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The Trial of John Fox: Part 1 - The Opening Arguments

In this 3-part series, I explore how John Fox has stunted the growth of his quarterback, his offense, and his team. Part one explores the background and the precedence set at previous stops in his coaching career.

Carolina Panthers v Chicago Bears
John Fox
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we are here to determine the guilt or innocence in the case of The People v. John Fox. The charges brought forth against the defendant are gross negligence and mismanagement of the NFL’s charter franchise. I am here to prove that this man is responsible for single-handedly ruining our enjoyment of Chicago Bears football. The man who has made a personal affront to our ability to enjoy the offensive side of the ball.

Nobody is a bigger fan of Mitchell Trubisky than I am. There isn’t a Bears fan that wanted to see his name called when the Bears were on the clock more than I did. There certainly wasn’t a fan that celebrated harder — with Coors Banquet of course — when his name was called on April 27, 2017.

Needless to say, I am a fan. Perhaps that has clouded my judgement on the subject. But what was it that has driven me to go down this rabbit hole? Something stunk. It started in the pre-season when I wrote this. The basic premise being that John Fox is purposely trying to sabotage his rookie quarterback. Here is an excerpt:

“Rounds, who amassed a whopping 18 yards on 9 carries, and that is with a long of 17 yards mind you, provided no help to the Bears offense and clearly is not an NFL player. The Cardinals defense was consistently putting 8, 9 even 10 men in the box and blitzing heavily. The Bears countered by running the undrafted rookie 9 times out of 20 total plays that Trubisky was in the game.

Furthermore, the receiver darling of week 1, Deonte Thompson, did not appear to get on the field when Trubisky was in the game. He certainly was not targeted at any rate. All this despite a very nice game on special teams for Thompson. So clearly, he was not injured or being sat down for any other purposes.

What I don’t understand is why you would try to run out the clock to preserve a victory in a preseason game. What is the value in that? You could have at least used those snaps for the benefit of your young signal caller. Why couldn’t you simulate situational football despite what the actual situation was? Instead, you simulated the 4-minute offense for the remaining 17:04. What purpose does that serve?”

Sound familiar? Do I posses the power of foresight? Did I end up with the one Magic 8-Ball that actually works? Or is it simply that John Fox is that predictable. Everything that I was concerned with, while watching pre-season game number 2, has come to fruition over the 4 starts that Trubisky has made thus far.

I was upset about not using Deonte Thompson in the preseason because of the obvious chemistry between Thompson and Trubisky. What happened the week leading up to Trubisky’s first start? Oh yeah, the Bears cut Thompson. Does that strike anyone else as being odd?

The problem is plain to see if you widen your scope. You have to go back to the beginning with Fox to understand the patterns, which continue to repeat themselves. Granted, with the exception of a few seasons, Fox hasn’t exactly had the greatest quarterbacks. Then again, did he truly ever want one?

In Fox’s first season as the Carolina Panthers Head Coach, he was inheriting a pitiful 1-15 team. When looking at the roster though, there was some talent there. This appears to have been an underachieving team and a quarterback would have gone a long way to fixing it. That’s not what they did however. They went out and signed a 36-year old Rodney Peete, then drafted Julius Peppers with the 2nd overall pick.

Peppers is likely a Hall of Fame player, so it is difficult to object to that pick. Generally speaking, teams that are re-building don’t start with a defensive end and punt on the offense. But that is what Fox did. Taking a middle-of-the-pack defense and turning it into a top-10 defense. The offense, however, stayed at a pathetic 31st in yardage and 30th in scoring. Not exactly a juggernaut.

Offense was never a priority for Fox. Consider that in his 9 seasons in Carolina, he only oversaw an offense that was ranked in the top-half of the NFL once, in 2008. One stinking time in 9 years. Amazingly, that was not one of the better defensive performances in his time there, despite the 12-4 record. So what was that team’s identity exactly? It wasn’t that Jake Delhomme was some kind of savior. No, that team was 6th in rushing attempts, and 3rd in rushing yards. This is what Fox wants to do, he loathes the forward pass.

When Fox got to Denver, it was more of the same. Kyle Orton was the incumbent veteran, with Tim Tebow waiting in the wings. Now, clearly Tebow was never meant to come in and be a pocket passer. So we can virtually eliminate the Tebow year from Fox’s resume. But if we eliminate that year, we must also consider eliminating the Peyton Manning years as well.

I don’t think anyone is delusional enough to think that Fox actually had any say in those offense’s. Mike McCoy and Adam Gase may have used their time in Denver as a springboard to a Head Coaching gig, but those Manning offenses were just that, Manning’s offense.

There were very clear similarities to Tom Moore’s offense that Manning mastered when he was in Indianapolis, to the point where Moore allowed Manning full control. You don’t think he wasn’t afforded that freedom in Denver too, especially with John Elway as the head man?

Those 3 years with Manning are 3 of the 5 years that a Fox-coached team has been in the top-half of the league in passing attempts. The first was 2004, a truly mediocre 7-9 season. You can check out just how average this team was, here you go. The next was 2006, another season of being completely average, as 8-8 teams usually are. That’s it. Manning’s monster season’s in Denver plus 2 crap sandwiches in Carolina with Delhomme.

