prospect of playing time has kept players engaged.
"We've shown them, if you give us something that helps us win, we'll find a spot for you," Del Rio has said. "But they have to do their part, too. They've got to come to work, be a good teammate, be prepared and know their responsibilities."
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase and special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers will continue to oversee those units, and the Broncos could move one additional coach to the sideline on game days in Fox's absence.
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter contributed to this report.
With Denver Broncos coach John Fox set to take a leave of absence to recover from surgery to replace a valve in his heart, the team has named defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio as its interim head coach.