Chicago Bears head coach John Fox had a reputation for professionalism and restoring respectability to NFL organizations when the team originally hired him in 2015. The coach was supposed to bring the Bears out of the malaise left behind by the Marc Trestman era, to have Chicago properly start a rebuild and progress from one of the worst periods in franchise history.
Three years later, Fox's Bears are 9-25 following an embarrassing 29-7 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His Bears have just suffered their seventh 20-plus point blowout: two more than that supposedly worse Trestman era. His Bears have yet to win a September game. His Bears are 0-2 for the third consecutive season. The last time that happened was in the halcyon days of Dick Butkus. Building off of that, his Bears are on the verge of their third consecutive 0-3 start as the Super Bowl contending Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to visit town.
Nothing but positivity at Halas Hall!
Logically, what happened against the Buccaneers on Sunday shouldn't be happening in year three of a regime. This game wasn't just about veteran quarterback Mike Glennon's three first half turnovers and his complete inability to play the position at the level the Bears originally believed when acquiring him. This performance was marked by a completely listless and ill-prepared squad from the get-go, at every level.
For every measure of professionalism Fox and company - yes, that includes offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and merely okay guru defensive coordinator Vic Fangio - they sure have trouble fielding a competent team consistently.
This isn't a team that should be shut out until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. This isn't a team that should have it's first takeaway of the season - on a Pernell McPhee punch out - come halfway through the third quarter of the second game. At all levels, this isn't a team that should give a Buccaneers squad that was coming off of it's bye week, essentially a preseason game to open their 2017 campaign given the poor effort.
Ever the positive politician, Fox wouldn't mince words at his team's performance and refused to assign blame to anyone individually in the post-game. How refreshing.
"Unfortunately, we dug ourselves too big a hole against a really good football team at their place. No matter what formula, everybody wants to blame somebody, but it was a team defeat and we all have our hands in that."
If that spiel sounds familiar, it might as well be following the same script Fox's Bears have followed for each of the previous two seasons. A good job and good effort in the first game. Everyone scrambling for answers and not pointing fingers in the second. The parallels are eerie.
In 2015, the Bears opened at home against the rival Packers and for most of the contest hung in Aaron Rodgers' boys until a late Clay Matthews' interception of Jay Cutler essentially sealed the deal in a 31-23 defeat. Following that solid effort, the Arizona Cardinals blew the doors off of the Bears, 48-23.
In 2016, the Bears travelled to Houston and held a halftime lead over a dominant pass-rushing team before a quickly put together offensive line did them in, 23-14. Following that result, Chicago was summarily embarrassed on national television by the Philadelphia Eagles in as sound of a defeat you'll see, 29-14.
Finally, in your favorite quick recent recap and in a bit of deja vu, the Bears take the likely best team in the NFC down to the very wire - six yards to be exact - but fall short at home against the Atlanta Falcons. Then, against a Buccaneers team opening it's season while working through Hurricane Irma devastation, Chicago again largely fails to show up and is blown out 29-7.
If you wondering, the Bears were blown out in those respective third games each previous time, by both the Seahawks and Cowboys. A good omen and sign of what's to come on Sunday against Pittsburgh, no doubt.
It's almost as if someone is pulling the strings and playing a cruel joke on repeat here. Have the Fox-Bears pull out a trademark almost-win where they played not to lose throughout, and then have them play through the motions for an encore the following week. Rinse, repeat ad infinitum.
The cries to start Mitchell Trubisky instead of Glennon are at a fever pitch given where the Bears sit. There's no point in playing the veteran placeholder in Glennon any more as Chicago sinks deeper and deeper into the pit. Its time for the young quarterback to step in and at minimum, at least take his lumps and go through growing pains, unless he plays well of course. That's the best long-term outlook possible.
However that mistakenly glosses over the issues this team has. Priority No. 1 is unquestionably the development of Trubisky. Issue No. 2 is just how little this Bears team has clearly progressed under Fox, despite all of the illusions of better talent (which could and probably should be on general manager Ryan Pace) and improved cohesion. A spark could and should help, though.
Yet, Fox understands how deeply flawed his team likely is - even if he's as stubborn as ever in making a change to likely save his job as the clock ticks down the last 14 games of his coaching career at this rate. At the moment, there's no possibility of inserting Trubisky, which could be the final nail in the coffin for Fox as his team reels yet again.
“No. I don’t think anybody, without even seeing the tape yet that you can pin that on the quarterback. Like I said earlier, everybody had their hand in that," said Fox, to shock of no one, on whether we'll see Trubisky start against the Steelers.
So, Glennon will likely roll out against Pittsburgh, and a downtrodden and currently injury-riddled Bears team will either give a spirited effort for three and a half quarters, or completely fold in altogether: all according to pattern. Loggains' offense will be one-dimensional, that is if it has any dimensions at the moment. Fangio's defense will struggle to get off the field on third down (53 percent allowed against Tampa Bay) and or get no takeaways.
And Fox, well Fox will fairly blame everyone without noticeably adjusting for the next week or saying much of consequence. Much to the chagrin of everyone but Fox and company.
At any rate, the focus on Glennon solely is misplaced and misguided at the moment. Fox indirectly showed that himself in his usual post game Tampa Bay diatribe.
“We have to get better as a football team. That wasn’t the Mike Glennon’s Bears, that was the Chicago Bears. It was our whole team. I haven’t looked at all the stats and all the exacts, but there’s a lot of people that had their hand in it and we’ll leave it at that," said Fox.
Fox is absolutely, unequivocally correct in his assessment not to blame Glennon for Sunday's humiliation.
That wasn't Glennon's Bears against the Buccaneers. That wasn't Trubisky's Bears either.
No, that was Fox's Bears through and through. Take your beating, preach accountability and vow to get better, and still ultimately nothing of consequence changes. A purgatory that's somehow lasted all the way to year three.
The Bears are currently running on endlessly on Fox's hamster wheel. One can only wonder when they'll snap out of this trance and find their way off.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is an editor for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.