By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Rarely one to talk publicly about the big picture or much beyond winning the next game, Denver coach John Fox weighed in on the interesting race for Most Valuable Player.
That race could come down to Peyton Manning of the Broncos vs. old rival Tom Brady of the Patriots and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings.
“Obviously, I’m going to be a little biased,” Fox said Monday.
His vote, of course, would go to Manning, not so much for the numbers he’s put up as for the obstacles he’s overcome — namely, a season off, four neck surgeries and the task of becoming the Broncos quarterback after spending his entire career with the Colts.
“With all due respect for everyone involved, what’s unique about Peyton … he’s done it in a new city with a new team at that position,” Fox said. “In my own personal opinion, that’s what separates him from the field.”
Of course, getting the nod from the Broncos coach is one thing. The decision from the real voters won’t be handed down until Super Bowl week.
The way things are going for the Broncos, Manning might be on hand to collect it personally if he wins.
Denver (12-3) is on a 10-game winning streak and positioned for a first-round bye in the playoffs and possibly even the top seed. Manning has 4,355 yards, 203 away from the second most in his 14 seasons. His 34 touchdowns are ranked second over a career in which he has already won a record four MVP awards.
In his postgame news conference after Denver’s 34-12 win over Cleveland on Sunday, Manning said he hasn’t thought about his chances of winning No. 5.
“It has been such a unique season for me personally, I really feel fortunate to be playing,” he said. “I really have had an interesting year and a half and so I’m proud our team is in the mix. Anything that comes along the way individually, in my past, I have accepted those on behalf of the teams I have been on. They’re individual awards, but in my opinion they have always been team awards. That’s kind of how I continue to approach things.”
Fox, who has been coaching for nearly 35 years and needs one more victory to reach 100 as an NFL head coach, said he still learns from Manning.
Manning has come to Denver and changed the culture in the locker room, essentially by demanding his teammates become students of the game off the field in addition to working as hard as he does on it.
“I see how hard he works,” Fox said. “He has it down to a science as far as time management in an NFL season. I saw him in the cool tub watching his iPad. Someone asked me if I was worried about the iPad. I said, no, I don’t care about the iPad, I care about him. Don’t want him to get electrocuted. But it’s remarkable how hard he works.”
He said Manning also sets the tone by never taking his foot off the gas. During their winning streak, the Broncos have won by an average score of 31-17. They have taken double-digit leads in every game but one, and nobody has played them closer than seven points.
“We talk about that a lot, not coasting, pedal downhill,” Fox said. “I appreciate him. I think that’s a big reason why he’s accomplished what he’s accomplished, whether it’s here or in Indianapolis. He’s a tremendous competitor, doesn’t let up. I think that’s how you need to be to be successful.”
Peterson is also coming off a major injury, a torn-up knee that knocked him out in December of last season, meaning he and Manning are also prime contenders for Comeback Player of the Year.
Brady, meanwhile, would be considered the third major candidate in the MVP voting.
In that case, voters would be choosing between:
—Peterson, a running back who made a remarkably fast comeback and, at present, has rushed for 1,898 yards and led a 3-13 team in 2011 to the verge of the playoffs in 2012.
—Brady, a quarterback who has more yards (4,543) but fewer touchdowns (32) than Manning and who also has a victory over Manning: New England’s 31-21 win in October that marks the last time Denver lost.
—And, of course, Manning, who has engineered the league’s longest winning streak and is turning a good team into a potentially great one.
Fox knows how he’d vote. But he said he’s not in the business of lobbying.
“I was asked what I thought,” he said, “and I told you.”