If he wants to learn more about John Fox, Bears general manager Ryan Pace can call an old friend or just walk down the hallway.
The Bears’ connections to Fox are that close.
Fox — a game-changer for any team looking for a coach — became available Monday. He and the Broncos agreed to part ways after four seasons and four playoff appearances.
“I am eager to continue my coaching career and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead,” Fox said in a statement.
One of those opportunities might be with the Bears. Just connect the dots.
Pace is close to Saints coach Sean Payton after eight seasons together in New Orleans. Payton is close friends with Fox after working together with the Giants.
Bears consultant Ernie Accorsi, meanwhile, also is a fan of Fox’s. Accorsi, who recommended Pace to Bears president Ted Phillips and chairman George McCaskey, was with the Giants from 1994 to 2007, taking over as GM in 1998. Fox was the Giants’ defensive coordinator from 1997 to 2001 before leaving to coach the Panthers.
Pace has the final say on the coaching hire, but this is still his first coaching search. The NFL’s youngest GM, Pace has graciously welcomed Accorsi’s advice.
“I’ve never hired or identified a head coach, so it’s all new for me,” Pace said last week. “That’s why I’m glad Ernie Accorsi is there. I mean, he’s a Hall of Fame general manager that I can lean on. That’s a resource.”
It’s a resource that might lead straight to a recommendation for Fox, who is 119-89 in his coaching career with two Super Bowl appearances.
“Fox was one of those guys that if you got nervous the week of the game, you would look at him and you felt, ‘If we got him on our side, we got a chance,’ ” Accorsi told the New York Daily News before last year’s Super Bowl featuring Fox’s Broncos. “And that’s hard to explain. That sounds kind of childish, but that’s pretty much how I felt about John Fox.”
The Bears still are scheduled to interview Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Tuesday. Austin is the first candidate to emerge since Pace took over.
According to sources, the Bears also want to have a second interview with Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who has second meetings scheduled with the Jets and Falcons. Pace led Bowles’ interview Thursday just moments after officially joining the Bears.
“I’m looking for the best head coach that has the traits we’re looking for,” Pace said. “That’s confidence, charisma, discipline, leadership, those types of things. The best man for the job.”
Contributing: Patrick Finley