The long line of failed Bears coaches figures to get a little longer in the next few days. Barring an outbreak of McCaskey lunacy, the team is expected to fire John Fox after a three-year record of 14-34.
The next head coach is out there somewhere, lurking in the shadows, possibly wondering what he’s about to get himself into. There’s no way he can know the challenge he’ll face.
Fox came to town with two Super Bowl appearances and a reputation for turning around struggling teams. He’ll leave with three straight last-place finishes in the NFC North. That’s what the Bears can do to a man.
Fox wouldn’t answer questions about his job status after Sunday’s game in Minneapolis, but he sounded like a goner.
“To everybody in (the locker room), there will be better days moving forward,’’ he said.
A very good Vikings team beat a bad Bears team 23-10, and everyone moved on – Minnesota to the playoffs and Chicago to a fuzzy future. If the Bears defy all logic and retain Fox, there will be a civic uprising. If they fire him, then the concern will turn to the fact that the same people who hired him will be charged with hiring his replacement. Help!
Fox had a huge hand in the team’s failures, but his biggest sin came in 2017, when he hindered the development of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky by insisting on a conservative offense. When you decide to play the No. 2 pick in the draft, you have to be committed to living and dying with him as he learns. Fox was committed to keeping scores close.
Let’s assume that the Bears do what they should do and fire him for crimes against football. The entire lure of the job opening would be Trubisky. Whoever accepts it will do so because of the promise of a young quarterback with very little experience. The rest of it, especially the Bears’ tradition, is meaningless.
It’s not a great job now, no matter what Bears officials will try to tell us. It has the chance to be a great job if Trubisky turns out to be good or great. Is that a gamble a veteran head coach wants to take? Or is it more likely that the Bears will have to settle for a coordinator from another team and hope he develops into a solid head coach? That’s their standard approach.
The next coach will inherit general manager Ryan Pace, who has the same win-loss record as Fox did in three seasons on the job. That won’t warm many candidates’ hearts. They’ll want to know how much he’s to blame for the Bears’ struggles (a lot), and they’ll want to know how long he’ll be employed (his guess is as good as yours). Coaches want to work for GMs who hire them. A replacement GM is a threat to continued employment.
It was Pace who took the gamble on drafting Trubisky, a gutsy move. Everything and everybody begins and ends with the kid. What coaches are willing to take on that risk? Is it a risk? Trubisky has looked good at times, but progress has been slow, as expected. The deck was stacked against him Sunday. The Vikings’ defense moonlights as a wall. That meant no running game and terrible field position for the Bears. He finished with 178 passing yards and a 69.0 passer rating Sunday. And his team finished 5-11.
It’s interesting that, at the same time the Bears were preparing for life after Fox, the Raiders reportedly were making a dead-serious run at ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. I can’t think of many coaches who would be better for a young quarterback than Gruden would be. I also can’t see the Bears giving Gruden a piece of ownership, as the Raiders reportedly are prepared to offer. I’d have an easier time seeing peace on Earth.
At his next news conference, Pace surely will tell us how the Bears are better off now than they were when they hired Fox. Considering that a trained circus seal could have improved on what Marc Trestman and Phil Emery accomplished in their tenure with the franchise, that’s not saying much.
If Fox were as good as Pace will make him out to be in the next few days, he wouldn’t be on the firing line. The truth is that Pace is as culpable for this mess as Fox is, the only difference being that the general manager has firing power over the head coach. The other truth is that ownership doesn’t want to fire Pace. The McCaskeys don’t know what they’re doing and wouldn’t know whom to hire as a replacement on their own.
Trubisky will turn out to be a good quarterback. We’ve seen flashes of excellence, despite his not having much talent around him. But he’s still an unknown, and success is not a given. It’s hard to overstate how important this hire is for his development. He needs a good coach, and he needs stability.
What did Fox say to the team after Sunday’s loss?
“That if we ever need anything, (we) know where to find him,’’ Trubisky said.
Hopefully, on a beach somewhere.
Fox is not the coach to turn a young quarterback into a star. That should be somebody else’s job. You know, if the Bears ever figure out how to find the right somebody else.