John Fox has an impeccable resume as a football coach. He took over a Carolina Panthers team that was 1-15 in 2001 and improved it to 7-9 in 2002. He ended the 2003 season in the Super Bowl, where he lost to New England on a last-second kick by Adam Vinatieri.
Two years later he coached the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game. He was 12-4 in 2008, before his 9-year run in Carolina ended with a 2-14 in 2010. Then came four years as head coach of the Denver Broncos. He guided them to the Super Bowl in the 2013 season.
His most amazing feat was winning a playoff game in 2011 with Tim Tebow as his quarterback. Tebow was a quick, strong runner but a wildly inaccurate thrower. He was an injury replacement for a more conventional quarterback, Kyle Orton.
Tebow completed only 46 percent of his passes in 2011, but Fox designed a roll-out offense that moved the ball downfield. Tebow threw 12 TD’s, to 6 picks.
Despite being in the playoffs every year, Fox was faulted by John Elway for a 3-4 postseason record that included no Lombardi Trophy. So Fox proceeded to Chicago, succeeding Marc Trestman, who had lost 13 games in two seasons.
It looked like a promising place for a turnaround, but Fox has been even less successful than Trestman. His 12-32 record has produced a .273 win rate that’s the worst in the history of the franchise, edging Abe Gibron’s .274.
Fox does not know how much longer he will last, though his contract, paying about $6 million a year, runs through 2018. The team has not promised to keep him through Christmas.
“I haven’t heard one way or the other,” Fox said after the Bears’ latest debacle, a home loss to the woeful San Francisco 49ers, who were 1-10 entering Soldier Field.
What stung even worse was the fact that all 15 of the visitors’ points came from a kicker the Bears had cut, Robbie Gould.
Truth is there would not be much point in general manager Ryan Pace issuing a vote of confidence now, because he too is on shaky ground.
The only vote that counts belongs to the team’s owner, 94-year-old Virginia McKaskey, daughter of Bears founder George Halas. She calls the plays, which are usually delivered by her son George McKaskey.
I’m not sure any other coach would do much better with the Bears than Fox has done. The roster is something you’d expect to find in Cleveland.
Of course, like most NFL teams, the Bears have suffered key injuries. During the preseason they lost their best receiver, Cameron Meredith. Shortly thereafter they lost their No. 2 receiver, Kevin White, for the season.
In September they lost their best linebacker, Jerrell Freeman, to a torn pectoral. Their Pro Bowl guard, Kyle Long, has played the entire year – and not very well – with a torn labrum and other significant wounds.
Recently the team suffered the most gruesome injury of this football season when tight end Zach Miller ripped apart his knee in New Orleans. A major artery was severed, and doctors considered amputation of the lower left leg.
The leg was saved, and he’s being told how lucky he is. But the unlucky part is that at 33 Miller has played his last football game.
The Bears’ latest catastrophe is the loss of their best edge rusher, Leonard Floyd, to season-ending knee surgery. But besides being unlucky, the Bears seem to be dumb. They’ve made a series of costly errors.
That John Fox had little or nothing to do with.
Mr. Pace has ‘splainin to do to Mrs. McKaskey.
Chicago’s 2017 free-agent class – Marcus Cooper, Quinten Demps, Marcus Wheaton — is a bust. Worst mistake of all was opening the bank vault to the quarterback who was second string in Tampa Bay. It was like going to Canada to shop for wine.
Pace happily signed Mike Glennon to a guaranteed $16 million salary for this year. Imagine how shocked he was at Glennon’s five turnovers in four games.
Who woulda thought the backup to Jameis Winston would be a turnover machine?
Which is not to say the coach hasn’t done some foolish things. And I don’t mean crazy-like-a-Fox. He’s 62 but sometimes acts a whole lot older. In his first press conference as Bears coach everyone was wondering how he would connect with the NFL’s most aloof quarterback, Jay Cutler.
“I’m looking forward to talking with Jake.”
Obviously he’d been thinking a lot about him.
Then there was the time, a couple of weeks ago, when Fox threw the challenge flag and caused his team to lose possession. In the red zone.
In last Sunday’s game, Fox was criticized for not instructing his defense to let San Fran score in the final minute rather than tackle the ball carrier and run down the clock. He said he liked his chances of blocking the field goal, which put him well outside the law of probability.
So what we see of Fox is snippets of his worst – though never evil – behavior. We don’t see the brilliant mind rapidly concocting new game plans to counter any unexpected move by the opposition.
We don’t know how many interceptions he’s saving rookie Mitchell Trubisky by designing schemes that give him maximum protection.
People would have a better impression of Fox if he made himself more available. He’s not entertaining, the way Bruce Arians, Pete Carroll, Adam Gase and Mike Tomlin usually are. Or just interesting, like Bill O’Brien, Dan Quinn, Chuck Pagano, John Harbaugh, Sean Payton and even, on occasion, Bill Belichick.
Fox is bland, predictable. He’s of the Jeff Fisher generation. He can’t keep up with the Sean McVays and Kyle Shanahans or the ever-evolving Belichick, Carroll and Payton. It’s probably better for everyone, Fox included, for him to leave Chicago and become somebody else’s coordinator.