Bears Fall to Packers, Good Bye John Fox

Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

With this loss to the archrival Packers, Bears’ fans should expect, and look forward to new leadership

After having endured several years of bad, losing football, many Bears fans were surprisingly optimistic given the 3-5 start to the season.  Unfortunately, the leadership and team just stuck a fork in that optimism.  John Fox and most, if not all of his staff, should be ushered out of Chicago.

The reason for the previous optimism was a combination of some strong drafts improving talent, a defense on the rise and really low expectations.  Those low expectations were brought to you by some really bad leadership decisions.  When you’re at the bottom, there is nowhere to go but up. At least that is my optimistic view of football in the great city of Chicago.

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Why Ryan Pace will escape the purge

The short answer to why the Bears’ general manager will escape unscathed lies in his draft choices.  The Bears have not been particularly active in free agency, but there have been a couple of really impressive free agent signings.  Akiem Hicks has been the crown jewel of signings.  Danny Trevathan and Josh Sitton have been solid and Pace has avoided making a critical error such as the Jay Cutler extension.

I’ve come to appreciate how Pace drafts.  Other teams have surely caught on to how Pace seemingly disguises his draft intentions.  The drafting and subterfuge surrounding his selection of Mitch Trubisky was a truly masterful piece of work.  Most every football fan knew the Bears needed a quarterback and knew they had a top-five pick.  Still, most draft boards had the Bears selecting a defensive back.  Some may have thought Mike Glennon was addressing the situation and that is how we Bears fans viewed the team’s focus (or lack thereof) on the position.

Pace has effectively mined talent out of small schools and has avoided players with character issues.  It is possible that his hiring of John Fox was the product of a conditional expectation placed on him to hire an experienced head coach.  Fox has some impressive leadership examples on his resume so his hiring made sense to me.  The next head coach will likely be unconditionally chosen by Pace and I’m good with that.  I am not concerned that Pace will make a “Trestman-like” hire.  Who wouldn’t want to play for a team with a solid defense, power running game and ascending, talented young quarterback?  The Bears are in a position to attract the best and brightest prospective coaches available.

How will the coordinators fare

The obvious answer is “not well”.  When a new head coach is hired, they are often charged with hiring their staff.  Some of the coaches may already be on the staff.  Dowell Loggains, whether handcuffed by Fox or because of uninspiring execution, will not be employed in Chicago next season.  He simply has not earned the benefit-of-the-doubt.  Pace is an offensive-minded GM and will likely hire the best offensive mind he can.  Maybe a surprise hire like Dave Toub will happen, but I don’t see another defensive-oriented leader as head coach.

Special teams coach, Jeff Rogers, will be a casualty as well.  The Bears gave up many negative, game-changing, special teams plays during the season.  I hold my breath every time Connor Barth kicks and I cringe at the lack of lane discipline in punt and kick coverage.  Speaking of Dave Toub, do you miss him?  I do and he has done nothing but dominate special teams during his time with Kansas City.

On the defensive side of the ball, Vic Fangio may be the only survivor and he should be.  Through free agency and the draft, the Bears have built a solid defense that has been dominant at times.  Turnovers and consistency remain gaps.  Turnovers seem to be too infrequent and too often not made in clutch situations, though a little help from the offense would likely work in Fangio’s favor.

Personnel seemed to be the missing element but that has changed.  Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd have helped create a defense with some bite.  Danny Trevathan and Eddie Jackson look solid.  Kyle Fuller had a poor showing in this game, but one can’t argue with his production to this point.  It will be important to Fuller’s ability to garner a long-term, lucrative contract that he resume his previous form.

Another factor to consider would be the shift to a 3-4 defense.  Both draft and free agent decisions were geared towards the change and the Bears will be in a “win now” mode.  No more rebuilding, no more using youth as a crutch and definitely no more injury excuses.  Only a winning team will be acceptable looking forward.

John Fox has done little to earn another year with this team

Most Bears fans recognize the lack of talent on this team in the past couple of seasons.  Legitimate questions arose when the team regressed from the poor 2015 showing to the disaster that was the 2016 season.  Still, ownership chose to give Fox another shot.  I did not disagree with this move.  The Bears were not a good team, did not have enough talent to win and were still largely in a rebuilding mode.  When a team changes leadership, they are potentially taking a step backward.  This won’t happen in this case as the Bears are already near the bottom.  There is likely nowhere to go but upwards.

This team lacks discipline and consistency.  That statement is an indictment on the leadership of John Fox and his staff.  We don’t sit in the meeting rooms nor are privy to game planning so our judgment is a product of what we see on the field.  That product is not pretty.

Who is to blame when a blocked kick is returned to the goal line and the player slows down, showboats, and is stripped from behind?  The team is a reflection of leadership.  When a team comes out of the locker room flat in the biggest rivalry in football, who is to blame?   The team is a product of leadership.   When a player does not hear, understand or comprehend the call the coaches make, who is to blame?  You know the answer.  We are in Fox’s third season, and these mistakes have nothing to do with talent and everything to do with coaching.

When Lovie Smith exited the organization, it was time, maybe beyond time.  Smith is a defensive-minded coach who also values special teams.  His style and expressionless, seemingly blank, gaze could be maddening but you could not argue the hustle of his defenses.  Smith spent half his tenure on the hot seat.  The 2006 Super Bowl appearance unnaturally lengthened his tenure as well as Rex Grossman’s career in Chicago.  There were definitely mental mistakes and coverage lapses on his teams though not near what I see in Fox’s version.  Smith’s Achilles heel was a GM whose draft choices did not strengthen the team over time and the hot seat that Smith seemed to be on made hiring talented coaches difficult.  Lovie did understand the Bears must beat the Packers.  I’m not sure any coach since him has, certainly not John Fox.

CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 13: Head coach John Fox (L) and general manager Ryan Pace of the Chicago Bears chat before warm-ups before a preseason game. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 13: Head coach John Fox (L) and general manager Ryan Pace of the Chicago Bears chat before warm-ups before a preseason game. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Your move Ryan Pace

Ryan Pace will not have a problem attracting coaching talent.   In some ways, firing Fox after the season is essential.  I would add that firing him before the season is over would be a smart move as it will allow Pace to jump ahead of most teams shopping for leadership.  As stated earlier, the Bears have a solid defense, running game and a young, talented quarterback.  Pace can’t afford to squander Trubisky’s development to more poor leadership.

My prediction is that Pace will fire Fox at, or near, the end of the season.  He will also fire the offensive and special teams coordinators as well.  This move would ensure there is no misunderstanding the direction the team is going.  Pace will keep Fangio and the defensive scheme in place.  Pace will sign one big name wide receiver free agent and draft another with one of the first two picks.  Bears fans will continue to tune in and impatiently wait for the Bears to dominate the Packers once more.  The road to the playoffs runs through Green Bay.  Until then, we will try to look for rays of light and hope.  The Bears will be relevant one day.  But when will that happen?

If you were an oddsmaker how would you view Fox’s odds to remain head coach beyond this season?