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Who was (or is) worse: Marc Trestman or John Fox? An epic Bears debate of futility

The Bears have a now seven-year playoff drought. In a lengthy conversation, Robert Zeglinski and Jack Silverstein dig in as to who was worse between the two men at the forefront of this failure.

Chicago Bears v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Back when they fired Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season in 2012, the Bears couldn’t have envisioned a worse next half decade. The Bears haven’t had a winning record since, and will now miss the postseason for the seventh consecutive year.

How did we get here, you ask?

Following Smith's ouster, the franchise elected to put the team in the hands of Canadian football wuunderkind, Marc Trestman. For a time, it looked like a brilliant move, almost leading to an NFC North division title in 2013 before the Bears lost their last two games - one a blowout to the Eagles, the other a thriller to the Packers. Optimism was high going into the 2014 season, with virtually the same core returning to avenge 2013's fateful finish. They had an explosive offense. They had Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, and Martellus Bennett at the same time on offense. Who was going to stop this team from running roughshod on the league?

The Bears were back.

But you can't avoid boiling over catastrophe as we all now know, as the 2014 Bears came apart at the seams with locker room in-fighting, coaches leading mutinies, all culminating in one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history at 5-11. Trestman, along with general manager Phil Emery of course, was summarily fired and put out of his misery at year's conclusion. He wasn’t fired without leaving a gaping wound.

To make up for the Trestman debacle, new general manager Ryan Pace (and "esteemed" consultant Ernie Accorsi) figured they needed to stabilize the franchise. With John Fox becoming available after Denver playoff failure, they had found their man to restore respectability to an organization in shambles. For a time, it looked like a proper move, with the Bears showing a compete level in 2015 that was sorely missing in the previous season, even upsetting the Packers on "Brett Favre Night" in Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving. The rebuild was well on it's way.

The Bears, well, they were again back.

2016 was a different story. The Bears, saddled with quarterback injuries to both Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer, plodded along to a franchise-worst 3-13 record. Fox in the midst of the depressing chaos, showcased his troubling tendencies of in-game timeout and personnel management that saw him fired previously in Denver and Carolina. The Bears, needing a young quarterback with the obvious future ouster of Jay Cutler everyone saw coming from a mile away, elected to keep Fox: someone who has never developed a young quarterback.

And the results to this point in a 4-9 season have been predictable. Fox's seat has never been hotter as every week fans and pundits alike wonder why he’s still roaming Chicago's sideline. A failed coaching regime through and through.

As we sit on the final legs of the soon-to-end Fox era, Jack and I thought it would be more than relevant to take a retrospective look at five of the worst, yes worst, Bears seasons in their illustrious history. In case you were wondering, one blowout win over Cincinnati doesn’t remotely change Jack’s or my opinion that Fox cannot be at the helm of this team in 2018. A strong finish in spite of a guy with a team with nothing to lose doesn’t save you. The past three months aren’t erased.

So it comes to this, with a likely three games left for Fox, we debate which Bears coaching tenure was worse: Marc Trestman or John Fox?

This conversation isn't for the faint of heart. It, however, is an important place to take a proper look at the two biggest mistakes of the Bears' 21st century existence.

Jack Silverstein: Rob, you and I have been debating about who was the worse coach between Trestman and Fox since late last season. As it happens, I have a mic-drop statistic in my back pocket akin to the "Michael Jordan was 6-0 in the Finals" hammer. And that is this: Trestman took only two seasons to get fired.

Like Jordan’s 6-0, Trestman's two-and-done is valuable shorthand for a substantive argument.

As you might recall, Trestman was hired to steer a 10-6 Bears team that missed the playoffs via tiebreaker not just to the playoffs but ultimately to a division championship. To that end, the so-called quarterback whisperer was handed new talent at tight end and 80-percent of the offensive line, plus a second-year Jeffery who reached his first Pro Bowl. Trestman indeed helped the Bears to an 8-6 record before overseeing one of the most damaging two-game stretches in team history: that mentioned 54-11 loss to the Eagles on the road and the infamous Rodgers-to-Cobb-over-Conte finale against the Packers. If they’d won either game, they would have been in the playoffs.

Instead, the Bears finished 8-8 and stayed home.

Yet nothing prepared me - or any of us, really - for the apocalypse of 2014.