What does all this have to do with Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears though? When you look at Fox’s most egregious run/pass ratio seasons, there is one thing in common: a rookie quarterback.

In 2010, the Carolina Panthers rushed the ball 428 times, which was good for 15th in the NFL. The only reason it wasn’t more, is because the defense stunk and the offense was always chasing points, oh and said quarterback was Jimmy Clausen. Conversely, they passed the ball 484 times, or 28th in the NFL. That is a pretty even ratio but considering that they were trailing most of the season, as evidenced by the 2-14 record, those numbers don’t tell the full story.

In 2011, the Denver Broncos rushed a whopping 546 times, which was 1st in the league. That team only threw the ball 429 times, which was dead last. Although, I can’t really blame you when Tim Tebow is your quarterback, but that’s still quite lopsided. On the backs of a solid defense — and an assist by Marion Barber III — that team ended up 8-8 and winning a truly atrocious AFC West Division title.

The most recent example of a rookie quarterback is, you guessed it, the 2017 Bears. Currently, the Bears rank 6th in the NFL with 243 carries (on pace for 486), which is a high total considering they are 3-5. On the other side, they are dead last with 222 passing attempts (on pace for 444). Now consider that 78 (35%) of those attempts were in the losses to Tampa Bay and Green Bay. Also note that Mike Glennon is responsible for 140 (63%) of the 222 passing attempts on the season, in the same amount of games as Trubisky.

Clearly, John Fox is opposed to allowing a rookie quarterback to succeed by allowing him to fail first. The problem with the way that Fox — and by proxy Dowell Loggains — is handling the quarterback situation, is actually having the opposite effect. The predictability that an ultra-conservative game plan has is detrimental to the team as a whole, not just the quarterback.

Consider the snowball effect that occurs because of what we have seen. Predictably running the ball on first down, out of the same formation, tips off the defense. The offensive line and running backs are automatically put in a very difficult situation, because the defense knows what they are going to do. Not easy to run the ball when the defense knows you are, and which side of the formation is most likely.

The end result of this is that your rookie quarterback is consistently put in obvious passing situations on 3rd down. 3rd-and-long situations are difficult for 2 reasons. First, in order to get receivers past the first down marker, the routes take time to develop and come open. Secondly, the protection needs to be able to hold up under heavy pressure. Defensive lineman don’t need to respect the run, so they focus on rushing the passer. Defensive coordinators bring heavy blitzes, and voila, the quarterback is under duress within 2 seconds of snapping the ball.

These situations kill offensive possessions. Sacks, pressure which forces a throw-away, interceptions, fumbles, punts, the end result is the same: the defense is back on the field. Eventually, even great defenses — which this Bears defense is not — will break under these circumstances. If they don’t come up with a perfectly timed takeaway, then the defense can’t help mask the deficiencies of the offense, of which there are many.

My point being that had those touchdowns against Carolina not happened after the Panthers had already been driving down the field, do the Bears still win that game? The first touchdown was a fumble at the 25-yard line. The Panthers started on their own 25-yard line, which means they were on a 50-yard drive, and in field goal position already, and had been moving the ball relatively easily.

What if that fumble happened on the first play on that drive instead of the 9th? Would the Panthers have re-grouped, driven the length of the field, and tied the game at 7? It is certainly a possibility. The Panthers were demoralized early in that game, which made the Bears defense get aggressive. Suppose that scenario played out as I mentioned. I think we are talking about a much different game.

An NFL head coach cannot simply rely on his defense or special teams to score points. Your offense needs to be multi-faceted. You must be able to run and throw when needed. I have always been of the opinion that you need to have balance on offense, but how that balance is achieved is up for debate. My preference would be to throw the ball early, mix in the run (especially draws, end-arounds, jet sweeps, and counters) in the first half, get yourself a lead, then max out your rushing attack to secure a victory late. This, of course, is assuming that you have a competent passing attack.

We can argue about how to call plays or what offensive schemes are best all day long. I don’t want to get into that here. that isn’t the argument that I am making. I simply want to eschew this notion that somehow the Chicago Bears can only win with a great defense and running game. Why? Why must that be the case? Because it worked 32 years ago? Because it worked 54 years ago? Because it worked for a decade 70 years ago?

It is time to stop living in the past Bears fans. It is time to stop defending this antiquated way of thinking about football and the NFL. I want a great defense AND a great offense. That is how you win multiple championships, and that should be the goal. It is what I want from this team more than anything, and it should be what we all want.

The first step, is shedding the man responsible for holding this team back. The next step is viewing the Bears in the future light, not the past. I have faith that Ryan Pace is heading in this direction, but we need a new field general.

It starts with indicting the current one for grossly misusing half of his football team. Indicting this man for conspiring to make his quarterback, and by proxy his General Manager, look bad.

John Fox is guilty of committing negligence and I have the evidence to prove it...

Bears’ fans, stay tuned over the next couple days as Andrew presents his case.