Is John Fox the Worst Coach in Bears History?

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 12: Head coach John Fox of the Chicago Bears exchanges words with line judge Bart Longson
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 12: Head coach John Fox of the Chicago Bears exchanges words with line judge Bart Longson /

Is John Fox the worst coach in the history of the Chicago Bears franchise?

It’s no secret that John Fox’s tenure with the Chicago Bears hasn’t been good. The Bears will have three consecutive losing seasons under Fox’s leadership and the 2016 season was the worst one the team has suffered since the NFL expanded to 16 games.

But how bad has Fox been? The Bears have been in existence since 1920. It’s been almost 100 years. Is Fox’s production the worst the team has ever seen? Let’s take a look.

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First, you don’t even have to look at the Bears from 1920 to 1967. George Halas manned the sidelines for most of those games, but even when he didn’t, his other coaches sported winning seasons almost every time.

There’s also no reason to look at the coaches since 1982. Mike Ditka clearly had plenty of success. Dave Wannstedt had six mediocre seasons but was .500 after his first four. Dick Jauron wasn’t great but went 13-3 in 2001. Lovie Smith had five winning seasons and a Super Bowl appearance. Marc Trestman was an absolute debacle in 2014 but he was 8-8 in 2013.

That narrows us down to four coaches. Jim Dooley, Abe Gibron, Jack Pardee, and Neil Armstrong. Armstrong coached the team from 1978 to 1981 but led them to a playoff appearance in 1979. Jack Pardee coached from 1975 to 1977, but again had a playoff appearance in 1977. You can’t call either of them an all-time worst coach when they led the team to the playoffs.

At this point, John Fox is no better than the third worst coach in franchise history. Now, Dooley and Gibron give Fox a run for his money. Dooley has to merit consideration because in 1969 his team went 1-13, the worst single season winning percentage in franchise history, and he managed to do that with Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers on the team. However, in his other three seasons, he went 7-7, 6-8 and 6-8.  With those type of records, Dooley deserves the distinction of the third worst coach in the franchise’s history.

Now Abe Gibron is a different story and very comparable to Fox. Gibron was the coach of the franchise from 1972 to 1974. The team went 4-9-1, 3-11 and 4-10 in those seasons. That’s a career record of 11-30-1, that’s a woeful .268 winning percentage. Fox is currently at 12-31, checking in with a .279 winning percentage.

With winning percentages at a virtual tie, you have to dive a little deeper. Gibron’s teams were shutout six times in three seasons, and were held between 3 and 10 points another nine times. That’s a dreadful offensive record. In Gibron’s final year, the team lost 7 of their last 8, their only win in that stretch was squeaking out a 16-13 win over a 2-12 NY Giants team. In that stretch, the Bears lost 34-0 to San Francisco and finished the season with a 42-0 loss to the Washington Redskins.

Those numbers are dreadful. Fox still has (potentially) 5 games left to finish in an Abe Gibron-like woeful collapse, but as of right now, as bad as Fox has been, Gibron still has the nod as the worst coach the Bears franchise has ever seen.

If Fox finishes out the year and the Bears manage to lose every game remaining including home games to the 49ers and Browns, then we can revisit this, but for now, it looks like Fox will have to settle for being the second worst coach in team history.