A 2-1 start gave way to a 1-5 slide, including back-to-back 50-poppers on the defense, losing 51-23 to New England before the bye and then 55-14 to the Packers after it. They slogged through a two-game winning streak so uninspiring that former Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer called it "the least impressive 2 game win streak since the Craig Krenzel era," then dropped the final five games of the season in an acrimonious bridge-burning catastrophe that saw locker room fights, Aaron Kromer smack-talking Cutler to NFL Network (and then tearfully apologizing to the team), Robbie Gould kicking a career-low 12 field goals, and Trestman benching Cutler for Jimmy Clausen in Week 16, only to see Clausen land in concussion protocol in Week 17 leading to "backup" Cutler regaining the starting job.

The Bears, of course, still lost.

Trestman was then fired the next day, along with Emery.

Let's repeat that: Trestman was such a disaster as a head coach, he brought the general manager down too.

Dearest Rob, I am so excited to debunk whatever list of arguments you bring me claiming Fox has been worse than Trestman. I shall feast upon them like non-Hall of Fame quarterbacks feasted on a defense coached by Mel Tucker - you know, the guy Trestman hired.

Robert Zeglinski: See Jack, here's the whole thing about your "Michael Jordan Finals stat": it's all based on a false equivalency of where this entire argument is rooted in. Fox is only here because of further Bears' incompetence. His 2016 season was a mirage of excuses from everyone, as again, the worst in a charter franchise's history I remind you. Still, he was allowed to inexplicably return. All I heard was injuries as a common refrain, yet how many meaningful contributors actually ended up on this lengthy and mythical injured reserve list?

Kevin White? Pernell McPhee? Lamarr Houston? Real world beaters. Certainly nothing any other NFL team had to go through, it seems.

This isn't wholly a conversation about who it took longer to get fired because the Bears never pull the trigger properly in that regard anyway.

We are judging the entire body of work. If you want to limit it to two seasons (we still won't), then Fox has only just now tied Trestman's total wins (13) with three games left in his tenure. Here's my Jordan stat: the Bears have eight 20-point losses under Fox with two added in 2017 to the Buccaneers and Eagles, meaning they were at six to start the year with Fox. Trestman had five 20-point losses in his two-year tenure in it’s entirety. Given how the Bears have waved the white flag occasionally of late (and assuredly may continue with a lame duck staff begging to be put out of it's misery), I'm confident that figure has at least one more mark added to it.

All of this not even mentioning that Fox has had an entire "extra" season that he didn't deserve to surpass your 2014 apocalypse. Is anyone totally confident that the coach with the worst losing percentage in Bears' history will be able to even win one more game of his remaining slate, to not only surpass Trestman, but stay away from keeping that vaunted Abe Gibron record? Keep in mind the Bears play the horrendous but desperate Browns on Christmas Eve.

I certainly am not.

If you want to limit it to two years, be my guest, but I'll save you the trouble.

Anyway, sometimes I feel as if you overrate the talent Trestman was passed down from the Smith era. As if Chicago was a juggernaut and complete team that Trestman ruined. It's like you conveniently forget a dominant 2012 defense collapsing completely in the second half of that season. A 7-1 start that turned into 3-5 finish with a mediocre offense and aging defense running on fumes. A 10-6 paper tiger is more what they were.

Inexplicably, the Bears continued to try and stretch out that core. Why does Trestman receive the blame for that? Yes, the Bears had some playmakers on offense but their defense in 2013 was even more of a shell than usual. He maxed out the unbalanced squad he was given, which was built for high-powered offense, and he did commendably well. The fact that they were even in position for a division title speaks to what he accomplished in that first season (and a broken Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone), which was still far more fun than any point of the Fox era - since you always like to mention "fan experience."

When have you had fun in the Fox era? When did you seriously, realistically see hope? This isn't hindsight as I'm one of the people that saw the disaster of this hire from the beginning and refused to put on my Bears glasses to talk myself into it, especially after watching how Fox finished in Denver. Any "hope" initially was because the Bears stepped up from a miserable 5-11 to 6-10, which ... bravo! A high bar there. That conveniently ignores something that could've been done with most any much more imaginative coaching hire. If you're going to note the high point Thanksgiving Packers win, the Bears went 1-4 after that thriller, as they have consistently been worse in the second half of every Fox year.

