The Chicago Bears have accepted an offer to coach in this year’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Typically, the two NFL teams with the lowest winning percentage each year get to coach in the annual premier showcase of college football’s best senior players. It’s an excellent scouting opportunity for organizations on the downturn, looking to get a leg up on the draft evaluation process. With the San Francisco 49ers undergoing a complete revamp under a new regime, they were out of the running. So the Bears staff instead joins the Cleveland Browns to take advantage of this opening.
Fox expressed anticipation as much, of an advanced look at players soon to be under an intense microscope. This is the first time in his career that he will have coached in the Senior Bowl.
“We’re excited for this opportunity to get a hands-on look at some of the top draft-eligible players in the nation,” said Fox.
Hue Jackson’s Browns staff will coach the South team, while Fox’s Bears staff will coach the North. Not all of the players have accepted their invitations yet and the rosters haven’t been divided either, so it’s difficult to tell who the Bears will receive a closer look at, for now.
A few notable players who should fit what Chicago will be looking for come April who have accepted to keep an eye on either way until then, are: quarterback, Chad Kelly, cornerbacks, Desmond King and Damontae Kazee, and safety, Josh Harvey-Clemons.
More will be known once the rosters are completely released on January 18th. Then we can properly gauge guys to keep a keen eye on for sleepers and otherwise.
The Bears have coached in the Senior Bowl three times previous under Jack Pardee, Mike Ditka, and Dave Wannstedt in 1979, 1992, and 1996, respectively. Chicago simply hasn’t hit enough of a low point in the past two decades record-wise before this. They’d be wise to make the most of this new chance.
Of note, staffs of the Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, and Dallas Cowboys all coached in the Senior Bowl in the last four years and all improved shortly after either into contenders or teams trending that way. However, four of five (Oakland with Dennis Allen, Detroit with Jim Schwartz, Atlanta with Mike Smith, and Tennessee with Ken Whisenhunt) fired their head coach very shortly after before experiencing said improvement.
It’s not rocket science: a coach on a bad team without talent is let go, and the new coach inherits a more talented roster from these springboards. Only time will tell which direction Fox and company inch towards.
The one team to retain it’s head coach in Jason Garrett, used last year’s opportunity off of a 4-12 season, to unearth star rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. A hindsight painful wound for the Bears who passed on the rookie three times in the fourth round.
Prescott - who stepped in for an injured Tony Romo before the season began - is sure to be among the leading vote-getters for Rookie of the Year and has helped spearhead Dallas to the top seed in this year’s NFC playoffs.
Chicago can only hope to enjoy the same fortune in finding their own diamonds in the rough this offseason. They badly need some fortune and extensive work in that light.
When Fox and general manager, Ryan Pace, hold a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, this decision is sure to be among many of the hot topics. With the Bears looking to rebound from a 3-13 season and 9-23 overall record in the first two years of this regime, this is but a key first step towards attaining proposed goals.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.