Bears fire coach John Fox after three fruitless seasons
The Bears closed another unproductive era in franchise history Monday morning, firing head coach John Fox after three uninspired seasons. Fox finished the season 5-11 Sunday and his Bears career with only 14 wins in 48 tries.
The Bears will pay off the final year of the four-year deal he signed to replace Marc Trestman on Jan. 16, 2015, eight days after GM Ryan Pace was hired to replace Phil Emery. Pace distanced himself from Fox’s timeline last offseason, though, trading up to draft quarterback Mitch Trubisky No. 2 overall. He will make the next hire.
Pace will meet the media late Monday afternoon, the team said. Chairman George McCaskey and president/CEO Ted Phillips are not currently scheduled to speak.
“Thank you to all the players, coaches, the city of Chicago and Bears fans everywhere — your passion for the game and this team is unmatched in the NFL,” Fox said in a statement released by the team. “Today is the tough part of our results-oriented business but I wish the Bears organization the best for years to come.”
Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers, who contracts ran beyond this year, aren’t expected to return. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was in the last year of his deal and should be a hot assistant coach commodity across the league. It’s unclear if the Bears will give him a head coaching interview.
Fox addressed the team briefly Monday morning after he’d been fired. Some players had read about it on Twitter before the meeting.
“The tone was pretty much as emotional as (Sunday) night,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “Today I think was even more emotional because it actually happened and a lot of guys just gave him hugs and told them he loved them, told him that we loved him after he said a few words.”
The Bears entered Fox’s third season trying to succeed down parallel paths, starting veteran quarterback Mike Glennon with an eye on winning games while developing Trubisky in practice. When Glennon’s turnovers and 1-3 record screamed for change, the Bears declared Trubisky their starter for Week 5. He went 4-8 and took every snap.
Fox’s firing was no surprise. Whether he’ll coach again is an open question. He said last week he hadn’t thought about how much longer he wanted to coach before retiring.
“I think he built a foundation,” outside linebacker Sam Acho said. “I think the success that he had here, we’re not going to see until later. Whether I’m on this team or not, I think you’re going to see success in the future and I think a lot of that is going to be attributed to the foundation and the culture that he built in his three years here.”
After Sunday’s 23-10 loss at the Vikings, Fox refused to answer questions about his future. Players and coaches reported to Halas Hall early Monday for exit interviews. Players are expected to be available to the media mid-morning.
Fox coached his first two seasons with Jay Cutler on the roster, though the team used three quarterbacks last season due to injury, with Matt Barkley starting the most games. The Bears didn’t have a single player voted to the Pro Bowl at first blush in the Fox era, though three — then-tackle Kyle Long, guard Josh Sitton and running back Jordan Howard eventually made the game as injury replacements. Howard could again this season — he’s the first alternate.
They’ve been dogged by injuries, too, finishing last year with 19 players on injured reserve. They finished this season with 16.
Fox hinted Friday that he’s made the job more attractive for the next coach.
“I think we’ve basically retooled the whole roster,” Fox said. “I think a lot of the heavy lifting has been done. … I think we’re kind of at ground zero, level field, however you want to do it, right at water line. And making that transition and change at the quarterback position this year bodes well for the future.”
Fox leaves as the second-worst coach in Bears history, behind Abe Gibron, who had a 27.4 winning percentage. His 5-11 mark this season is two wins better than last season, but it marked the Bears’ fourth-straight season mired in last place in the NFC North.
Fox defeated the Packers, Lions and Vikings only once apiece over three years. The highlight of his Bears tenure was a Lambeau Field victory on Thanksgiving night in 2015. Since then, the Bears have won only a quarter of their 36 games.
Before the season began, Bears chairman George McCaskey told the Sun-Times the team wouldn’t make any in-season head coaching change — the Bears never have — and stood true to his word, despite a serious of low points. Fox’s botched replay challenge in a home loss to the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers. When Fox asked officials to check whether Benny Cunningham’s dive at the pylon was a touchdown, they ruled instead he’d fumbled the ball out of the back of the end zone. In the next three weeks, the Bears lost at home to the rival Lions when Connor Barth shanked a potential game-tying field goal; were destroyed, 31-3, at Philadelphia; and watched one-win 49ers beat them on five Robbie Gould field goals.
Since Lovie Smith was fired after a 10-6 2012 season, the Bears have gone five seasons without a winning record.
Following the debacle of Marc Trestman’s second and final season, the Bears were attracted to Fox, who had been fired by the Broncos less than a year after losing in the Super Bowl, for his ability to connect to his players. Contrasted with the soft-spoken Trestman, Fox, who also reached the Super Bowl with the Panthers, was praised as a players’ coach who ran a professional locker room. At the time, McCaskey said Pace was “very decisive in determining John was the guy we wanted to pursue.”
The general manager and coach set about rebuilding the roster through the draft. Their first pick, receiver Kevin White, never played in his rookie year because of a shin injury. Fox maintained early in training camp that White was day-to-day, when in fact his injury was more serious. That spawned an at-times adversarial relationship between Fox, who refused to say much in press conferences, and the media.
The Bears will likely turn to an offensive-minded head coach — either a coordinator or quarterbacks coach with a history of development — to bring Trubisky along. They had one such coach inside Halas Hall in Fox’s first season, but coordinator Adam Gase left after one season to take the Dolphins’ head coaching job. Fox replaced Gase with quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.
Offensive assistants who figure to be considered for Fox’s job include the Eagles’ Frank Reich and John DeFillipo; the Vikings’ Pat Shurmur; and the Patriots’ Josh McDaniels, among others. If the Bears want to interview an assistant for the Patriots, Steelers, Eagles and Vikings — the four teams with playoff byes — they have to do so by the end of the day Sunday. Coaches that are in the wild card round can be interviewed next week.