There is many a debate as to how much coaching affects professional sports. Just how much do we credit the coach of a successful sports team in any of America's four major games? There's no real way to put a concrete number on something so subjective, of course. Yet there's no doubting that coaching likely plays much more of a factor in football and the NFL, as opposed to say a more individualistically-centered game such as basketball.
Now, I'm still of the belief that talent comes first and foremost in football, as it does everywhere else. But someone needs to develop that talent first. Someone has to keep it in line and progress that talent to the point where it's thriving on it's own through a productive developmental cycle and rebuild. Discipline is key here, as are fundamentals and effort.
The debate of how much current Chicago Bears head coach John Fox does for his team reached a fervor point last season. Detractors pointed to a 2016 Bears team that seemed to give up in late season blowouts to the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings.
While defenders of Fox pointed to injuries (albeit not many to core players) as a reason the coach should be given another shot. As a miracle worker coach that once took Tim Tebow to the playoffs, and Jake Delhomme to the Super Bowl, he deserved another shot. And another shot Fox did receive this season, to mixed results again depending on whom you speak to.
On the one hand, Fox's primary area of expertise on the defensive side of the ball is finally starting to show merit with a budding Bears defense brimming with prime youthful talent. To give all credit to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would be mistaken. Fox also has his fingerprints all over a unit finally coming together in his third season.
On the other hand, the Bears have one of the very worst offenses in the league and are curtailing and restricting the development of the primary reason they'll ever be championship contenders again - Mitchell Trubisky. The debate as to why Chicago and Fox have limited Trubisky to this point will likely rage on through the end of the year. That doesn't discount the fact that it's been highly disappointing to see such a conservative offense for the Bears' best catalyst at a title to many nonetheless.
Meanwhile, with the rival Packers visiting Chicago on Sunday, the Bears stand with a 3-5 record, technically still in the playoff race, but leaving a lot to be desired in several close losses such as to the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. Ultimately, this is a results-based business. This is a quarterback business too.
In this installment of this Bears at the break evaluative series, the Windy City Gridiron staff and I discuss the future of "Fox-ball" and what's best for the Bears regarding a head man on their sideline.
4. If John Fox can somehow "Fox-ball" this team into the postseason, should he keep his job? Are the Bears in danger of "Jauroning" themselves?
I've never been a huge advocate of Fox as the Bears head coach. That's from the time he was hired here and to now where he has the team kind of progressing. That's no secret. And to be fair: He's never given me any real reason to waver off of the stance that he's been the man to take Chicago to the top of the mountain. There simply wasn't enough prior evidence before his Bears tenure started, nor has he proven anything in the past two and a half years.
That's why I've found it jarring that I've defended Fox to a degree of late, recognizing that he set the foundation for the next Bears head coach. That he built the bridge to contention as the bridge coach he should be for this franchise. He re-instilled professionalism and culture in an organization that desperately needed it following the Marc Trestman regime.
Spoiler alert: under no shape or form should the Bears bring back Fox as head coach. Even a miraculous postseason berth (Chicago currently sits three games behind the first place Vikings while also having a tie-breaking defeat), can't save him. A fringe playoff berth can happen for any team in any season in a parity driven league such as the NFL. The shuffle of postseason teams every season showcases that ideal at it's best.
Some teams will rise to the upper crust of the league and then in turn fall off the map the next season because of the remaining work to be done. It happened to the 2001 Bears with Dick Jauron, and the same mistake can't be afforded again. Those Bears didn't cut ties with a lame duck coach because of the promise of a somewhat fluky season and only unnecessarily wasted more time. Ryan Pace can't fall prisoner to the moment with recency bias. Making the playoffs in this fashion doesn't mean a coach should make himself comfortable or is the long-term standing answer. Far from it.
For Fox, he's worn out his welcome. He's not the guy that will take this franchise to the next step. He built the first few pieces of the ladder, and now someone else needs to take the climb. This time around, make the correct decision and cut ties with your coaching leader while there's still time and room for error.
