JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Broncos head coach John Fox has been in this spot before. This is the second time he has brought a team to the Super Bowl, the first coming as head coach of the Panthers, when they lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Meeting with reporters on Wednesday morning, Fox was asked what has been easier about this trip than his previous Super Bowl experience, and compared it to a familiar sensation for many of us.
“It’s a little bit like as a kid when you went on a trip. On the way there, it seemed like forever and it was a little easier on the way home because you knew what to expect," he said. "So it’s a little bit like that phenomenon. I think it’s just having a better idea of what to expect."
He also learned a little something from that experience against the Patriots: "That you don't want to lose."
For groups that thrive off routine, Super Bowl week is anything but, with media obligations - this week the Broncos are on a small cruise ship docked outside their hotel - and a new locker room and practice facility to deal with, and a hundred other little details that are different from any other week of the season.
But it is all part of the job.
"We're on a business trip. There's kind of a big event coming Sunday, and that's what we're here for," Fox is reminding his players. "We've let them enjoy themselves some. Now we're dialing back in and getting back to our preparation [the Broncos practiced in full pads, just as they did most Wednesdays]."
In nine seasons with Carolina, Fox was 73-71, getting the team to the playoffs three times. But his results were inconsistent - the Panthers never posted back-to-back winning seasons on his watch (the closest they came was 11-5 in 2005 followed by 8-8 in '06). Since taking over in Denver in 2011, his teams have only gotten better, from 8-8 in his first season to 13-3 each of the last two.
Asked if he believes he's a better coach now than he was in Carolina or if he simply has better players, Fox had to give the reporter a reminder that the Panthers' best season was with him at the helm.
“I had good players in Carolina. I think that was the only Super Bowl they’ve ever been to," he said. "It was a great team, great locker room, as you’d expect. I think all these are different. This time of year from now, I’ll have a completely different team.
"It’s just the way of the National Football League. Coaches change teams. Players change teams. I’m just really soaking this one in. It’s a great bunch. I’m very proud of this bunch, just like I was with the Carolina team. So I’ve enjoyed, really, all my football teams and I think you get better. I think the more experience, or the more you do it, the better you get. You should, whether it’s your job or my job."