John Fox avoids looking too far behind or too far ahead — disdains it, actually — so it was no surprise that there was no sense of melancholy nor any special message to his team in his final practice of the season at Halas Hall, and very likely his final practice as coach of the Bears.
“It was all focused on Minnesota, finish strong,” linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski said. “That’s been the message the whole week. And he stuck to that. Nothing really changed.”
The Bears are 5-10 this season and 14-33 in Fox’s three seasons as coach heading into the season finale against the NFC North champion Vikings on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Whether it’s the last game of the season or his last game as Bears coach, he approached this one as he has every other game.
“I think they understand where it’s at — you get to go to Minnesota. They’ve won the division,” Fox said. “I’m sure it’ll be a playoff atmosphere either way. They’re going to be playing a home game, [determining] whether they play again next week or skip a week for the bye. It should be that kind of atmosphere. I think our guys are excited.”
Fox understands the reality of the situation — that at the very least, his job is in jeopardy. He did not dismiss questions that either hinted at or acknowledged this would be his last game with the Bears. To wit: How long do you want to coach?
“I haven’t really thought about it; we’ve still got this game,” Fox said. “I don’t do much of that contemplating until the offseason. So we’re not quite there yet.”
This is the first time in three stops as a head coach in the NFL that Fox has not had a winning record in his first three seasons. He dismissed circumstances of the rebuild that became big obstacles — injuries, roster turnover and a rookie quarterback this season — and instead focused on general progress not reflected as much in the team’s record.
“It is what it is,” Fox said. “I definitely feel like we’re better than we were three years ago.”
The players are aware of the likelihood of a coaching change but are on automatic pilot at this point — just looking forward to the next game and doing their job.
“That’s kind of how I feel about it — control what you can control and continue forward,” Kwiatkoski said. “Things are gonna happen. It’s important to stay positive and keep working. Some things are out of your control. There’s no point in worrying about it if you can’t control it.”
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