The long line of failed Bears coaches just got a little longer, with the team firing John Fox after a three-year record of 14-34.
The next head coach is out there, 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 left with three straight last-place finishes in the NFC North. That’s what the Bears can do to a man.
A very good Vikings team beat a bad Bears team 23-10 Sunday, and everyone moved on – Minnesota to the playoffs and Chicago to a fuzzy future. What now? Who knows? It’s the McCaskeys, for crying out loud.
Fox had a huge hand in the team’s failure, 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 more committed to keeping scores close.
The entire lure of the Bears job is 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 in the next few days. It has the chance to be a great job if Trubisky turns out to be good or great. Is that a gamble a veteran 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 (your guess is as good as his). 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. Who’s willing to take on that risk? Is it a risk?
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.
Pace soon 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’d still be the coach. 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 the McCaskeys don’t want to fire Pace. They don’t know what they’re doing and wouldn’t know whom to hire as a replacement on their own.
I think Trubisky will turn out to be a good quarterback. We’ve seen flashes of excellence from him, despite his not having much in the way of 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.
Nothing was going to fix Jay Cutler’s up-and-down nature as a quarterback, but it didn’t help that he went through so many coaches and coordinators. Then again, his poor performances helped spin the revolving door at Halas Hall.
The other day I wrote that the Bears would need a bit of the miraculous to hire the right coach – a coach who can turn around this long-running debacle and build a winner. They need a miracle because very little has worked under this ownership.
Fox had to go. He is not the coach to turn a young quarterback into a star. That will be somebody else’s job. You know, if the Bears ever figure out how to find the right somebody else.