You, along with so many others, were fooled by the Fox "almost-win" and "stay competitive" mantra from the beginning. This is about more than perception. This is reality. He’s not a good NFL coach, especially in 2017.

  • Of course, back to Trestman, the Bears continued to try and stretch out that core in 2014, and given the fiery personalities of inherently bad locker room guys in tow such as Brandon Marshall (has he ever not been summarily jettisoned from an organization?), Jeremiah Ratliff, and Martellus Bennett (Save his Patriots stint), not many guys could've held that 2014 team together save for perhaps Bill Belichick.

I highly doubt it right now, but if the Bears finish 0-3, who's to say Fox doesn't bring down Pace either if you're going to loop in the general manager factor? Don't rule it out.

Trestman maxed out a flawed roster, meanwhile Fox continues to mismanage personnel, play around with the future at quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky, and refuse to play young guys meaningfully in any facet. Fox holds more actual hope considering the youth compared to the age of those 2013 and 2014 rosters in his hands than Trestman ever did: which makes him culpable for even more long-term damage done to the organization.

Oh, and that Mel Tucker reference? I seem to recall league worst defenses having their way with Barney Rubble, I mean Dowell Loggains' offense - you know, the guy Fox hired to replace Adam Gase. I have never seen a more mismatched offensive coordinator on a regular basis than Loggains.

Or, again to your point, non-Hall of Fame quarterbacks feasting upon the perennially overrated Vic Fangio, who needs nine All-Pros on his defense to live up to this Buddy Ryan reputation some Bears fans give him. Or you know, the guy Fox hired for his defense.

Pick your microphone up and save some self-respect, man. Dust it off too, it might be dirty.

Jack Silverstein: My mic is clean, my dude, just like John Fox will be compared to Marc Trestman at the end of this debate.

Let's define some terms, now that we've got our opening punches out of the way.

We are arguing about which coach was and is worse: Trestman or Fox.

I break that down into three categories.

1. Which coach is worse during games?

This seems obvious but is probably the most difficult part of the debate. There are very few clear cut instances in which any given person in football can be singled out as the lone cause of failure. A dropped pass is blatant, as is lining up in the neutral zone. It's a little harder to pinpoint responsibility on coaching errors, except insofar as the buck stops with the head coach, so anything bad is ultimately their fault.

Yet as you noted, if the coach is not selecting the players, evaluating him can be a challenge too.

So I'll say two things about this.

First, what is each man's defining error from strictly a sideline decision?

Trestman's was having Robbie Gould attempt a would-be 47-yard game-winning field goal in overtime ... on 2nd down. He missed, and the Vikings drove for a game-winning field goal of their own.

Fox has two this season alone, and with apologies to his "blocking a field goal is easier than scoring a touchdown" routine against San Francisco, I think I'll always remember him challenging Benny Cunningham being ruled out of bounds at the two-yard line against the Packers, winning the challenge, yet losing the football when the referees ruled that Cunningham fumbled out of the end zone.

The second item is Fox's handling of the way-too-long Mike Glennon era. Then when you consider that Pace gave him more to work overall with than Emery gave Trestman, and I think Fox has been the worse in-game coach of the two.

2. Which coach is worse away from games?

A football team wins or loses based on a myriad of factors, among them the intangible pros or cons a head coach brings to the table. Smith, for example, was often derided by fans and reporters for his inability to find offensive consistency, and even for some of his in-game decisions. But everyone respected the trust and loyalty he engendered from his players, which led to them always playing with maximum intensity.

These were the areas where Trestman's negative influence was felt most heavily during his two-year tenure. The team stopped playing to the whistle - remember Jarrett Boykin scoring the live-ball touchdown in the 2013 finale? -- and in 2014, they stopped playing all together.

You are correct when you say that the 2014 team had a volatile mix of players. But it's not as if Marshall, Bennett, and Gould didn't have success after leaving Chicago. Trestman's approach to coaching was so loose that Lance Briggs used Trestman's open-door policy as an opportunity to exclusively use the coach's bathroom.

You are incorrect when you say that Trestman's problem was Emery trying to "stretch out the core." It was the opposite. As I noted, the team gave Trestman's offense Bennett plus four new offensive linemen, but defensively they got rid of Urlacher, Nick Roach and tried to inject the linebacking corps with speed through D.J. Williams and James Anderson. There was no reason to make a change with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, with both guys coming off Pro Bowl seasons. They hit a bad break when Henry Melton (another Pro Bowler) was lost for the season in Week 3.

