Kyle Long’s phone went nuts Friday because plenty of folks across the league seem to be crazy about John Fox, the Bears’ new coach.
“I’ve gotten so many texts from guys saying, ‘Congrats, that’s my guy,’ ” the Bears’ Pro Bowl guard said. “It’s good to hear that.
“It’s good to know that all this work we’re doing in the offseason and what we’re getting ready for is for a good guy. We’re going to go win some football games.”
Fox was named the 15th coach in team history Friday afternoon after negotiations with first-year general manager Ryan Pace began in the morning. Fox has a four-year deal, but terms are not yet known.
Similar to Pace’s arrival, Fox is a break from the stagnant ways of old, which often resulted in more mediocrity. Fox is the first coach hired with previous head-coaching experience since George Halas re-hired himself in 1958.
From Pace to Fox, the team’s recent moves are a clear indication that chairman George McCaskey is determined to fix his franchise and make it competitive.
“I’m really excited with the new regime with Ryan Pace and what he’s been able to do, too,” Long said. “John Fox, you couldn’t find a better guy for the job.”
And he’s not the only Bear who feels that way.
“Everybody is fired up,” Long said.
“Just from what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, he brings a lot of passion, a lot of energy,” guard Matt Slauson said. “It’s going to be real exciting.”
Fox immediately became the front-runner for the job after he and the Broncos agreed to part ways Monday. There was discord on the Broncos between Fox and GM John Elway.
Fox had a connection to Pace through close friend Sean Payton, the Saints’ coach, and a clear fan in Bears consultant Ernie Accorsi after being his defensive coordinator with the Giants. Experience wasn’t everything to the Bears, but Fox’s credentials stood out when compared to the five other candidates interviewed. Fox has a 119-89 regular-season record with the Panthers and Broncos and is 8-7 in the postseason with a Super Bowl appearance with each team.
Pace, 37, made the final decision and felt confident in his own shoes to hire a strong-minded, proven coach. Fox, 59, had the philosophies — a focus on running the ball and reliance on a stout defense — and the charisma that Pace was looking for during his search.
“John works with people,” former Panthers GM Marty Hurney said. “When the head coach works with the GM and there’s that cohesion up there, everybody else feeds off of that.
“He’s a people person. He has the ability to work with people. He knows what he wants. But he knows it’s a ‘we’ game, not a ‘me’ game.”
Plenty of work awaits Fox at Halas Hall. On the field, the Bears’ defense just had its two worst seasons ever. Off it, the franchise just had a season defined by “noise,” as members called it, whether it was offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer becoming a source behind an NFL Network report, the mishandling of Jay Cutler’s benching, the post-game ramblings of Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett or the controversy of Lance Briggs’ restaurant opening.
Fox made sense from Day 1 because he can bring stability to the locker room with a direct and honest approach, while his defensive expertise addresses a woeful unit. Fox also has a history of assembling accomplished and innovative coaching staffs.
“He’s guy who has history of winning in the NFL and the history of being a players’ coach,” said Long, who met Fox during the 2013 scouting combine. “Guys love him. I’ve spoken to a few guys who have played for him and have been around him, and they just love him.”