By Tim Baffoe–
(670 The Score) I understand that entering the final week of the John Fox era in Chicago might feel exciting after all you have endured in his time here. The imminent, deserved firing of a coach is akin to being able to take off a rather constrictive piece of underwear. But while we usually just focus on the relief, we forget that we still have an underwear problem.
A man is about to lose his job, and it isn’t for reasons scandalous, so there isn’t much place for satisfaction in this. Firing Fox on the upcoming Monday is needed, of course, but it isn’t something to feel celebratory about when it means that three seasons were fairly wasted under him.
If Fox was a bad person, then some schadenfreude would be warranted, but there’s no evidence to suggest he’s especially different from most NFL head coaches personality-wise. The New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick is far more abrasive, but we forgive that — even find humor in it — when a coach is winning. Fox’s press conferences won’t be missed, but you’re not clamoring for the sheer stimulation of a Dick Jauron presser, the brain-melting of a Marc Trestman one or Lovie Smith’s that were equally condescending as Fox’s, if not more so.
“If I did, I probably wouldn’t talk about it here,” Fox said Tuesday when asked if he has spoken with general manager Ryan Pace about his future. “In fact, I’d probably be pretty positive I wouldn’t. But, really, those things are for the offseason. That’s always been my approach every season, and that part won’t change either.”
Knowing what we know about Fox-speak, this suggests he’s very aware of what’s coming on Black Monday when he and several of his peers get the axe and the NFL head coaching centrifuge begins filling in the empty spots. Pace had a list of potential replacements a month ago, 670 The Score’s and Pro Football Weekly’s Greg Gabriel reported. Fox is 3-14 against NFC North opponents heading into the season finale against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The victory over the Cleveland Browns last Sunday was the first win in his time here when his team was favored in a game. Not covering — winning.
So there will be immediate relief when Pace and/or George McCaskey and/or Ted Phillips on Monday talk their way around the disaster of this coaching stint. But the problems with the Bears go beyond having or not having Fox at the helm.
Not a single Bear has been selected to the initial Pro Bowl roster in any of Fox’s three years here, subjective as some of the snubs have been. Fox didn’t injure first-round selection Kevin White. Fox didn’t inexplicably sign Mike Glennon to be the highest-paid player on the roster, though he did play him over rookie Mitchell Trubisky for four games and named him captain for the season so that Glennon has to hilariously stand at midfield for all coin tosses. Fox’s defenses with coordinator Vic Fangio have consistently overachieved with a patchwork of bodies.
“When you’re doing this and you’re in the trenches and you’re doing it every day, you don’t really know until you dig in,” Fox said Tuesday about what he’s been given to work with. “We’ve definitely made a lot of changes. I’ve said many times, we’ve gone from the oldest roster in football to one of the younger ones now. I don’t know exactly where we rank. I think we got a good, young, talented roster. I think we still have holes. But at least we’re kind of at a level playing field now.
“Has it been easy? If you’re asking that question, I’d say no.”
The roster going forward is a major project besides finding Fox’s replacement. But we’re now seen two straight massive underachievements in head coaching tenures since the firing of Smith after a 10-6 season in 2012. Those 10 wins in one season were three and four wins fewer than Trestman’s and Fox’s whole Bears tenures, respectively. Forgive me for not being giddy when Fox pulls away from Halas Hall for the last time.
And another coaching search means another emergence of Phillips, which no Bears fan is ever excited to see.
“(The Bears) are also doing homework,” NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport said over the weekend. “Ted Phillips, their president, doing homework now trying to figure out which candidates are going to be available in the likely event John Fox is out.”
GAH. Mitigating some fears was 670 The Score’s Dan Bernstein, who followed that news with a report that it’s Pace who has the final say on the next head coach.
Sources: any #Bears coaching hire will be made by Pace. Ted Phillips's only role is to contact other teams regarding availability of potential candidates, in his capacity as president. Bears just following protocol in that regard. 1/2— Dan Bernstein (@dan_bernstein) December 24, 2017
Pace is the top #Bears football voice. At this stage, Phillips is ensuring that all contractual and league obligations are followed properly as they consider options. 2/2— Dan Bernstein (@dan_bernstein) December 24, 2017
Phillips’ name being involved whatsoever is reflexively bothersome. But the honeymoon is also long over for Pace, and his spotty success with personnel and his habit of disappearing during the regular season when explanations for myriad issues are most desired (and not sufficiently given by his head coach) has caused the fan base to be more than skeptical of his decision-making going forward.
And then there’s the progress of Trubisky and the realization that as he goes so probably goes this team regardless of any other head coach next year.
Firing Fox next week is necessary, but these aren’t happy times. I still have a serious underwear problem.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for 670TheScore.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.