That was 2013, and then came 2014 with the ultimate implosion. You keep saying that I'm cheating by ignoring Fox's third year. I'm not ignoring it. I'm saying that Trestman didn't even get a third year.

On the flip side, Fox unquestionably won the locker room in 2015 and had that team playing above its talent level in both 2015 and 2016. This isn't an issue of me being "fooled by the Fox 'almost-win' and 'stay competitive' mantra." Remember, we're talking about two disastrous Bears coaches and deciding who is worse. They're both bad. Fox is simply better at getting more out of his players than Trestman.

As for the 2016 injuries, you are way off base in dismissing the impact they had on that season. We lost three quarterbacks. Our leading receiver was undrafted Cameron Meredith. We played games with our fifth, sixth, and seventh receivers. We lost Jeffery and Jerrell Freeman to PED suspensions. Kyle Long missed eight games. McPhee, who should have been a starter, missed seven games. Leonard Floyd and Willie Young -leaders of our pass rush - each missed four. Kevin White is a bust now, but last year he was a second-year first-rounder who we figured would start.

Were these guys all Pro Bowlers? No. Can you win with injuries? Yes. But a healthy 2016 Bears team is at best a nine-win team. We fell to three wins because our roster was decimated. And even still, we kept games close, even with Hoyer and Barkley at quarterback.

Now ... this 2017 season? This season is a true disaster. I didn't like the Fox hire but I wasn't in the "Fox needs to go now" camp until I saw him handle the Glennon and Trubisky dynamic. This year we're actually losing games that we should win. But considering both circumstances and expectations, Fox's first two years were better than Trestman's, despite Trestman winning 13 games to Fox's nine.

3. Which fan experience was better?

You seem to think I'm delusional for preferring the Fox ride to the Trestman ride, and through the first 14 games, you would be right. We were 8-6 in 2013 and, I thought, headed to the playoffs. You’re right: nothing in the Fox era has been quite as much fun as Alshon's 2013, although Tarik Cohen is approaching that this year.

But I'll put it this way: let's say you are making a cross-country road trip from New York to Los Angeles. I don't care how much fun you have between the East Coast and, say, the border of California. If you get plowed by a semi on I-15 at the Nevada-California border, you had a failed trip. You don't go home telling friends about the fun views driving through Colorado. You tell them about the semi.

So when I think of the 2013 Bears, I can't think about thrills and happiness. I can't think about the 3-0 start or the 8-6 start. I think of two things: 54-11 and Rodgers-to-Cobb. 2014 was like surviving the crash, coming out of the hospital, renting a new car to finish the drive, and finding out you rented Robert DeNiro's blow-it-up Cadillac from “Casino”.

Bring it over to the Fox era, and the expectations were totally different. All we heard from the start of the Pace and Fox hirings was that we were rebuilding. Therefore, I approached 2015 differently than 2013. 2016 was the injury year. And then this year has been a mess, yet through it all I've gotten to enjoy visions of the future at various points in the form of Jordan Howard, Floyd, Cohen, Cody Whitehair, Eddie Jackson, and of course Trubisky.

Again, we're talking about two of the worst coaching tenures in franchise history, and ones that happened to run back-to-back. This is the Jim Dooley vs. Gibron of our time. Even Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron both reached the postseason and landed various Coach of the Year honors. Trestman and Fox is bad as I've ever witnessed. But one of them was worse: Trestman.

Robert Zeglinski: Fine, those terms are fair. We’ll dictate based off these points.

1. Which coach is worse during games?

I don’t know about you, but Fox is not only the worse in-game coach, he is decidedly worse than Trestman save for that Gould gaffe or Boykin play. You’re being awfully tame to someone who has a made a career of “almost-wins”, “almost-Super Bowls”, and “almost-culture changes”. I can’t focus on one defining error because he has so many. He is the same head man that has coached scared and incredibly conservatively throughout his career. He is a coach that has been with three NFL teams and somehow never learned to manage the clock, use timeouts properly, or not bungle challenges.

