The Chicago Bears have fired head coach John Fox after three seasons and a 14-34 record, including a 5-11 mark this season that didn’t include a single NFC North win.
The move apparently wasn’t a surprise to Fox – reportedly, he’d been telling those around him for weeks that he’d “accepted his fate,” acknowledging that he knew his days were numbered.
Indeed, on Sunday, after the Bears’ loss to the Vikings, he was curt with reporters, leaving after receiving two questions about his status with the team. If you count his opening statement, the entire press conference went for about two minutes.
The Bears finished in last place in the NFC North in each of Fox’s three seasons, and while Fox doesn’t deserve all of the blame – general manager Ryan Pace has made some questionable personnel decisions, in retrospect perhaps none bigger than cutting ties with kicker Robbie Gould – the coach’s conservative approach and playing not to lose rather than playing to win was a big part of his undoing.
Perhaps was that no more apparent than a couple of weeks ago, when in Chicago’s loss to the Lions, Fox opted to punt on fourth-and-1 from the Bears’ 45 in the second quarter.
At the time, his team was only down 6-0. Why not go for it? Why not let your offense, led by a rookie quarterback, take a shot? Why not challenge your defense, which was the better unit – the Bears were top-10 in yards allowed and top-15 in points allowed – to defend a short field if it didn’t work?
At 4-9 heading into the game, what was there to lose?
But Fox punted, the Lions scored a touchdown, and the Bears went on to their 10th loss of the year.
Over his first two head-coaching stops, with Carolina and the Broncos, Fox’s teams showed a big bounce in his second season: with the Panthers, there was a four-win improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 under his tutelage, and with Denver, it was five wins.
That never happened with Chicago.
The Bears were 6-10 in 2015, but had half as many wins last season. Much of that can be attributed to quarterback troubles: they were forced to start three, after Jay Cutler and then Brian Hoyer were injured.
But there was no bounceback this season, even as Chicago spent handsomely at quarterback, first doling out three years, $45 million for Mike Glennon in free agency and then trading up to take Mitch Trubisky second overall in the draft.
Trubisky, who started the last 12 games for Chicago, showed improvement over the last few weeks of the season and has the potential to be a solid starter for the future.
But drafting Trubisky might be the best move Pace, who was hired in 2015 and then hired Fox, made for the coach: incredibly, in the three years they were together, the Bears didn’t have a single player chosen for the Pro Bowl.
The Bears’ next coach will at least inherit Trubisky.
Chicago fired Marc Trestman after two seasons, when he went 8-8 and then 5-11. Fox barely eclipsed that mark in three years.