MORRISSEY: A shrug of a goodbye to John Fox, the coach we hardly knew

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John Fox runs off the field after the Bears beat the Browns 20-3 at Soldier Field on Sunday.(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Of all the things that can be said about Bears coach John Fox as his time in Chicago draws to an end, one stands out: We don’t get him the way outsiders do.

National TV announcers call him by his nickname during broadcasts, apparently having been slapped on the back a few times by ‘‘Foxy’’ during pregame production meetings. Fellow NFL coaches love him for his congeniality and his ability to yuk it up. And a select few national reporters like him because, for reasons that aren’t totally clear, he shares information with them, despite his tight-lipped nature.

Here in Chicago, all we can see are three seasons of bad Bears football. All we hear is a raspy voice that sounds like a metal pipe being sawed in half. Worse, that voice delivers words to the public that have very little meaning and serve no purpose other than to deflect reporters’ questions. You want an update on Kyle Long’s health? Fox not only won’t give you one, but you’ll doubt the very existence of anyone named Kyle Long by the time he’s done talking.

While people outside our sad bubble of a city smile at the mention of the ol’ ball coach, we shrug quizzically. Did we miss something? A winsome personality? Motivational genius? Hidden game-day wizardry?


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Perhaps. But mostly what we missed was winning. We also missed progress, which — besides victories — is the second-most important thing.

Sunday almost surely will be a final goodbye to a man we hardly knew. The Bears face the Vikings, and it figures to be Fox’s last game as their coach. Three years, and not a whole lot to show for it.

Fox’s reputation as a turnaround expert took a huge hit with the Bears. What had worked with the Panthers and Broncos didn’t work here. He ran into the immovable object that has been the Bears’ organization the last three decades. Could another coach have done better? Probably. Another coach might have understood that developing rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky was the only thing that mattered. Another coach, having realized this, would not have punted on fourth-and-two in the fourth quarter of a meaningless game.

Fox always wanted the final score to look presentable. That attitude was at cross-purposes with a rebuild, with letting young players learn and make mistakes. The result was like many of Fox’s news conferences: a whole lot of nothing.

In recent weeks, it has become popular to laud him for getting his team to play hard despite all the losing. Players doing the minimum by trying — why is that a feather in a coach’s cap? That’s like giving me a Christmas bonus for typing.

I’m guessing general manager Ryan Pace wanted the word out that the team hadn’t quit on Fox. It’s the type of thing that’s important to Pace. Whenever he has talked publicly — every solar eclipse, roughly — he has gone to great lengths to talk about the importance of a good ‘‘culture’’ inside Halas Hall. A 5-10 team still playing hard fits his storyline.

It’s also a lot of nonsense. The best team cultures can be found in locker rooms populated by winning teams. Do any of you care that Bears players get along with each other while they’re losing? I didn’t think so. You’d prefer that the Bears win football games.

The presumption is that Pace likes winning, too, and that he likes it more than he likes a happy locker room. It’s why he’s expected to can Fox soon after the game Sunday. During Fox’s (and Pace’s) tenure, the Bears are 14-33. More winning, less sports-management psychobabble, please.

Don’t worry too much about Fox’s future. He’ll find employment if he wants it. NFL people enjoy ‘‘Foxy,’’ even if the rest of us don’t quite get the allure. And surviving the Bears’ institutional mess will be seen as a major positive.

His staff, including offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, likely will join him on the road out of town. Loggains will have two labels attached to him as he departs: 1) that he, like everybody else, couldn’t coax the best out of Jay Cutler; and 2) that he thought the forward pass and Trubisky weren’t ready for each other yet.

Loggains, practicing for a bigger job someday, would start his weekly news conferences with an opening statement. No one would have been surprised if he had dressed up as a head coach for Halloween. Maybe he’ll be that someday. But probably not here and certainly not now.

Turning Trubisky into a success will be the next coach’s only job. If that coach turns out to be as mum as Fox, no one will care. But a little more personality wouldn’t hurt.

Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.


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