The X’s and O’s and matchups matter plenty. It’s what coaches spend most of their time digesting and evaluating when building their game plans.
But with the Bears at 1-6, there are intangibles to consider. Motivations, egos and emotions all matter. And so does pride.
It’s time for coach John Fox and his staff to appeal to the alpha in their alpha males.
“Anytime you have adversity, those are all emotions that people experience, whether it’s game to game, week to week,” Fox said. “But those aren’t negative emotions in my opinion.”
Playing for pride isn’t an overrated factor. Consider what former Steelers coach Bill Cowher and Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders said about the Jaguars during halftime of the “Thursday Night Football” broadcast.
“Right now, check the heart,” Cowher said of the Jaguars, who were getting blown out by the Tennessee Titans 27-0 at halftime. “You guys, show up. You guys are professionals. You’re getting paid. You guys are representing the Jacksonville Jaguars. Show me what you’re made of this half.”
Added Sanders: “Have some kind of self-respect about yourself.”
Will ESPN’s talking heads say the same about the Bears on Monday night when they face the 5-1 Minnesota Vikings?
“It’s a pride thing,” tight end Zach Miller said. “I don’t think guys don’t have that in mind.”
Hanging over the Bears’ heads is their prime-time futility. They’ve wilted in the spotlight. Players have called it embarrassing.
With quarterback Jay Cutler’s right thumb becoming problematic, a tight game in Week 2 turned into a 29-14 victory for the Eagles and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz on “Monday Night Football.” A week later, the Dallas Cowboys and their rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, pummeled the Bears 31-17 on “Sunday Night Football.”
Last week, quarterback Brian Hoyer’s injury opened the door for the Packers, who overcame a well-called game by coordinator Vic Fangio for a solid 26-10 victory on Thursday night.
“We got to play with a sense of urgency, man,” outside linebacker Pernell McPhee said. “People got to get pissed off. I’m [expletive] pissed.
“Being 1-6, come’on, man, who wants to be 1-6? And with the talent that we got, we don’t have [any] excuses.”
It was just two years ago that Bears chairman George McCaskey said his mother, Virginia, was “pissed off,” too, over what her football team had become.
As the story goes, it was a prime-time blowout loss – the Packers’ 55-14 drubbing of the Bears on a Sunday night – that told management changes were needed.
“If you don’t have no pride stepping out on the field, you shouldn’t be out there in the first place,” left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “Pride should kick in at any point and time. You want to take the field, and you want to be confident in yourself and confident in your team. You got something to play for every single snap. It doesn’t matter if you’re 1-6. It doesn’t matter if you’re 6-0. It doesn’t [expletive] matter. You’ve got to have pride.”
Fox isn’t running around Halas Hall telling everyone to man up, but he’s always been known for memorable sayings and messages.
Fox preached discipline in their preparations for the Vikings. For now, it’s a positive for him that his players have echoed it.
“We’ve got to be disciplined with everything, whether it comes to treatment, meetings, taking notes, sleep [or] taking care of your body,” McPhee said. “You’ve got to be disciplined. That’s what this game is about. And obviously, we ain’t disciplined enough.”
But they might be proud enough.
The Bears might not beat the Vikings, but avoiding another embarrassing loss in front of a national audience still matters at Halas Hall and to their fan base.
“You’re playing for pride each and every time you’re out there,” cornerback Tracy Porter said. “It’s just a matter of playing for the guy next to you, playing for the name that’s on your back. And at the end, [it’s] playing for the organization and your head coach.”