By Chris Emma—
(670 The Score) The hopes were high that January day three years ago when John Fox first walked into Halas Hall. What followed was one of the greatest disappointments a charter franchise has ever endured.
The Bears fired Fox on Monday morning after he compiled a record of 14-34 in three unsuccessful seasons. It was something hard to anticipate upon his arrival in Chicago, a hiring that seemed to be the ideal fit at the time.
Fox became a natural fit for the Bears in early 2015 after they moved on from the Marc Trestman debacle. Fox was a head coaching veteran who was respected around the league, and the hope was he could restore order in a dysfunctional locker room and guide the Bears to winning ways.
When the Broncos parted ways with Fox after four playoff berths and a Super Bowl appearance, it was presumed that he simply lost a battle of egos with executive John Elway, that a Denver legend was arrogant in thinking he needed a coaching change to win a championship. One year later, Elway hoisted the Lombardi Trophy with coach Gary Kubiak.
There seemed to be some promise early on Fox’s first season in Chicago, with the Bears pulling a stunning 17-13 of the rival Packers in Green Bay on Thanksgiving to reach 5-6. That matched the win total from 2014 and pulled the Bears into the outskirts of the playoff picture. They would lose four of their final five games to end Fox’s first year in poor fashion.
Perhaps the greatest misstep for Fox came in January 2016, as he failed to find the right replacement for offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who departed to coach the Dolphins. The Bears hired Dowell Loggains, who was considered a good quarterbacks coach but has overseen an offense that struggled for two straight seasons. Loggains’ play-calling abilities came under heavy scrutiny and were considered predictable by many around the league. Fox’s decision to promote Loggains was partially based on supporting quarterback Jay Cutler, who would be released after the 2016 season.
Fox’s second season brought the worst 16-game season in franchise history, with the Bears going a miserable 3-13. A team with hopes of postseason contention had its season derailed by poor execution, injuries and inconsistencies. Fox was granted a third season because so many of the issues were out of his control, but the 2017 offseason soon hinted at a future without Fox.
After two years of presenting a united front, general manager Ryan Pace began to stray his direction from Fox, trading up to the second overall pick to select quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and drafting tight end Adam Shaheen out of Division-II Ashland in the second round. Both picks were made with an eye on the long term. The Bears also didn’t push aggressively for impact free agents, instead finding low-cost veterans to fill voids.
Fox wasn’t prepared for Pace’s bold move to draft Trubisky. Though the Bears did sign 27-year-old quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year deal, it was clear this team would need more than good fortunes to find contention in 2017. Developing a young roster would become the priority for Fox’s third season, which would be his last with the Bears.
The three years of Fox were largely defined by failures in close games, as the Bears were 9-19 in one-score contests during that span. There were plenty of mind-numbing losses for three seasons – the Bears were 1-7 as favorites under Fox – but perhaps none was worse than losing to the Brett Hundley-led Packers at Soldier Field on Nov. 12.
Chicago had its hopes high that the Bears could finally change their fortunes. The team was fresh off the bye week and facing a depleted Packers team missing Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone. But that opportunity was lost, with the greatest gaffe coming from Fox, who elected to challenge an out-of-bounds ruling near the goal line with the hope that running back Benny Cunningham had scored a touchdown before stepping out. Fox won the challenge, but the Bears lost the football when it was ruled Cunningham was in bounds but had actually fumbled through the end zone for a touchback.
For the McCaskey family, those games against Green Bay carry added significance. Fox went 1-5 against the Packers in his Bears tenure. The final loss to Green Bay would bring the beginning of the end for Fox’s tenure with the team, as it was part of Chicago’s five-game losing streak in which hope was lost at Halas Hall.
With the inevitable surely in mind, Fox’s final game leading the Bears was a loss to the Vikings on Sunday. He finished 14-34 in three seasons. Only Abe Gibron (.274) finished with a worse winning percentage in Bears history than Fox’s .292 mark when it was all said and done.
Many individuals had their hands in the matter of this frustrating tenure, Pace included. Soon, Pace will emerge from the front office, stand before the media and take a measured tone as he, too, accepts blame for what has gone wrong. But it will be Fox taking the fall and Pace hiring his second head coach.
Fox often said he liked to under-promise and over-deliver on results. Instead, his Bears just failed over and over again.