There's an argument for continuity constantly in the NFL, where some argue that staffs need to be retained in the midst of an ongoing rebuild such as the one the Bears are going through. For whatever reason, there's always this fear of stunting the development of world-class athletes or damaging their mental state because a few people who weren't maximizing them are gone.
If Fox is gone, the play of this Bears defense won't drop off. If Dowell Loggains is gone, Trubisky will still have the opportunity to thrive and become a star. In that sense, what exactly have these two done to warrant being untouchable?
Professionals such as Trubisky and the star-studded Bears defense recognize themselves that this is a business. They won't be the first to undergo some kind of coordinating and scheme change. There's this tendency to compare everything to the cycle of coaches Jay Cutler went through. But tangible, consistent NFL players don't have this issue.
Once a foundation and baseline is established, guys like Atlanta's Matt Ryan have thrived with new coaches. Look at him without Kyle Shanahan this year. Players such as the Titans' Marcus Mariota could desperately use a more wide-open offense that utilizes their skill-set, as opposed to Mike Mularkey's run-heavy attack. To warrant retaining a coach, they have to show the ability to adapt and cater their philosophies to their players. For as much as Fox has actually done here, he for the most part, doesn't do that. Neither does Loggains.
The thing about young players such as Trubisky, and really, most players in the NFL aside from washed-up veterans, is that they're malleable. They're coachable. They respond to schemes that utilize their talents best. They're motivated and re-energized by the prospects of an inviting future. A mind-boggling thought, I know.
Morale will be fine if and when Fox's time in Chicago has come to it's conclusion after these next eight games. Bears players who like and appreciate him will accept his absence with the prospect of the still special program they're building in what is again, a results-based business. And the simplest most crucial facet of the franchise, meaning the face of it in Trubisky, will be better off for it.
Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Nope. Time to move on. Fox did his job. He erased the stink of the Trestman era. He helped change the culture in the locker room. The Bears need a new direction with a head coach that isn't so conservative.
Sam Householder: I think that they are in danger of the Jauron situation where the team feels forced to hold on to a mediocre at best coach. Fox is a known commodity, which is why he was hired. He was supposed to bring back professionalism and stability to a team sorely lacking both after Trestman. If he was able to work his magic and get that "John Fox Jump" in year two, then great.
But he didn't and now the team feels like it is being held back by his conservative ways. Look at the fourth and goal at the one-yard line against Carolina or the almost-collapse against the Ravens game. There is an argument that they are winning in spite of Fox, not because of him.
Andrew Link: No, he shouldn't. He is an awful head coach for the current game. And my biggest fear is that somehow Fox keeps his job, the same way that Jauron did.
Ken Mitchell: There are no reasonable amount of wins that make me think Fox is the best coach for us moving forward.
Josh Sunderbruch: No. Even if the Bears go 11-5, then Fox should merely get a nicer set of parting gifts. He needs to go. Of course, this is like worrying about "if I find a million dollars in cash on my porch, should I report it to the authorities?"
I spend no time worrying about it because it's not going to happen.
Jacob Infante: Unless the Bears win all the rest of their games and go to the Super Bowl, it wouldn't be a smart choice to bring Fox back for another season.
Patti Curl: No. I probably like Fox more than anyone else at WCG at this point, but I don't think he's the right head coach for Trubisky's development. I don't think Pace is short-sighted and I don't think he will weigh this season's record too heavily in his decision about Fox moving forward. I imagine after Green Bay tanks the rest of the year without Rodgers and it's revealed that Mike McCarthy is a mediocre coach whose been carried by great quarterback play and loses his job: Fox won't even have to leave the division to find a great head coaching opportunity!
Jack Silverstein: Fire John Fox.
WCG Contributors: Jeff Berckes; Patti Curl; Kev H; Sam Householder;Jacob Infante; Andrew Link; Ken Mitchell; Steven Schweickert; Jack Silverstein; EJ Snyder; Lester Wiltfong, Jr.; Robert Zeglinski; Like us onFacebook.