So John Fox never has won a Super Bowl. Are the Bears in any position to be that picky?
In the last four years — Jerry Angelo’s final season as general manager and Phil Emery’s three seasons as GM — the Bears have gone from one step from the Super Bowl to the ground floor. They need help on multiple levels — more talent, real leadership, better locker room chemistry, better player development, stability at quarterback, an identity on defense and better game-day coaching, just for starters.
More than anything else, the Bears have to get back on their feet before they start to take the steps necessary to catch the Lions and the leaps and bounds necessary to catch the Packers. Fox seems like he’s well suited for what the Bears need at this time. What are the odds that 37-year-old Ryan Pace is going to hit a home run and find his Sean Payton in his first at-bat? He could — we don’t know that much about him. But maybe his best bet is to take the solid double and go for the fences after he’s developed real power.
Pace doesn’t need someone to hold his hand — if he does, the Bears hired the wrong guy. But a veteran coach like Fox — who has been a head coach in the NFL for 13 seasons — figures to make Pace’s difficult and all-encompassing rebuild job a little bit easier. Not that Fox is the only guy for the job. But the Bears could do a lot worse. That’s not an admirable standard, but this is the Bears we’re talking about. First things first.
There’s something to be said for the timing. Broncos general manager John Elway referred to it repeatedly when lauding Fox’s contributions in his opening remarks to reporters at a press conference Tuesday in Denver.
“When I first got the [GM] job four years ago, the first thing I had to do was hire a coach,” Elway said. “John was a perfect guy for the job at that time. His energy the type of guy he [is] and for what we needed four years ago, John was that perfect guy.
“The tenaciousness; his exuberance; his energy — at that time, it was perfect. And he never lost that. It was perfect at the time.”
When Fox arrived in Denver after being fired in Carolina, the Broncos had lost 20 of their previous 26 games. They went 8-8 in Fox’s first season and won a playoff game with Tim Tebow at quarterback. They went 4-0 in overtime games, including a playoff victory over the Steelers. At that time, Fox was just what the Broncos needed.
“I think the key thing was getting John Fox hired — that was a tremendous help for us to change the culture in the building,” Elway said after that season. “Many times when you go through a streak that we went through, the hardest thing to change is the culture and trying to get the winning mentality back in the players’ minds.
“I think that’s what John did a tremendous job with. We won a lot of close gams. A lot of times when you go through losing streaks, that’s the hardest thing to do. I give credit to John and the whole coaching staff for changing that culture to when we have close games, the mindset wasn’t, ‘What is going to happen for us to lose this game?’ Rather it turned around to, ‘Let’s make a play and figure out a way to win.’”
Maybe Adam Gase or Teryl Austin or Dan Quinn can do that for the Bears. Is that a chance a first-time GM wants to take? That’s the big decision for Ryan Pace. John Fox, who in nine years at Carolina made the playoffs three times and lost a Super Bowl, has been described as no better than Lovie Smith. The way things are going around here, that’s not a bad place to start.