Imagine having the better or at least more talented quarterback for once against the Packers. Imagine possessing a defense mostly brimming with promising and constantly progressing talent at every level, a unit on the rise. Imagine having an extra week to prepare for a home game against your primary rival that was coming off of a game on Monday night.
And then with all of this in your favor, still losing in embarrassing fashion.
The John Fox Chicago Bears know no bounds in finding different, thrilling ways to shoot themselves in the foot. Fox's Bears are now 0-3 when coming off of the bye week. They are 0-6 when favored by bettors. All of the evidence points to giving Fox and his Bears an advantage and subsequently watching them pick it apart needlessly.
This isn't a call to fire Fox immediately following a disheartening 23-16 loss to Green Bay. Although logically, for once it wouldn't be the worst idea to break away from archaic franchise ideals and tradition that haven't worked for over three decades and on some level, attempt something new.
If the Bears were going to cut ties with Fox, it's not going to happen after one game in a knee jerk reaction. Front offices and ownership, especially the higher ups at Halas Hall, don't work with those kinds of mechanisms. If he wasn't going to return to Chicago, they wouldn't have brought him back last January. But they unfortunately did.
Any time these Bears under Fox falter shouldn't be surprising in that regard. Games where they win with seven pass attempts against the Panthers are akin to a broken clock being right twice a day, as opposed to the puzzle coming together.
This is what the Bears earn by keeping a coach of whom the game has past by long ago. The unnecessary training wheels they've kept on Mitchell Trubisky - to the point of making him gun shy - over the past five games shouldn't be shocking. The perplexing personnel decisions across the board barely should register a peep. It all molds together in a heap of frustration.
This is a Fox team through and through: limited offense, confusing in-game management, and playing up and down to competition.
Sunday against the Packers was Fox's Bears magnum opus. His signature loss. If he wasn't going to beat the Packers without Aaron Rodgers with everything mentioned in his favor, when exactly will he have the Bears rise to the occasion?
This game was an emblem of a flawed man gifted one last coaching opportunity before he rides off into the sunset of a cushy television gig. If you wanted to point to the perfect moment that will exemplify Fox's tenure with Chicago, there's no way you don't emphatically go with anything but losing to Brett Hundley with a bye week in your back pocket. It's difficult to even select a spot to begin to pick apart, but let's make the effort.
One individual situation that Sunday best encapsulates the Fox-Bears essence and that's "successfully" challenging a Benny Cunningham second quarter play at the pylon that resulted in a touchback.
In a game where points would be at a premium, for whatever reason, Fox decided to challenge a scoring play that would've been first and goal from the two-yard line anyway. Think about the absurdity of that. This wasn't a critical late game play. This was early in the contest, with a new set of downs on the horizon without clear evidence to overturn in favor of a score. Impeccable game management.
Of course, officials deemed that Cunningham lost the ball while touching the pylon, losing the ball for the Bears. Given that it wasn't a scoring play, unless Packers coach Mike McCarthy would've elected to review it, the Bears sit comfortably near the goal line without Fox's move.
Punching it in with three shots from there with one of the best power tailbacks in football in Jordan Howard? Unheard of!
Indignant as ever, Fox would refuse to accept the full-on blame for the worst successful challenge in recent NFL memory in the aftermath.
“Every indication we had was that he scored. And if anything, he would be at the one-yard line or inside the one-yard line," said Fox, explaining himself.
If your replay booth team saw that he had clearly scored, then obvious changes need to be made in that department. In any event, given the unpredictability of the NFL rulebook, it still made no logical sense to challenge a play where you were two yards out from the end zone with a first and goal looming anyway. This wasn't a make or break challenge. This was classic over thinking at it's finest by Fox.
Move over to personnel decisions. Tre McBride enjoys a breakout game two weeks prior in New Orleans, plays nary a snap against the Packers. Markus Wheaton finally returns to theoretical full health, doesn't even appear. Instead, top special teamer but less-than-able receiver Joshua Bellamy receives the brunt of the playing time behind Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright. Uh, what?
Then, Kyle Long isn't healthy enough to start offensively, but you trot him out on the field goal unit. That makes all of the sense.
Possess one of football's most electric talents in Tarik Cohen and then let him touch the ball a combined eight times in the last three games, never adjusting to defenses keying in on your early season over use of him. Hit a wall, pump the brakes, and think of no adjustment.
This isn't even mentioning an utter lack of discipline best exemplified by eight Bears penalties (with several that weren't accepted). All of these examples are classic Fox and company.
The Bears' play calling offensively has been endlessly railed this season. Deservedly so, in fact. Yet it's logic less personnel decisions such as these that deserve more attention. This is a coaching staff that picks it's own favorites or believes it sees some kind of non-existent matchup issue because of the trust they've instilled. That believes it's smarter than everyone, when instead they're playing checkers while the competition is playing chess.
It's having a Bears team come out flat and unprepared without a hint of desperation in it's step. Something that happens far too often.
At any rate, it would be inaccurate to describe the proper reactive emotion to this latest beyond disappointing Bears loss as "agony." Agony comes when your team has expectations to be great, to be a contender. When your coach has proven the ability to have his team prepared for big moments.
No, Fox and his Bears inspire nihilism in their play, because Sunday's result wasn't a shock. There's no agony in defeat of overwhelming odds on your side as an underdog who seemingly appreciates self-inflicted wounds at the greatest clip. Only numb, objective acceptance at what you've become.
Despite all of this, Fox will carry himself to the end not worrying about any kind of job security. His head held high in defiance amidst all of the rampant, deserved scrutiny.
“I’ve been doing this too long. I’ve never worried about my job security, and I won’t start going forward.”
The first part of Fox's statement was all that he needed to say.
He's been doing this too long.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and contributor to The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.