Ten Questions Facing the Chicago Bears in 2015

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May 27, 2015; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach John Fox during organized team activities at the Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Can John Fox and company return the Bears to respectability?

The worst part about 2014 wasn’t the losing; it was that for most games, the Bears weren’t competitive, and were in fact embarrassed in about half of their losses. Outscored by 62 points by the Packers over two games. Getting outscored 31-3 in the final three-quarters of their Thanksgiving pantsing at the paws of the Lions. Being down 38-7 at halftime to New England, and 35-7 and 24-0 to Dallas and New Orleans, respectively, after three-quarters.

That’s not losing. That’s annihilation.

So as much as Coach John Fox can talk about contending, the first step is working the Bears back into a competitive state. Coupled with two stellar coordinators in Adam Gase and Vic Fangio, and toting a resumé that should earn him at least a year or two of rebuilding, Fox has an excellent chance to do just that.

Fox, of course, has a solid track record as a coach, taking two teams to the Super Bowl (losing twice). He’s recruited two top-tier coordinators, and should command respect in the locker room, something former Coach Marc Trestman couldn’t do. If Fox can get players to buy in, and shutdown the ugly internal backstabbing that bit the team the last two years (the Aaron Kromer incident, Brandon Marshall flipping out after the Miami game last year, players saying in 2013 that Josh McCown should have kept playing instead of Cutler), the franchise can at least get back on track.

Coming to Chicago from San Francisco, Fangio packs a resumé arguing he’s the best defensive coordinator in football. From 2011-2014, his defenses were in the top five in fewest yards allowed each season. He’s importing his 3-4 scheme to the Bears this season, won’t have the same caliber weapons he had in San Francisco and is in the unenviable position of trying to fit a handful of 4-3 players into his scheme.

It’s going to take time for Fangio’s scheme to work in Chicago, as he and Fox search for players to replace the 4-3 parts Mel Tucker’s defense left behind. But if Fangio can find a way to generate pass rush, get a rebound season from Tim Jennings and push Kyle Fuller to the next step, that would be a win for the Bears defense. With his track record, I think he can do it, and get the Bears back ranking somewhere in the 20s of points allowed this season after being ranked 30th and 31st the past two seasons.

Anything else – finding some gems at inside linebacker or a genuine 3-4 lineman anywhere on the roster – would be a bonus.

May 27, 2015; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase (C) talks with Bears quarterbacks during organized team activities at the Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Gase’s offensive system – admittedly benefiting from having Peyton Manning in Denver – has a track record of success that should have quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears impressive weapons salivating at getting on the field. The Bears – with Alshon Jeffrey and Eddie Royal, rookie wide receiver Kevin White and Martellus Bennett – have a wide variety of pass catching weapons, with Jeffrey and White providing big play potential while Bennett and Royal are above average at tight end and slot receiver, respectively.

Most of all, Gase didn’t have a running back of Matt Forte’s talent in Denver. He had backs akin to the Bears’ likely reserves – Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey and Jacquizz Rodgers – splitting time as his primary back. He’s got a bona-fide Pro Bowl back now, and will likely take advantage of Forte’s versatility.

Compared to what Gase had in Denver – except Manning, of course – the Bears weapons stack up favorably. But even if the Bears shift back to relying on the running game, the offense’s success still boils down to Cutler’s ability to overcome his 2014 struggles.

Next: Speaking of Jay …