The Bears weren’t supposed to be done struggling, but they were supposed to be done looking lost and without a plan.
The whole idea of jettisoning Lovie Smith, Jerry Angelo, Marc Trestman and Phil Emery over the past several years was to put the franchise on firmer footing. That’s why the hiring of John Fox last year seemed so good and so right.
Here was a head coach who had been to two Super Bowls with two different teams, a man who had turned around the fortunes of two franchises. That calm demeanor, that raspy coach’s voice, that steady hand – all of it seemed to add up to someone who could take the chaos of what had come before and turn it into order, if not improvement.
And here was a fresh-faced general manager, Ryan Pace, who would introduce modern sensibilities to Halas Hall.
The Bears are 0-3 following a lifeless performance against the Cowboys on Sunday night, and even the possibility of stinking their way to the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft doesn’t invite much hope. They’d probably take the best available injured athlete.
Let’s dismiss injuries, the Bears’ fallback excuse so far this season. Injuries are a built-in part of the NFL, the way colds are at a day-care center. If you’re going to preach the “next-man-up” gospel, as Fox does, then don’t talk about injuries. Talk about how poor the team’s depth is.
Injuries don’t explain how ill-prepared the Bears were Sunday and how poorly coached they looked. From their first offensive play of the game, when backup quarterback Brian Hoyer couldn’t execute a handoff to running back Jeremy Langford, the Bears seemed out of step. Dowell Loggains’ offensive game plans have lacked clarity, and Sunday was no different. The next rookie quarterback to be confused by Vic Fangio’s defensive schemes will be the first. And for all the talk of a veteran coaching staff’s influence, I don’t see many players improving.
The Bears wouldn’t have beaten the Cowboys with a healthy Jay Cutler, so let’s forget that nonsense. He is only the most glaring symptom of what’s wrong with the franchise. The Bears have made poor personnel decisions going back to what feels like the Ice Age. They compounded their original bad idea of trading for Cutler by giving him more money. His contract set the team back, though revisionists have tried to explain it as an average deal for an average quarterback. Maybe it is now, but it surely wasn’t when he signed it.
The Bears haven’t groomed a young quarterback because … because … because who knows why? You shake your head so often at their myopia that a chiropractic adjustment is in order.
Nothing could be as bad as the cratered, mushroom-cloud losses to the Patriots (51-23) and the Packers (55-14) in 2014. I wouldn’t begin to argue that what is happening now is worse. But I will say that the first three games of 2016 have moved the needle on the angst meter from “dispirited’’ to “we’re doomed.’’ It’s hard to see much improvement in Fox’s second season, but, worse, it’s hard to see even the chalk outline of a plan in Pace’s second year as general manager.
Fox has those two Super Bowl appearances on his resume, and they have carried him a long way. But the currents have brought him to here and now, and his resume might as well be a paper towel for all anyone in Chicago cares. The only thing that matters is 0-3 and how the Bears plan to proceed. But because everything is a secret at Halas Hall, no one is sure of the plan or if there is one.
It looks like a rebuild, but since when do rebuilds involve a franchise-wide fog, zero visibility and a sleepy coaching staff? At press conferences, Fox always looks like he wants you to know that he knows what’s going on, even though he won’t tell you what’s going on, and, by the way, can he get back to towel snapping with his frat brothers now?
The Bears were 6-10 last season, and all we heard about in the offseason was Fox’ ability to flip houses. Well, that and how accommodating the schedule would be this season. But here they are, a mess heading into Week 4 against the Lions. On Monday, Fox wouldn’t even commit to a healthy Cutler starting over Brian Hoyer, even after a bad loss to the Cowboys.
What’s the plan, long-term or otherwise? The Bears aren’t showing or telling. Or maybe even knowing.
“Nobody comes and rescues you,’’ Fox said.
That’s what he and Pace are supposed to be doing with the Bears.