BY RICK TELANDER
We love John Fox!
Love, love, love.
Like that old Beatles song, this refrain swells up from Bears fans and armchair rebuilders of Chicago’s lousy NFL team.
If recent Broncos coach Fox is named the Bears’ coach soon, the love-fest is won because he’s the darling of the day.
After a 5-11 season, a second pitiful year of no defense and the firing of just about every coach who helped stir the pot of toad eyes and frog warts, the Bears are ready to cook. Or so it seems.
Lots of teams have gone from underachieving to deep into the NFL playoffs in one season after making some critical changes and acquisitions. We’ll mention the New England Patriots here. They went from 5-11 in 2000 to Super Bowl champs after the 2001 season.
Sure, you can bring up the fact that a quarterback named Tom Brady threw only three passes for the Patriots as a rookie in 2000 and threw 413 for them in 2001. You can mention that. And I’ll say, ‘‘Yes, that’s what I’m talking about.’’
Dramatic change can happen overnight, provided you get some real drama infused. Which is what the Bears and their fans are hoping new general manager Ryan Pace and prospective veteran coach Fox can bring.
Hence, the love affair. Blooming like puppy love, with hormones clouding common sense.
But let’s remember the way we fall in love with coaches, players and managers, then forget they existed. Whatever happened to Mike Shanahan, the former coach who was everyone’s darling a month ago? Hmmm?
Todd Bowles, the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator? Quietly gone to the New York Jets. Jim Harbaugh? Took millions to join the ‘‘amateur game’’ at Michigan. Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn? Nowhere yet, but he reportedly is the Atlanta Falcons’ top candidate.
These were all hot Bears prospects. But now it’s Fox, and he might be worthy of all the love. He knows the game. He has been around. He has taken two teams to the Super Bowl. He became available suddenly and unexpectedly when he and the Broncos parted ways Monday.
But is he the savior?
We have flavors du jour in Chicago, many of whom are duds or never show up (thankfully). Remember the coveting of NBA star Carmelo Anthony? Of Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka? Of NHL goalie Ryan Miller? Of manager Ryne Sandberg?
The guy who never has lost a game for your team is the one who is most coveted. So it goes. And dream fellows actually work out occasionally. I’d put pre-injury Derrick Rose in that category. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
But here’s what Fox will confront if he signs with the Bears and comes down from the pedestal upon which he has been placed, the throne that drove the doomed John Keats to write:
Still, still to hear [his] tender-taken breath/And so live ever — or else swoon to death.
First, Fox must deal with a quarterback who is either a leech on the program or a misunderstood skill player. Jay Cutler sits in the middle of this franchise like an Easter Island dummy. Who the hell is he? No one knows, even after six seasons.
Cut him and mercurial but greatly skilled receiver Brandon Marshall, and the Bears will have to pay out many millions of dollars to them — along with the millions they owe fired coach Marc Trestman and fired GM Phil Emery.
Keep Cutler and Marshall, and Fox will have his hands full trying to create a new air of winning. Moreover, if Cutler is sent packing, the search for a new quarterback might take years.
Then there’s the vague Bears culture that permeates everything. It comes from being a family-owned operation, one that never has let an outsider fully wrest operational control from the McCaskey clan, with Ted Phillips there as some sort of ‘‘Godfather’’-style consigliere. What Phillips knows, we’ll never know. So be it.
Fox would have to work with Pace, almost a quarter-century younger than he is, and find all the right assistants. Not easy.
But that vibe running through Halas Hall might be the most difficult thing to oust. Since renegade coach Mike Ditka was fired after the 1992 season, the Bears have been to the playoffs only five times.
Then-Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt was the hottest thing going back in early 1993. The Bears ‘‘won’’ him, and he went 40-56 in six seasons with them.
Be careful whom you love, folks. And how far you dream.