Four Bears questions: Why John Fox has never worried about NFL unemployment

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John Fox is interested in working as a television analyst. (AP)

Since John Fox started as the Giants’ defensive coordinator in 1997, he has been unemployed for exactly 16 days — 12 between head-coaching jobs with the Panthers and Broncos, and a mere four between his Broncos firing and Bears hiring.

So when Fox says he has never had trouble getting work, he’s right.

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While we wonder whether he’ll surpass 16 days if and when the Bears fire him, here are four quarters’ worth of Bears questions:

First quarter: When was Fox worried?

Fox was spending the week -between Christmas and New Year’s Eve at his in-laws’ house in St. Louis when his boss, Steelers coach Chuck Noll, retired after the 1991 season.

“Not really understanding how this league worked — I was there three seasons — I kinda realized I didn’t have a job,” said Fox, the defensive backs coach.

He was only 36. He learned quickly his resume spoke for itself — the Steelers had a dominant pass defense.

“I think the minute it was made public, I had the choice of about four jobs,” he said. “So, young or old, it was pretty much why I have the attitude I have.”

Second quarter: Whom do you root for Sunday?

Not the Bears, if you’re hoping they improve their draft position. The Bears can select as high as sixth with a loss or as low as 12th with a win.

The Bears are one of four teams sitting at 5-10. They would lose every tiebreaker because they have a superior strength of schedule. The only way the Bears could draft before the 49ers, Broncos and Jets is if they all win and the Bears lose. Root for that scenario, draftniks.

If the Bears lose, they run the risk of being tied with the Texans or Buccaneers if either wins their game. The Bears could tie the Bucs in strength of schedule, which would lead to a coin flip.

Halftime hot tip

The Bears have covered once in their last five season finales — a 13-9 loss to the Vikings in Marc Trestman’s last game. They’re 11-point underdogs at Minnesota and likely will be playing without right tackle Bobby Massie (knee) and left guard Josh Sitton (ankle), who were ruled doubtful Friday.

Third quarter: What’s the timeline?

Presuming the Bears fire Fox, they’ll move quickly.

If they want to interview assistants whose teams have a first-round bye in the playoffs — the Steelers, Patriots, Eagles and, if they win Sunday, the Vikings — they’ll have to fly to their cities to talk before the end of the wild-card round Jan. 7.

Coaches whose teams win in the wild-card round will be available for interviews the week after, until the divisional round ends Jan. 14.

After that, no coach whose team is still in the playoffs — four will remain — can have a first interview until they lose. That’s why George McCaskey and others interviewed then-Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and then-Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in 2015, even without a general manager in place. Had they not, the assistants would have been off-limits until their team lost.

The Bears can interview assistants from all non-playoff teams at any point with club permission.

Fourth quarter: How do you know which coordinator can be a great head coach?

You don’t. That means the Bears should be careful anointing just any offensive guru as their new leader.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, a longtime defensive coordinator, said he wasn’t even sure he’d succeed as the boss.

“I think everybody else told me that,” Zimmer said. “I don’t know that you really know if you’re -going to be a good head coach or not.

“When I was a coordinator, I had a lot of people, players included, saying, ‘You’d be a great head coach.’ Or people that were around me saw how I interacted with players or how I taught or, I don’t know, if it’s demanded respect or whatever it is.”

One such encourager: Hall of Famer Bill Parcells. The Cowboys coach used to tell him to write down details.

“I think more so than anything,” Zimmer said, “Parcells used to walk into my office all the time and say, ‘Remember this when you’re a head coach.’ ”

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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