PHOENIX — Scott O’Brien and John Fox were both in their early 30s when they first met as assistants at the University of Pittsburgh. They reunited in their mid-40s, O’Brien serving as Fox’s assistant head coach and Panthers special teams coordinator.
So when O’Brien talks about the Bears’ new coach, as he did Tuesday, it’s from experience.
“I just think he’s one that’s going to affect everyone in the building,” the Patriots’ special teams coach said. “He just has that charisma to him.
“He’s very, very sincere. There’s no gray area. He is who he is.
“He’s a very good coach. Has a good handle on all aspects of football — not only the three phases but what goes into it with personnel.”
Fox and the Bears are a perfect match, Steve Mariucci said.
“I think they needed a guy with experience to oversee and have an opinion on evaluating talent, hiring his own staff, the draft, free agency, what kind of guy we want to have join our team,” Mariucci, a head coach turned NFL Network analyst, said. “Where are our weaknesses? And where do we get better a little bit at a time?
“And a rookie — a coordinator or a college guy — maybe he’s not suited for that. It would be more on-the-job training.
“I think that was a smart hire. He’s solid. Really good. He’s won.”
Fox didn’t win in 2010 — that’s when the Panthers went 2-14 in Brandon LaFell’s rookie year.
“He’s one of those guys where no matter how bad it got, he always encouraged me,” the Patriots wide receiver said. “Let you know, ‘Don’t quit on me. Keep fighting for me. If you keep fighting for me I’m going to do everything to get you the ball.’
“I loved playing for him. He’s a great coach.”
Fox, he said, “didn’t throw in the towel,” though he was fired at the end of the season.
Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Fox has won at every stop.
“That’s what you look for in this business,” said Bevell, a one-time finalist for the Bears job that went to Marc Trestman. “He’s been able to turn programs around everywhere he’s been — and I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Bevell praised former rival Vic Fangio, who left the 49ers and was named the Bears’ defensive coordinator last week. Fangio indicated Tuesday he is moving to a 3-4 base, retaining former defensive line assistant Clint Hurtt as an outside linebackers coach. Teams that play a 4-3 typically don’t designate separate linebacker coaches.
“He’s very flexible,” Bevell said of Fangio. “Even just during our games there’s cat and mouse going on with the personnel they’re putting out there, how they’re putting it out there. Are they playing it like a 3-4. Are they playing it like a 4-3?”
Fox, too, knows how to juggle egos.
“Like any coach, you don’t accept anything but their best,” O’Brien said. “A lot of times, they don’t even know what their best is — until they find out.”
Mark Potash contributed.