I get it. My Father has been a Bears season ticket holder since before I was born, ever since the Bears started playing on Soldier’s Field. In fact, he use to stand outside Wrigley Field to wait for the 1000 or so tickets that would be available to stand inside and watch the Bears play. The 1963 championship game that they won, he had four tickets. But, he would only end up taking my Mother because none of his friends wanted to sit in 8 degree weather. Oh, I get it, Bears orange runs through our veins. Those guys that they spoofed on SNL, were the same blue collar guys that would pick my up when I was a kid and send me two rows away from my seat when something great would happen. For us, the die hard Bears fans, wins and losses are very very emotional. And, as fans, we have the tendency to give into our frustrations and want dramatic change that has ultimately kept us hovering around or below mediocrity.
Now that everyone wants to fire John Fox like a short term investor selling on today’s bad news, I thought it would be fun to play devil’s advocate. So, let’s really analyze what Fox has had to deal with since becoming the head coach of the Chicago Bears.
John Fox took over a team that had a Defense that dropped from 3rd to 31st in the two year transition from Lovie Smith to Mark Trestman. That coupled with the fact that only 4 out of 22 starters played all 16 games led to a 6-10 season eventhough statistically Jay Cutler had his best year as a Chicago Bear with 64.4% completion, 3659 yds, 21 TDs, & only 11 interceptions. With only 50% of a team, how could you really expect more than an 8-8 record?
Whoever decided not to lock Adam Gase into a two year minimum contract made a HUGE mistake. There are head coaching jobs every year and he would have had just as many options in two years as he did in his one and only year with the Bears. Cutler was set to have three good years in a row while the defense was in the middle of a MAJOR roster, scheme, and age transition. Having nothing in the pipe in terms of defensive draft picks (to back up the star players featured in Lovie Smith’s 4 of 9 season top ten defenses). Jay Cutler played 5 games and saw his performance drop drastically under Loggains after working with his sixth offensive coordinator as a Chicago Bear. On top of that, he lost 2 of his biggest targets in consecutive years in Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett. So, in essence, you have Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley trying to run a Dowell Loggains offensive with one proven receiver in Alshon Jeffery??? Really??? On top of all that, you’ve got a Probowl rookie running back sitting on the bench to start the season. Mix in the inconsistency of Connor Barth and some key injuries, you’re pretty much are looking at a 25% team. How could you really expect more than 4 wins? Well, they were one shy going 3-13 for the season, but we scored the number 3 pick in the draft. Woo whoo!
Out with the OLD and in with the New! Everyone wanted Cutler gone and they got their wish. Only Pace brought in Mike Glennon (who by the way hadn’t started in like 3 years) and had everyone scratching their heads when he traded four picks to move up one spot to draft Mitchell Trubuisky with only 13 collegiate starts. Then further went on to take a big gamble on other small school draft picks to start the rebuild of his young offensive core. After realizing that Glennon might get the Defense completed decimated with his multiple turnovers per game, the Bears were forced to accelerate their time table on Trubisky and give him his first opportunity to start in the NFL. A gamble that appears to be paying off, but the fans will need to have the patience while this young talented group gels and catches up to the quickly developing Defense. I think Trubisky will be a great quarterback, he’s willing to put in the work to be the best at what he does, he’s establishing hisself as a leader, and he takes compete ownership of his mistakes. Even though he tries to hide it, you can see how much he hates to lose and it is driving him even harder to be successful. The Defense started their transformation a couple years ago, so they are a couple years ahead of the Offense. It is highly likely that the Bears will find themselves in the playoff hunt in the next couple years if the team continues to progress in all phases. But, a 13 collegiate start ROOKIE QB running a Dowell Loggains offense with no proven wide receivers??? Really??? When the defense isn’t making turnovers, we are failing to apply pressure to opposing QBs and not getting off the field on third and long situations. Couple that with a rookie QB, our special team woes, and key injuries, we are a 40% team at best. With a 40% team, can we realistically expect more than a 6-10 season?
I say all this to say, unless they find the perfect coaching candidate (contrary to popular belief) they should give John Fox one more year to coach. Change for the sake of change usually doesn’t bring the level of improvement that most people expect. It’s another developmental year for Trubisky and the offense. If Pace continues his streak of good draft picks, we could luck up and have a good year. There is no way that you can tell me that a guy who coached a team 4 straight years to Division Champs, whose team then went on to win the Super Bowl the year he left, doesn’t know how to coach. All it’s says to me is that if he has the right pieces, he can bring a winning team to the field. Now here is where history is repeating itself a little bit. Love Smith lost his job because he couldn’t find the right OC. If we would have brought Trestman in as an OC instead of a head coach with Lovie’s 3rd ranked defense, there’s no telling what we would have been able to do.
So, the only way I could see this working is if Pace tells Fox, you can stay, but I’m bringing in an offensive coordinator that’s a stud to take the Offense’s play to the next level. This OC could be a potential head coach if they decide to part ways with Fox. However, if it means losing Fangio, Pace should offer Fangio the head coaching job but only if he can bring a stud OC to the table that they can both agree on and who could be a potential head coach if the Fangio experiment doesn’t work out. The defense is playing well, but we are a few more players away from being a one of the league’s top defenses. And, I would hate for yet another coaching change and for that group to have to learn a new defense when they are already headed in the right direction. If it were me, a guy that works perfectly in both scenarios, is John Gruden. He would be great for Trubisky and our young offense. Over pay him as an OC, while easing him back into coaching without slamming him with the pressure of head coach. This gives him a one or two years to get acclimated to the Bears and figure out who he would bring on if he were promoted to coach.
Just to summarize, John Fox could argue for one more year as head coach of the Chicago Bears based on 5 key reasons:
- He inherited the 2nd to last Defense in the NFL which started a major scheme, roster, and age transformation in his first season
- His veteran stud quarterback had six different OCs and two in his first two years as head coach
- He was forced to go with a backup QB, with one proven receiver, and a promoted quarterback coach as OC for the majority of his second season
- He was forced to play an unproven overpaid QB with no proven receivers to start his third season, then switch to a rookie QB with little collegiate experience
- Lastly, out of 300 million people in the US, they couldn’t find one kicker that would be a better option than Connor Barth after his struggles in 2016. Better yet, you can’t tell me that there isn’t some soccer player, rugby player, CFL player that can’t kick the ball better than Barth somewhere in the world. (I’m happy to report this has since been fixed.)
There are certain things that are etched into the Bears DNA. Like we’ve gone to the Super Bowl about every 20 years since George Halas was coach. For the majority of our championship wins, our defense and offense have simultaneously been ranked in the top 5. The last three coaches to take the Bears to a championship game was head coach for at least 9 years, George Halas (all four coaching stints), Mike Ditka, and Lovie Smith. These are also the last three coaches to have records over .500. And, while we may have been spoiled with Ditka and Smith taking the Bears to the Super Bowl in their first three or four years, we need to make sure that whoever we pick for head coach along with his staff can make a long term commitment and not be LOOKING FOR OR SHOWN THE DOOR after a few years. This has proven successful in places like Green Bay and New England. The average length of stay of a Bear’s head coach in the last 50+ years has been 4 years. Bill Belichick has been with the New England Patriots 17 years, has won 5 out of 7 trips to the Super Bowl, and has done it all with mainly the same staff & only one quarterback. We now have a very special opportunity with a young offensive core that can grow into something great…WITH the right nurturing of course…