Until Monday afternoon, the Bears were getting backed into a corner. Oh, they would never tell you that, but the public list of their coaching candidates was a combination of iffy and underwhelming.
Other teams with more of an upside than the Bears were pursuing some of the same coordinators for their head coaching jobs. Nothing was a given. Nothing looked particularly promising or, if they were honest with themselves, exciting.
And then John Fox and the Broncos announced Monday that they were parting ways.
Fox and the Bears? What sounds like an English pub makes so much sense it almost hurts.
This organization is in serious need of a good head coach who has done the job before. That became even more of a requirement after the Bears hired 37-year-old Ryan Pace to be their general manager last week. Pace had never been a general manager before.
In 13 years as a head coach in Carolina and Denver, Fox has compiled a 126-96 record. That includes six division titles and two trips to the Super Bowl, one with the Panthers in the 2003 season and one with the Broncos last season. I believe that’s the kind of “sustained success’’ Bears chairman George McCaskey is seeking.
The Broncos lost to the Colts in the playoffs Sunday, and a day later, Fox’s four-year stay in Denver was over.
You only get a few shots to make things right, George. This is one of them.
The problem will be in convincing Fox that Chicago is a prime destination for an NFL coach. The Bears certainly believe it is, but they’re also under the impression that being a charter member of the league carries serious cachet. If it did, then the coaching search wouldn’t be the maze it has been to this point.
The truth is that whoever comes in as head coach will be digging out from the rubble of a 5-11 season. He’ll either be dealing with Jay Cutler, one of the most maddening quarterbacks in the league, or with a replacement who likely won’t be very good. He’ll also be dealing with a bad defense. Psst, nobody tell him about Brandon Marshall.
So … why in the world would Fox want to come to the Bears? My knee-jerk reaction is, I have no earthly idea. That would be my reaction after giving it some thought, too, especially after the organization-wide dysfunction of the past year.
Let’s appeal to the man’s sense of adventure. Perhaps he likes challenges. He could end up being the coach who untangled the ball of confusion that is Halas Hall. He could be the one who made Cutler right (they all think that). He could bring a Super Bowl title back to Chicago.
But maybe this could be as simple as a football connection. Fox has worked for Bears consultant Ernie Accorsi, who is assisting with the coaching search. Fox was the Giants defensive coordinator from 1997-2001, when Accorsi was the team’s general manager. That could help.
Fox might be a more palatable choice for those of you uncomfortable with Mike Shanahan’s struggles since winning back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1997 and 1998 seasons. The bigger obstacle with Shanahan could be his history of having a huge say in the 53-man roster. The Bears have handed that power to Pace, and it’s unclear if Shanahan would be comfortable with such an arrangement.
Doug Marrone, who opted out of his contract with the Bills, would be a decent choice. And maybe some of those coordinators the Bears are interested in, including Arizona’s Todd Bowles, would turn out to be fine head coaches. But Fox takes a lot of the risk out of the equation. We know what he is – a winner. Yes, it’s true that winning is easy when your quarterback is Peyton Manning. But Fox also went 8-8 with Tim Tebow as the starter for 11 games in 2011. And we all know that Tebow was not God’s gift to quarterbacking.
The Bears have a long history of hiring coordinators as head coaches. It’s time to break that chain. Former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak would have been a good candidate for the job, but he announced Sunday that he wanted to remain as the Ravens offensive coordinator.
No such reservations from Fox.
“I am eager to continue my coaching career and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead,” he said in a statement.
There are six head-coach openings, and Fox figures to have options. Maybe the Bears luck out. Hey, not much else has worked. Let’s root for good fortune.