He’s done it throughout his tenure with the Bears, at any point in the rare times Chicago has attained a lead (aside from games like Cincinnatti), in running the ball into oblivion and putting the game into his non-dominant defense’s hands. Are you already forgetting Trubisky’s legendary seven-pass attempt game against the Panthers? Don’t lose the game by putting the ball in the quarterback’s hands is the goal. Keep it close enough for the illusion of competition. Pray the opponent makes a mistake or runs out of time, instead of attacking.

  • Which is also interesting in the Trubisky-Glennon dynamic you talk about only in passing. No, no. Let’s expand on it. Please.

Until last Sunday, the Bears steadfastly refused to open up the playbook for Trubisky and a lot of the other young guns for fear of turnovers, mistakes, whatever. Yet that accountability was fascinatingly lost with one of the worst four-game stretches (10 turnovers in four games) by any Bears quarterback ever (which speaks volumes) for Glennon, simply because he was a “respected” veteran that had never accomplished anything besides having fluff pieces written about him.

Fox let that embarrassing quarterback charade go on for the length of the preseason, and once the regular season rolled around with Glennon’s utter ineptitude, let it fester even more. Think about this: He actually tried to sell to people that a veteran quarterback with 10 turnovers and no future in the organization was a better option than letting the No. 2 overall pick rookie play and grow. And then once the rookie played, he didn’t cut him loose. An end-game that makes no sense.

To boot, there are more examples of this egregious cowardice in the said dominant Bengals game, one Chicago clearly won on the strength of finally letting young talent let it rip, and in spite of Fox. On a late second quarter possession, the Bears go for it on fourth and short: a conversion to Adam Shaheen. They later faced another fourth and short, this time in the red zone, and elected to kick. The only reason Fox didn’t kick the first time is because the Bears were out of Mike Nugent’s waning range. But once they couldn’t effectively use three plays while in the closer red zone, time to get three points! Hooray! Tell me: what’s the logic there?

Then let’s circle back to this year’s Eagles game, one where the Bears were soundly drubbed 31-3 before they could even take a breath. We were offered a perfect compare and contrast of coaches.

With Philadelphia already up 17-0 but facing a fourth down in Chicago territory, head coach Doug Pedersen elected to go for it, to finish the Bears off and not take the foot off the gas pedal. The Eagles converted and went on to score a touchdown to make it 24-0.

A little later in the second half, on the Bears’ lone successful offensive possession of the afternoon, Fox has Cairo Santos attempt a 38-yard kick while already down 24 halfway through the third quarter. Ah, chipping away at the deficit, right? Not at all boosting egos or making the score seem respectable so as to say “the Bears were bad ... but they weren’t shutout!”

  • Fox is exactly the type of coach that will punt in opposition territory (or settle) instead of going for it with a dangerous call solely for fear of looking bad or being ripped publicly in the post game. It’s why he’s such an evasive politician in press conferences, never committing to saying anything of consequence. He doesn’t want to be misconstrued. He doesn’t want to be railed for his own horrid decision making or team’s play when it so often comes up.

In reality, regardless of his countless futile attempts to save face in Chicago, the punts and timid decision making make him look even worse. A non-sustainable model, that’s inherently risk-averse. Always not playing to win, without any hint of aggressiveness.

In 2003 with the Panthers, before an offensive evolution, that may have cut it. But it didn’t later in Carolina. Nor did it in Denver. Nor has it definitively in Chicago.

Fox is also the guy on that challenge note in particular, that chooses to challenge meaningless spots, that have minimal benefit for his football team like the Cunningham play you mentioned or like an early clearly short call against the Bengals last Sunday. This is how he’s amounted a sterling 47-83 record on reviews in his coaching career. This is how his teams end up with zero timeouts at the end of halves. This is how he looks flabbergasted when something goes wrong for the Bears even while it was clearly his fault and final call.

Its plays and decisions like this that actually are ultimately on the head coach. You can’t blame these guys for everything properly as you mention. But challenges, fourth down calls, scaling back the offense dramatically: that’s always in the hands of the head coach. It’s their final decision. And Fox is in this way in another stratosphere of terrible management in comparison to Trestman. He’s arguably the worst current in-game manager in the NFL (hello Andy Reid) and has been near the bottom for the entirety of his career.

Saying Fox is merely worse alone than Trestman is one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever seen because of so many examples. That doesn’t do his in-game incompetence justice.

