10 reasons why the Bears need to fire John Fox
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When the Bears made John Fox the 15th coach in team history Jan. 16, 2015, he was thought to be a turnaround guy, someone who would end the four-year playoff drought and restore pride in the storied franchise.
Things seemed to be on track early as the remnants of the Marc Trestman era were swept away, and sanity was restored in the locker room.
As the Bears went through the disruptive transition, the one thing you could count on was stability from a veteran coach who had twice taken over struggling teams — the Panthers and Broncos — and a few years later had them playing the last Sunday of the season. There was no way Fox alone was going to be the savior, but with all the personnel and coaching turnover, he would be the linchpin, the one constant the Bears could rely on during the reset.
Now, 34 months later, it turns out the turnaround guy is going sideways.
Though the Bears’ defense has returned to respectability under Fox’s watch, little else has. And the defensive renaissance could be attributed as much to general manager Ryan Pace’s paperwork as Fox’s handiwork.
It’s apparent the Bears need to cut bait. Here are 10 reasons why Fox must go:
1. Hurting Trubisky’s development
While Fox has been outstanding at coaching up defenses throughout his career, his advice to quarterbacks always seems to be, “Don’t lose it for us.” It’s pretty clear he has taken the same approach with rookie Mitch Trubisky after the team finally moved on from Mike Glennon.
This late in his career, Fox should be on board with the risk/reward gamble. Instead, he has played it as he always does: close to the vest. Fox is definitely not the coach you want in the ear of your 23-year-old franchise cornerstone moving forward. (See Sean McVay and Jared Goff.)
2. Nearly ending Trubisky’s development
Many thought Fox should’ve been jettisoned during a curious if not dangerous substitution during the preseason. Remember the Bears’ plan then: During the regular season, Trubisky was going to watch Glennon from inside a glass case on the sideline.
But in the last preseason game against the Browns, Fox started Trubisky and had him hand off nine consecutive times to begin the game. Despite boos raining down at Soldier Field, the Bears had a plan and were sticking to it.
Until . . .
Late in the fourth quarter of the 25-0 blowout loss, third-string quarterback Connor Shaw got hurt — twice — and had to exit. Instead of using Mark Sanchez or even Glennon, Fox trotted Trubisky back onto the field. Sure, take your most precious piece of the future out of Bubble Wrap and expose him to a bunch of desperate, soon-to-be-cut players. Not only that, but Trubisky dropped back to pass on the last two plays. With Bear Nation holding its collective breath, Trubisky was sacked to end the game.
As with most questions from reporters, Fox skirted the real issue, saying: “It’s going to be fair to say it [wasn’t] the first time he’s been hit, and it won’t be the last.”
3. Passion is gone
When Fox, 62, came to the Bears, there were concerns about his competitive fire, most likely raised by those around him in Denver. Still, a new team, a fresh start — maybe he could rekindle the flame in Chicago. Maybe working with a young GM such as Pace would renew the energy he once exhibited in Carolina. Hasn’t happened.
A 2016 story in ESPN The Magazine described the relationship between Fox and Broncos GM John Elway. The story detailed how Elway became upset about “disorganized practices” before the Super Bowl XLVIII loss to the Seahawks. The story said that at one point, Fox turned to people on the sideline and said, “Isn’t winning the division enough?”
The complacency didn’t sit well with Elway, who fired Fox after the 2014 season. The Broncos won the Super Bowl the next season.
4. Undisciplined team
A lack of passion in coaching usually means less attention to detail in practice, which manifests itself as focal problems and dumb penalties on game day.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the Packers game, in which the Bears were whistled for 11 first-half penalties (four were declined). All this coming after a bye week.
Before the Packers game, Josh Sitton revealed how Trubisky had to yell and swear at the Bears’ huddle for breaking early while he was calling a play in a recent game. Cute story, but it might be more symbolic of a bigger issue: Doesn’t Fox get paid to discipline and scold?
5. Lack of preparation
How many times have we seen untimely timeouts, silly penalties and personnel confusion?
This isn’t just bad luck. There’s a reason these things continue to happen. Before coming to the Bears, Fox was 10-3 after the bye week and had won seven in a row with the extra time to plan. Since joining the Bears, Fox is 0-3 after the bye week and has looked nothing short of ill-prepared.
In 2015 after two weeks off, the 2-4 Bears played the 4-2 Vikings at Soldier Field, where Minnesota was winless in its last seven tries. The Bears’ first-half drives looked like this: six plays, 17 yards, field goal; four plays, punt; three plays, punt; five plays, punt; three plays, 34 yards, touchdown. The Bears gave up a punt return for a touchdown and a field goal, and entered halftime tied at 10. They ultimately lost 23-20.
