John Fox has to go.
His departure day should be Monday, but it’s not in the McCaskeys’ DNA, stomach or wallet to fire a coach nines games into a season. Let it be at the end of the season, then. There’s no way ownership can bring back Fox for next season, not after the Bears’ excremental 23-16 loss Sunday to the Packers. No earthly way.
Fox supplied all the nails needed for his coffin. How he managed to do the hammering while enclosed in a casket is beyond my understanding, but he did.
There they were, nail after incriminating nail. Look at them all.
A loss coming off a bye week.
A loss to the archrival Packers, who were coming off a loss Monday night.
A Packers team without superstar Aaron Rodgers. And with somebody named Brett Hundley.
A Packers team, by halftime, without its top two running backs because of injury. A Packers team succeeding with a third-string rookie who ran over Bears defenders.
Eight Bears penalties. Four others that the Packers declined.
The Bears as 5½-point favorites. At home.
A loss after all the talk about the arrow pointing up for that home team.
A supposedly soft second-half schedule unspooling in front of the Bears like a yellow-brick road.
And, in the ultimate indignity, a Fox challenge arguing that running back Benny Cunningham had scored on a pass play turning instead into a Bears fumble and a touchback for the Packers. So Bears. And so long, Coach.
Life was looking up for the Bears. Remember the talk the week before the game? So many people were sure a good defense and a young quarterback would translate into victory.
How a team with purportedly so much going for it could be so ill-prepared for its biggest game in several years is beyond understanding. And ill-prepared is exactly what the Bears were. Also bad.
Fox has been here for 2½ seasons and has little in his favor to show for it. All that nothingness is why it’s time for him to go. But you didn’t hear that from him.
‘‘I’ve been doing this too long to ever worry about my job security, and I won’t start any minute going forward,’’ he said.
He might want to have himself a good, long worry.
His comments after the game made him sound like a man anticipating a massive public outcry about his continued employment as the Bears’ coach. They were more pre-emptive strike than reality.
‘‘Like a lot of games this season, we’ve been in the thick of things until the end and just came up a little short,’’ he said.
There were a lot of storylines coming out of this game, but one of them wasn’t that the Bears had a chance to win. At no time did victory feel close at hand.
The second-quarter challenge that backfired on Fox isn’t the reason he should be fired, but it will go down in Bears lore as emblematic of an era, if not a franchise. With the Bears trailing 10-3, Cunningham caught a pass from Mitch Trubisky for a 23-yard gain and reached out with the ball in an attempt to break the plane of the end zone. Officials ruled him down at the Packers’ 2-yard line. When officials looked at replays after Fox’s challenge, they noticed Cunningham had lost control of the ball, which hit the pylon. They ruled a fumble and a touchback.
In Fox’s defense, it was hard to see Cunningham had lost the ball, even on replay. On the other hand, sorry, can’t have it.
‘‘Obviously, that’s a play you’d like to have back, but that’s not how this game works,’’ Fox said.
It was a turning point on a rainy day that was supposed to catapult the Bears to greater things. If that arrow still is pointing up, let’s just say Fox is feeling it. Acutely.
The Bears will continue to talk about progress because it’s what they always do. But this wasn’t even a snail’s forward progress.
Does anybody at Halas Hall have Jim Harbaugh’s cell number?
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.