2. Which coach is worse away from games?

Here, I can’t argue with you about the Bears stopping play on a live ball in 2013 or stopping play altogether in 2014 (though that season obviously spiraled out of control so quickly).

But let’s talk about this success the volatile players of that final Trestman year like Marshall and Bennett, who had this mysterious “success” away from Chicago.

Marshall, up until he lost a step recently, has almost always produced individually: especially for the first four teams of his career in the Broncos, Dolphins, Bears, and Jets. It wasn’t until his body began to betray him this year with the Giants (along with more severe quarterback issues than ever), that he hadn’t played well. Success, in that respect, is a relative term. He’s a great player. One of the best receivers I’ve ever seen.

But a bad teammate.

The problem with Marshall, and why he’s on his fifth NFL team despite all of his tremendous natural ability is that he is a volatile personality for a group of united men. I loved and still enjoy watching Marshall play when he’s balling. But it seems awfully remiss to ignore that he has a negative effect on locker rooms. That he’s a front runner of the highest degree and is often the first to jump ship when things go wrong.

There’s calling Cutler an MVP candidate in 2014 during training camp, then publicly reversing field and ripping his quarterback (always a good thing to do), just four months later as the Bears floundered. If there’s one thing I know that helps a testy situation, it’s a star highly-paid receiver ripping the team’s quarterback.

Then there’s “going down with the boat” with a struggling Ryan Fitzpatrick on the Jets last year, after a surprising 10-6, 2015 season. Then unsurprisingly railing the team relentlessly as soon as he leaves in free agency calling them “doomed.” Which of course doesn’t sit well with all former teammates who knew the actual story. A receiver that leaves nothing but destruction in his wake.

We jump over to Bennett, another front runner, who outside of his Patriots stints, has also never proven to be an excellent teammate. A quality and interesting human being off the field, no doubt. But someone who has burned bridges everywhere he’s been in the NFL besides the character mecca of professional football in New England. The lone exception.

There’s throwing shade at Jason Witten with the Cowboys, publicly ripping the team years after leaving them in free agency. No, it couldn’t have been a temper tantrum because he wasn’t the starting tight end over one of the best of the 21st century, right? Definitely not.

There’s going after Eli Manning for a lone disappointing season with the Giants.

There’s legitimately letting a backup tight end in Zach Miller outplay him in the 2015 season for the Bears and then also quitting while the team was still battling for it’s playoff life.

Finally, in perhaps the most noteworthy sentiment of his professional career, giving up on the Packers this year and suddenly no longer being healthy enough to play with a shoulder injury that he had magically persevered through all of 2016 with Tom Brady and through the first part of 2017 with Rodgers. In other words, quitting again and jumping from a burning ship as so many Green Bay players rightfully accused him of. He’s quite fortunate the Patriots picked him up again.

A guy in Bennett never known for his focus on football when everything has gone haywire.

The whole over-arching point here is that when you have those kinds of players and front-running unstable personalities such as Marshall, Bennett, and Jeremiah “felt like killing everybody in the building” Ratliff under one roof: not many coaches are going to be able to keep everything in line, regardless of Trestman’s meek demeanor. All talented players in their own right. All not conducive to an overall team goal.

And this isn’t even mentioning guys like Briggs, who you note used Trestman’s coaching bathroom, never allowing himself to accept the new head coach. Instead of playing out his career like a professional and recognizing the nature of the business following Smith’s ouster, Briggs whined and pouted like a baby because his favorite coach was gone so he only played out the string.

"He shouldn't have been a coach here. Not to take anything from him, he's a great coach, but he wasn't a coach the Chicago Bears should've had. That's just the truth.” said Briggs in a 2016 interview. “I was one of the guys, (Charles) Peanut (Tillman) was one of the guys that had to live through that those next two years (in 2013 and 2014), where if it ain't broke, then what are you trying to fix?"

“Lovie veterans” like Briggs, Tillman, and Jennings upset over a natural cycle of this league, so stubborn in this ideal they built up in their mind that Smith was doing the right thing for the Bears, that they would’ve never given any new coach a chance, pinning Trestman as unfit and unworthy of respect from the beginning.

The coaching was loose. But so were the players that were supposed to set an example. And I see no reason to believe they would’ve fell in line even if the coaching was sound.

