By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) My plan early Sunday was to put together a skeleton for this column on how the Chicago Bears defeating the Green Bay Packers wouldn’t feel all that great because Green Bay is a husk of a football team without quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
I’m glad I didn’t start adding meat to that piece at any point, because only the rain and Soldier Field semi-grass could partly cover up the fact that the Bears wet and pooped themselves in that game. This dud is an indictment of coach John Fox and the delicate bubble he should’ve been sitting on headed into that game.
We were supposed to have moved past this crap. Marc Trestman put us through football in a carnival’s house of mirrors as the Bears were a national joke with a player mutiny and Trestman’s weirdness in public and private only exacerbating what a monumentally bad choice he was for a head coach. Fox was supposed to be a stabilizer. Instead, he’s just brought about a different brand of palm-to-forehead Bears game watching.
I’m done with Bears games too often — even in a rebuild — feeling like they involved children being caught committing petty crimes after they promised you they’d learned their lesson. Losing because another team is better, I can deal with — again, few expected much out of the Bears this year. Losing that involves gross ineptitude by people in pandering, hypocritical camo hoodies on Chicago sidelines has me exhausted. FOX color commentator Chris Spielman had to go out of his way to politely as possible call out the Bears’ coaching decisions multiple times during Sunday’s broadcast, but it was clear he wanted to tell the world that the Chicago sideline was a wet mess.
The weird coach-speak we’re used to from Fox and the abrasiveness with the media and the clandestine approach to everything would be swallowable if he produced results in his time here. Bill Belichick is allowed such a cantankerous approach. When you’re 12-29 as head coach of a heritage franchise in the NFL like Fox is, you can take your raspy, condescending story walking.
The Bears had played over their own heads in their last four games, and progress in what wasn’t injured was noticeable in spots. It’s something to consider when debating a head coach’s future, sure. Then the Bears were penalized six times in the first quarter of a game deemed quite crucial to the future of the Fox era in Chicago. Who else does one point to when a team comes out of the gate so embarrassingly disheveled?
Then came The Challenge. It’s a proper noun now that will be included in history textbooks for generations to come with an infographic and picture of a squinting, agape Fox looking upward at his own idiocy.
In the second quarter Sunday, Bears running back Benny Cunningham caught a pass, had a great run after the catch and leaped with the ball toward the pylon, only to have been ruled out of bounds a step prior. Fox, in his infinite game management wisdom, challenged the call. In doing so, replay showed that Cunningham indeed was in bounds all the way, yet the ball wasn’t in his control all the way as it came loose from his grip and then hit the pylon. Instead of the Bears having first and goal inside the Packers’ 3-yard line, Green Bay received the ball at the 20 from the turnover.
The John Fox era in Chicago forever will be exemplified by winning a challenge in which he also then had the ball taken from his team and given to the other as part of that winning.
The game obviously doesn’t play out for either team exactly the same the rest of the way if the Bears retain the ball there, but the outcome was by seven points. Hey, they retained a first-half timeout in the process, though, so tomato/tomahto.
“I’m not going to point fingers,” Fox ehhhhed after the game. “It stops here. Obviously, hindsight, I wish that it was something we did differently. But that wasn’t part of what we thought was going to be the result.
“I don’t think anybody saw that. I think maybe (replayed) 50 times, like some people get to look at it, I think maybe you can see that. But on our look during the game, that wasn’t really even discussed.”
Assistant coaches are a reflection of the head coach, and no one in this situation had it dawn on him that this challenge was penny wise and dollar foolish. It’s the culmination of three years of watching Fox and Co. mismanage challenges and the clock. It’s old, it’s tired and it’s unprofessional. There can’t be one aspect of an NFL coaching staff that’s incompetent. The Bears have multiple weaknesses.
One of those is their special teams, whose existence is now merely a Russian roulette of blundering. If there wasn’t anything disastrous in the kicking or kick return games against Green Bay, balance will surely be restored in subsequent weeks. Just wait.
Mitchell Trubisky wasn’t pretty despite throwing for 297 yards and a late touchdown. His game is on him, but he wasn’t helped by his previous efforts involving Bears coaching consistently pushing him toward being gun shy when the time comes to try to open up the offense.
When Trubisky was given a chance in the regular season only after Mike Glennon could no longer be justified sticking keys in the light socket every week, the rookie’s wings were clipped before they could spread. Heading into the Packers game, the Bears with Trubisky under center ran the ball on first down 70.3 percent of the time, more than 20 percent above league average and almost 25 percent more than the Bears did in all of the beached whale of 2016. Second downs with Trubisky were running plays 61.5 percent of the time. Then defenses have gotten to sit back as the Bears have been so often faced with third and medium-to-long.
Whether it’s Fox asserting conservativism over his offensive coordinator Delmonte … Devry? … Loggains or Loggains’s poor play-calling as extension of Fox, your quarterback of the future needs a better incubator.
This again may be the doings of people of Fox’s staff, but it’s all definitive of Fox himself. Maybe he can tell his boss, general manager Ryan Pace, that he’ll tweak his coaching staff, but whatever would change would continue to be Foxian with the exception of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who wanted to ditch Fox last offseason as the situation was perceived by Fangio to be toxic to his head coaching hopes.
Despite his defense having an unusually troubled game Sunday, Fangio should be near the top of the Bears’ coaching considerations for next season. He or any other candidate would mean no more John Fox in Chicago.
Any objections to turning the page on another head coach after a loss at home to a bad Packers team (after so much losing to good Packers teams) in the league’s oldest rivalry in which the Bears were favored for the first time in nine years? Didn’t think so.
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.