John Fox’s first key: His choice as OC

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Titans assistant Mike Mularkey — formerly the head man with the Bills and Jaguars — is one of the possibilities as the Bears’ offensive coordinator. | AP

Bears guard Matt Slauson likes what he has heard about John Fox. But he’s eager to find out what comes next.

“I’ve only talked to a couple of the offensive linemen. But they all feel the same way I do — they’re excited,” Slauson said. “Now it’s going to be interesting to see who we’re going to have on the offensive side as a coordinator and position coaches. All that stuff that’s going to be a little more pertinent to us on the offensive side, it’s going to be really interesting to see.”

Indeed it is. The Bears hired a coach with previous NFL head-coaching experience for the first time in modern — post-Halas, that is — history Friday. And Fox has a chance to provide an immediate benefit when he hires his coordinators.

Fox is connected, respected and has done this before — at Carolina in 2002 and at Denver in 2011. In theory, he’s more likely to succeed where previous coaches have struggled.

The names being mentioned already seem like a step up for the Bears — Dennis Allen, Jim Schwartz and Vic Fangio on defense; Kyle Shanahan, Adam Gase and Mike Mularkey on offense.

The key hire for Fox is the same as almost any coach — the coordinator on the other side of the ball. That’s an area the Bears have struggled with in recent years. Dick Jauron hired offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, who lasted less than two years; Lovie Smith hired offensive coordinator Terry Shea, who had the unenviable task of making a quarterback out of Craig Krenzel, Chad Hutchinson and Jonathan Quinn and lasted a year; Marc Trestman hired defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who was unable to pull a rabbit out of his hat and barely lasted two years.

It’s not a coincidence that the most successful coach in modern Bears history — Mike Ditka — inherited the best defensive coordinator he could ask for in Buddy Ryan in 1982. Ditka had no choice. George Halas had signed Ryan to a three-year contract before he hired Ditka. The Bears worked in odd ways even then, just with better results.

Fox knows how to fix a defense. His hand is sure to be all over the reclamation project with the Bears. Unless a Peyton Manning falls into his lap as in Denver, his biggest job will be hiring a coordinator who can manage an offense that is  loaded with talent but needs direction, leadership and an identity.

Whomever he hires will have the wind at his back because from Matt Forte to the offensive line and probably to Jay Cutler, this offense is eager to get back to the run-based attack that Fox favors.

“Absolutely,” Slauson said. “I love his tenacity as far as how he approaches the offensive side — the formula for football hasn’t changed. You’ve got to stop the run on defense, and that allows you to get a lot more dynamic. And on offense, you have to run the ball effectively to do the same thing.”

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash

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