By Tim Baffoe–
(670 The Score) John Fox’s press conference after the Chicago Bears lost to the Minnesota Vikings in the final game of the regular season Sunday began as follows:
“My hat’s off to every guy in that locker room, the way they battled, the way they fought, I think you saw more of that today. The tale of our whole season is just not generating enough offensive points. Our coaches did a great job as far as preparing particular special teams. Game one it was a fake punt, and in this game it was a punt return. As I told those guys, there is a good culture in that locker room, there are good guys. Obviously we need some pieces added. To every one of them, everyone in there, there will be better days moving forward.”
Fox was then asked two questions about his future with the team, he answered neither of them and then he left. That’s how the Fox era concludes in Chicago, as he was fired Monday morning, quite the microcosm of the era itself — frustrating and signifying nothing.
So he’s gone and not worthy of complaining about anymore. Fox claims that there are better days moving forward for the Bears. He may be correct, but how then are those better days achieved? What now?
General manager Ryan Pace is now in the process of hiring a new head coach, presumably the one to which his future with the team is tied, besides the performance of Mitchell Trubisky, whom the Bears traded up for and drafted last April to be a franchise quarterback. The choice of the next Bears coach is crucial, not just for the obvious reasons involved in any NFL head coaching change. In this case, the franchise seems to be at a crossroads, with fans increasingly ready to quit on their rooting interests and creating larger and larger patches of empty seats at Soldier Field. The new coach in 2018 gets no honeymoon period. This team must win, immediately and consistently.
Fox was also not wrong in acknowledging the issues with the offense this season. As he goes away, so does offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, whose play-calling was rarely satisfactory, and how much Trubisky learned under him is debatable.
“We talk about the growth process with a young quarterback and our coaches have done a great job of allowing Mitch to grow really in increments rather than overloading him early,” Pace said on WBBM 780 before the final game. “We’ve seen a lot of growth from him over the last 11 games, and that’s a credit to him and how much work he’s put in since we drafted him and where he’s at today.”
Whoever is calling plays in future, it has to be someone who maximizes Trubisky’s obvious talents. This can’t be screwed up.
So the onus is on Pace, someone who has yet to gain much trust in three years in Chicago. What’s his next planned step and why?
One constant during the Fox era was defensive coordinator Vic Fangio squeezing the most out of a unit that was often undermanned. But Fangio isn’t in consideration for the Bears’ head coaching vacancy, according to a report, despite the love of players and fans. That’s troubling from the start.
What then is the next head coach that Fox is not? What will this next person be doing that makes the Bears a successful team for the first time since their last playoff game in January 2011 and one Super Bowl appearance in more than 30 years.
“When we came here three years ago, we knew we had a lot of work to do and we sit here today with the third most roster turnover in that time span,” Pace said. “I think what’s encouraging is that we really have a young core that’s in place. We’re very excited about the growth this season and the opportunity we’ll have to add more this offseason.”
Yeah, more needs to be added for sure. Fans of other teams likely can’t name a Bears receiver, and even most Chicagoans would have to pause before asking if Tarik Cohen counts. The offensive line needs help. Somehow a serious issue remains not having a serviceable kicker.
Pace has drafted well overall, though he’ll be remembered down the line for whatever Trubisky ends up being. The Bears will select eighth in the upcoming draft, by the way, which feels like a letdown and is also a testament to the defense keeping them in games. Free agency has been a bit more head-scratching (I’m still not able to grasp the Mike Glennon existence). Maybe the bodies added in uniform this offseason will be more impactful than coaching decisions. Either way, the personnel that Pace decides on for the field and sidelines have to stir something up in a fan base that’s caught between malaise and just not bothering with this thing anymore.
“You keep grinding,” Pace said Sunday. “Ten-loss seasons are not acceptable to us. Our record definitely isn’t where we want it to be or need it to be for that matter. But we’re confident the combination of the foundation we’ve built and the resources we have going forward will soon translate to on-field success.”
Oh, it better. I’m just curious as to how Pace is going to make that happen.
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.