By Greg Gabriel–
(CBS) About four weeks ago, there was optimism swirling around the Bears, who were playing well with a legitimate defense and rookie quarterback Mitchell gaining the needed experience on the fly.
All that optimism is gone, as the Bears are losers of four in a row, the latest setback an embarrassing 31-3 loss to the Eagles on Sunday. The effort and enthusiasm we saw in the Bears players earlier this season is no longer there. While injuries once again have been a factor in Chicago’s ugly 3-8 mark, a lack of effort goes beyond that, meaning the players aren’t buying in. And if players aren’t buying in, then a change needs to be made.
Writing this is hard for me, as I have a relationship with Bears coach John Fox that goes back about 25 years. I first met Fox when he was an assistant at the University of Pittsburgh in the latter half of the 1980s. About a decade later, I then worked with Fox for four years with the New York Giants before I joined the Bears in 2001. I have the utmost respect for him as a coach and person.
That being said, Fox just isn’t getting the job done here in Chicago. He’s 12-31 in his three-year tenure, and the Bears have gotten worse, not better. A 6-10 season in 2015 was followed by a 3-13 campaign in 2016 before this year’s 3-8 mark. That’s unacceptable in today’s NFL, which routinely features also-rans from one season turning into a playoff contender the next. Teams can go from worst to first in their division in a year’s time.
The fault for the Bears’ struggles doesn’t fall on Fox alone, as general manager Ryan Pace has made his share of mistakes as well. While Pace has done a good job with the draft, the Bears’ free-agency acquisitions have largely struggled. Pace is probably batting less than .500 in free agency.
With the Bears seemingly treading water among the NFL’s worst teams for the past three years, we all know a change is on the horizon. The question is when is that change made by Pace and ownership. The Bears have a history of waiting until season’s end before making coaching changes, but I feel a change needs to be made now.
Why? Because the Bears don’t seem to be responding to Fox, and the team would get a free look at a solid in-house candidate by promoting defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who’s well-regarded around the league and who has interviewed for head-coaching jobs previously. Chicago could use the remaining five games to find out if Fangio could become a legitimate head coach. It would be a no-lose situation for the Bears. They could find out Fangio’s comfort as a head coach. If he does fit, they could keep continuity on the defensive side of the ball, where they’ve been solid when healthy.
If Fangio impresses down the stretch, he could be the right person for the job. Making a change now is best for all involved.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who’s an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.