By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) OK, we were past the point of debating Bears coach John Fox’s job security before the 31-3 “I’m almost impressed at how bad it was” loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. It’s understood that he can’t be employed by this team more than a day after the Week 17 game.
Because of that, we were also past consideration of the Bears as a viable wrench in the NFC playoff scenario this season. Coming out the bye week and losing to a befuddled Green Bay Packers team on Nov. 12 ensured that any positives we had seen this season from the Bears were on an individual or fleeting basis and not something collective or sustainable. That sucks, but it is what it is and not something to be really mad about when expectations this season were minimal at best.
And while the Bears don’t have enough rostered talent right now and injuries continue to pile up as they’re wont to do with inferior teams, this whole 2017 thing is more than just a team being bad. Do you get that feeling that you want off this terrible carnival ride mid-track?
I watch the Bears because I get paid the big bucks to author a masterpiece like this, but I wanted to turn the channel in the first half. Late in the third quarter, the Eagles had three fourth-down conversions and were going for a fourth one. The Bears at the time had three total first downs. This game was less about the Bears playing a better team than it was about playing one that didn’t even show them much respect.
After a while, you can’t ask fans to attach themselves to something embarrassing. Let alone willingly watch it. This team has managed — in a rebuild — to sour a fanbase that was willing to endure a losing 2017.
Meanwhile, as the beating continued unabated, Fox and offensive coordinator Dorf… Dennehy? Loggains decided that the best way to counter the ritual caning the Eagles were delivering was to turtle the play-calling rather than letting it all hang out.
For the effort, Fox television switched away from a heritage team’s game in non-Chicago markets before the third quarter had expired. Not before a national audience saw this not-so-subtle message, though.
If you’re a McCaskey, you saw the team you own get mocked on a broadcast more than once. That’s the state of your franchise. Maybe it’s time to figure out how to not have that happen anymore to a team that hasn’t won a Super Bowl in more than three decades that is increasingly annoying its own fans into spite.
The rest of the country clearly doesn’t care about the Bears — nor should it — but the danger for this organization is that apathy infecting and then atrophying its own loyalists.
The Bears have now lost three games in a row coming out of the bye week, and I don’t know what’s worth tuning in for anymore. They’ve regressed during this time when it seemed like they’d reached the break on some high notes — the defense being legit, Jordan Howard being one of the game’s best backs and rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky showing flashes of why general manager Ryan Pace traded up to draft him.
While that regression seals the fate of the coaching staff, it also dissolves any goodwill that Bears fans granted the organization in this rebuild. The faithful are now left with genuine loathing of a head coach they have to see looking resigned on TV, and many are just going to opt against the masochism of tuning in at all.
Then there are the feats of suck the Bears pulled off that fat people in Urlacher jerseys don’t want to subject themselves to. Chicago had no first downs in the first half Sunday. Zero.
The Bears were losing by 21 points to a team that had nine penalties at the 4:30 mark of the third quarter. The Bears netted minus-12 yards on a reverse. They had more penalty yards in the first half (36) than offensive yards (33). They flirted with setting a franchise record for fewest team rushing yards — a total of 1 set in 1952 — until a late-game Trubisky scramble put the team total at 6 yards for the day.
The Bears have played 1,107 games since 1940. Only 30 of those featured fewer total offensive yards than the 140 on Sunday. Only seven of those games were in the 1980s or later.
The team’s leading receiver on the season is Kendall Wright with 330 yards. Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons had 253 receiving yards on Sunday alone.
And now the Bears take on the San Francisco 49ers late in the season for the second consecutive year in which fans have to root against their own team for the purposes of draft position.
Fox was asked after the game about how he might get players to buy in to the remaining games that mean nothing.
“I don’t really buy in to the buy-in,” Fox said, really ringing that bell of excitement.
How do the Bears ask the fan to buy into what they’re being given? And if a fan leaves, what do the Bears do to make him/her return down the line? Tout the franchise quarterback?
Trubisky was bad against the Eagles, and that part is on him, but the inconsistent play-calling schemes look to be increasingly damaging to him, and it’s worth worrying that this season could affect his psyche into next season. He’s supposed to be the jewel of fan hope going forward, and the organization is allowing the glimmer to fade rapidly
The NFL finds itself in a very un-NFL spot — increasing disinterest in the juggernaut of sports. A lot of that has to do with a poor product too often being put on the field across the league, and the Bears are a major culprit. Thousands of empty seats could be seen at the last two games at Soldier Field. Not enough people have abandoned ship to sink it, neither on a league level or in Chicago alone, but the ennui is palpable, and plenty of former fans have found contentment in other endeavors.
“We’ve got five games remaining, and that will define our season,” Fox said postgame.
This is, of course, willfully ignorant of reality, but it does apply to fans and front office.
Chicago Bears football is doing nothing to plug the leak of fans turning attention elsewhere. The powers that be at Halas Hall have to begin to examine how to do so as well as replenish interest that every week now seems to be drying up.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.