  • From the Fox 2016 and third-year perspective, my entire point is that Fox didn’t deserve a third year. He only received another season because of Bears’ negligence.

He “stabilized” the locker room from the start but why do the Bears still make the same mental mistakes week in and week out then? For a team that likes itself so much, they sure don’t play together regularly enough.

All those players lost to injury too. Are you forgetting the context as to when each of these guys went down? That entire list you have is impressive, yet it forgets that only players like Fuller, Hroniss Grasu, Houston, and White were expected to be major contributors at the start of the season. McPhee was lost for seven games from the start, so no one expected him to be ready for the year.

Then you have the injuries to Long, Miller, Trevathan, and even the season-ender for Floyd when the team was already 2-6, 2-7, 2-8, and 3-11 respectively. Injuries like this are no excuse for a football team that was already bad. Aside from the early three losses to the Texans, Eagles, and Cowboys where the team was still settling in, everything else was a mismanaged disaster. A Cutler without Gase, that was injured yes, wasn’t going to succeed either. A same conservative Hoyer since replaced with the fellow bottom-five 49ers this year, wasn’t going to keep the Bears afloat even if he was healthy.

And, to be completely honest, I feel you’re underrating talent such as Meredith (who would’ve been one of the league’s best 20 wideouts this year) first of all, and overrating the ability of that roster as a whole to call Chicago a nine-win team. The Bears in 2016 were closer to six wins at full strength, and to me could’ve and still should’ve gotten to that benchmark for all of those competitive games they had with backups. Like say the Colts and Jaguars games of October. Once again, the Fox mantra of “almost-wins”.

Yes, things got off the rails for Trestman in 2014. But it takes a deeper look to see that Fox has only shrouded similar failure in darkness.

3. Which fan experience was better?

Ouch. That semi collision is a bit drastic, no? You don’t remember the rest of a journey if the ending turns out to be failure? Ever? Hmm.

So what happens to the Bears’ 2006 season then? Do we forget Devin Hester’s magic? Does the Arizona comeback completely wash away? Do we forget the epic Divisional Round game against the Seahawks? The storybook NFC Championship win against the Saints? Hester’s opening return of the Super Bowl they so heartbreakingly lost? Really?

I don’t think so, and not only for you in particular because of how often you publicly talk and write about that special year, but for a lot of fans that derived so much joy from that season despite the Bears not finishing the job. People still discuss that team fondly, despite final disappointment. Look at the response to Hester’s retirement, for example. It’s all about 2006 for the most part. That’s not how sports works. That’s not how life and logic works.

Yeah, the 2013 Bears weren’t nearly as fun or as good in comparison, clearly. But Jeffery and Marshall’s acrobatic shows week by week aren’t erased. Never punting against the Cowboys on “Monday Night Football” isn’t wiped from our memories. The last second touchdowns against the Vikings and overtime wins against the Ravens in the muck don’t go away.

Yes, endings matter. But they’re not so all-encompassing that they overtake the happy journey before them that so many clearly appreciate.

Expectations for rebuilding in 2015 were fine. But if the team is rebuilding, that means they’re supposed to be progressing and getting better the following season. The Bears didn’t in 2016. And for all of the young talent on the squad this year, the results have been more disappointing. An enjoyment level that has nowhere near cleared the bar of any of that first 14 games with Trestman.

This is the worst consecutive coaching tenure experience the Bears have ever had. We can agree. But in terms of game management, locker room leadership, and overall fun, Fox has unequivocally been worse than Trestman and is the worst head coach the Bears have ever had.

This is a debate that could go on forever. But it’s one many not want to stomach too much as to pull apart a painful Chicago football playoff drought.

There might not ever be a totally decisive answer as to who is or was worse between Trestman and Fox for the Bears. Both have so much baggage to choose from. But what we do definitively know is that they’re two of the worst in franchise history.

That much is unfortunately, not up for discussion.


With everything taken into account, who was or is worse as Bears head coach: Marc Trestman or John Fox?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Marc Trestman
    (167 votes)
  • 43%
    John Fox
    (129 votes)
296 votes total Vote Now

Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and contributor to The Athletic Chicago. Jack Silverstein is Windy City Gridiron’s Bears historian, and chronicles most other Chicago sports extensively. You can find them on Twitter @RobertZeglinski and @readjack.