In 2016 after the bye week, the 2-6 Bears played the 3-5 Bucs in Tampa. This time the Bears and Jay Cutler started with the following drives: seven plays, punt; four plays, interception; one play, interception for touchdown. The Bucs never looked back in a 36-10 shellacking.
6. Replay challenged
It’s sadly ironic that the replay challenge won by Fox on Sunday against the Packers would point to his overall ineptitude with the one tool that allows a coach to directly affect the game. Fox’s record on challenges is 47-128, a .367 percentage and well below the league average of .444. Of coaches with 30 or more challenges, only the Raiders’ Jack Del Rio is worse.
It seems like one of two things is happening with the Bears: 1) Fox is getting the wrong information, in which case you need different sets of eyeballs watching the game; or 2) Fox is just going with his gut reaction and throwing challenge flags.
Either way, it’s a systemic problem that could be improved but hasn’t been.
Not to rehash the whole Benny Cunningham play from Sunday, but if you were Fox and were at all unsure about challenging, why not eat the flag knowing your track record?
Worse yet, Fox admitted that at no time during the discussions with his staff did anyone ever bring up the negative consequences of his challenge — the touchback that likely cost the Bears the game and added to the confluence of factors that will ultimately cost Fox his job. That’s a problem.
7. Rivalry weak
If the McCaskeys have one hard rule, it’s don’t lose to the Packers and definitely don’t get embarrassed. Other than the shocking 17-13 upset on Thanksgiving night in 2015, Fox is 0-5 against Green Bay. While the 23-16 score in this last defeat didn’t scream embarrassing, the manner in which it happened sure did. The Bears were favored, at home, one game behind in the standings and not having to face Aaron Rodgers. Somehow, they still blew it, thanks to Fox’s replay challenge.
In his first four years with the Bears, Lovie Smith went 6-2 against the Packers, including four wins in a row at Lambeau Field. Despite a disappointing 7-9 season in 2007, Smith was safe with the McCaskeys after sweeping the Pack.
But things changed when Rodgers took over the play-calling. Smith went 2-9 the next five years, including the NFC Championship Game loss. In 2012, despite a 10-6 record, Smith was fired. Two of those losses were to the Packers.
8. Growing discontent
Want to get Virginia McCaskey upset? Lose to the Packers. Want to get her really upset? Do it with an empty-seat backdrop at Soldier Field. Yes, the weather was awful and Rodgers was sidelined for this last game, but do you ever remember seeing so many empty seats for a Packers-Bears game?
Even with all the excitement over Trubisky, the Bears reported 5,624 no-shows. They say a team is a reflection of its coach, and, right now, the Bears are a dull, bland product.
9. Just not that good
Give him credit, Fox really did work wonders in getting the Panthers to the Super Bowl. But 2004 was a long time ago. Jessica Simpson and Janet ‘‘Wardrobe Malfunction’’ Jackson performed at halftime.
Still, despite his woes with the Bears, Fox has an overall record of 131-118. Pretty good by NFL standards, right? Well, not if you take away the Peyton Manning years. With Manning running his offense, Fox went 38-10 in Denver. Without him, Fox falls into the retread pool of coaching mediocrity at 93-108.
Even worse, Fox is perilously close to becoming the worst coach in Bears history. At 12-29 right now, Fox needs to win two of the last seven games to avoid overtaking Abe Gibron (.274) with the worst winning percentage in franchise history.
10. He’s the perfect fall guy
While everyone was calling for Fox’s head after the Packers game, that is not the McCaskeys’ M.O. The Bears have never fired a coach midseason — in fact, only once has a coach been replaced during the season. In 1942, George Halas, at 47, entered the navy as a lieutenant commander to fight in World War II. Hunk Anderson took over, and the team finished 11-0.
Since dumping Smith after that 10-6 season, the Trestman and Fox eras have produced a 25-48 record. Still, the Bears will allow the season to play out and let the groans and discontent over Fox crescendo.
After the game Sunday, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reported: “The loss to the rival Packers has angered Bears ownership.”
When Fox was introduced as the Bears coach, he made sure to mention Papa Bear: “To be standing here in the same role as George Halas is pretty remarkable, and one I take very seriously with great responsibility moving forward.” Fox added, this is a “we, not me profession.”
Well, to a certain degree.
The biggest reason Fox will be fired has nothing to do with him as much as the Bears’ organization. This has to be put on someone. You don’t think the McCaskeys are going to turn the finger on themselves or anyone else at the top, do you?
This is on Fox. Until the next coach gets here.
Follow me on Twitter @dancahill_CST.