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John Fox on the Hot Seat, Part 1

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Windy City Gridiron takes on the challenges presented by the coaching staff of the Chicago Bears. In this first edition, we look at whether or not John Fox has a future with the Bears and on when he should be shown the door.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Introduction

John Fox has coached the Bears across 34 games, and the team has won only nine of those contests. Known for his conservative coaching style and spoken of as a man who can turn around a locker room, Fox has worn out his welcome in two different cities where he coached a team to the Super Bowl, and his particular brand of football is leaving a very sour taste in the mouths of Chicago fans who question how much of his past success was because of what he offered (compared to how much of it was in spite of him).

However, any discussion of whether or not Fox should be let go is attached to a number or other questions. For example, firing Lovie Smith might have been an okay idea for some, but firing Smith to bring in Marc Trestman was a disaster. Today we are starting a three-part series on the future of coaching for the Bears. We intend to tackle not just whether or not Fox should be fired but also (if it should happen) when and what should happen afterward.

The writers are going to cover this topic in three parts: whether or not Fox should be shown the door (and how soon it should happen), who we do not want to replace him if or when he leaves, and who we think might offer the Bears some hope moving forward. This article will only address the first question.

As a side note, we have agreed as a group to exclude from any conversation of future coaches the list of usual suspects who are not likely to be available any time soon. This includes Jon Gruden, Tom Coughlin, Bill Cowher, Jim Harbaugh. For various reasons, these coaches are not actually options even if some fans and talking heads seem to believe otherwise.

Question 1

Should John Fox go, and if so when? If you want him gone before the season is over, explain how you handle the interim coaching job and the assistants.

Josh Sunderbruch: Originally I was in the camp that Fox should finish the year, but now I think Fox should be gone by the bye week. If he hasn’t turned it around by then, give Fangio the interim coaching job and see if he can handle it. That gives at least a small amount of continuity and offers both Fangio and Loggains a chance to prove themselves. Rodgers can stay or go as far as I’m concerned, but I’d rather see him go.

Jeff Berckes: Yes, I think this is John Fox’s last year in Chicago. I’m not sure if it’s ever been a great idea to fire a coach mid-season and while Josh’s argument of a trial-run for Fangio is intriguing, I’m fine with letting him run out the year.

Andrew Link: Absolutely, there is no way around it. John Fox is currently 9-25 with the Bears. He may get some small bit of credit for “changing the culture” but I am not sure what the culture is exactly, I just know that it isn’t good. Fox’s inability to keep up with the current NFL culture and his overtly conservative style has continuously thwarted this team’s chance of progress. Couple that with his old-school training program that seems to be causing injuries at break-neck speed, and the Bears are staring down the barrel of another top-5 draft pick. That said, the Bears have never fired a coach mid-season and they will not start now with the well-respected Fox.

Patti Curl: I’m fonder of Fox than most people. I find his personality endearing and I bias towards giving coaches the benefit of the doubt: they have access to a lot more information than I do when making their decisions, and they have a lot more experience in the NFL than I do. At the same time, I think there is plenty of room to improve from Foxy, and it feels like his time in Chicago is running it’s course. I would be for moving on at the end of the season. I could also get behind the argument to move on earlier if Vic Fangio is a consideration for his replacement. I like Fangio and an interim coach try-out period would be a good way to see how he fares as a head coach without closing the door on him returning to DC.

Jacob Infante: Yes, this should be - and will be - John Fox’s last season as coach of the Bears. Like Andrew said, it would be unwonted of the Bears to fire a coach in the middle of the season, so I don’t expect Fox to get fired until the end of the season. Part of me doesn’t want them to give Fangio a trial run as the head coach, because, in the scenario where the Bears would do well with him as coach, they would be more likely to lose him to another team.

Jack Silverstein: I won’t put a timeline on it based on date. I will say that I am disappointed in Fox’s performance this season much more than 2015 or even last year, and if the things disappointing me don’t change, then he’s out. The number one thing disappointing me is Fox not having a good enough answer as to why and how Glennon gives the team “a chance” to win, as he put it, and why Trubisky does not give us that chance. Either this is a lost season, in which case play Trubisky, or it’s not a lost season, in which case play the best quarterback. If Fox believes this is not a lost season and he is playing the best quarterback, he owes it to his players to have a good reason why he thinks Glennon gives the team the best chance to win as opposed to Trubisky.

If I don’t see a change from Fox in his handling of and articulating of the quarterback situation, then as a fan, I will want him gone. If that happens this season, that’s fine, and I would give the keys to Fangio, for three reasons.

One, more of the team’s firepower and leadership is on defense, so I think it’s appropriate for the DC to become the interim HC.

Two, Fangio has more experience than Loggains, so unless you think Loggains is your HC of the future, you’re better off with the experienced party.

Three, I would rather have Loggains focused solely on helping Trubisky, rather than doing that while also running a team that is in trouble enough to have fired its coach.

Robert Zeglinski: Unequivocally, absolutely, yes - Fox should not be the head coach of the Bears anymore. He was never the guy to take Chicago back to the mountaintop and he won’t be if Trubisky develops into what the Bears believe. It’s time most people accept that.

Quite simply, the game has passed Fox by. His stubborn, hypocritical vindictiveness (such as how he’s handling the current quarterback situation) without any results runs thin. His conservative mentality to play not to lose and place the brunt of the game on the defense doesn’t work in 2017. He was supposed to bring stability to this organization (I never bought that) but ironically they’ve won even less than they ever did under Trestman. What’s professionalism in a locker room when the team still shows up listless for performances every now and then in the same fashion as they did under Trestman. I almost feel as if people remember two straight 50-point losses in a bubble and then apply that to the entire Trestman era. As if Trestman was the reason an already old and decaying team fell apart. Fox has been worse throughout (who has actually progressed in three seasons under his helm and “development”?) and shouldn’t have been brought back for a third season. Now you reap what you sow.

Logically, you would fire Fox midseason, but considering the Bears have never done that, I have a hard time believing it’ll happen now. If somehow they did make the move this year, I would make Loggains the interim head coach and work from there. I think he’s been underappreciated as a playcaller and coordinator and has earned the opportunity to prove himself on a wider basis. I fear this could only happen once the Bears are likely 2-6 or worse, though. At any rate, I’m almost certain we’re on the last 14 games of Fox and they can’t come soon enough. That’s the sad state of affairs.

Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: I never saw Fox as the long term answer for the Bears, and I suspect neither did Ryan Pace. This was always going to be a multiple-year rebuild, so why saddle a young first time head coach with a shitty roster? Fox just happened to come available as the Bears were desperately trying to wash the stink of the Trestman era off of the franchise. I know the Bears have lost more games under Fox, but don’t forget how bad the locker room was that last year with Trestman in charge. Fox may have his faults, but he was good for the franchise that first season.

But now, it’s time for him to move on. I’m not a fan of firing a guy midseason unless things go really, really awry, so unless something drastic happens, I see the Bears and Fox parting ways after 2017.

Ken Mitchell: I would fire John Fox today. Three of the last four games the Bears have played, going into last year, have been “mail it in” efforts by this team. That is entirely unacceptable.

I would turn the reigns over to Vic Fangio for the rest of the season, and see how it goes from there.

Sam Householder: Yes John Fox should go. When? That’s tougher. I don’t think the Chicago Bears ownership, in my lifetime, will ever let go of a coach before a season ends. I do think though that if it’s going to happen, why wait until the end of the season? So I suppose the answer would be that if the team is 0-4 after their September games, then make the change. Promote Vic Fangio and see what happens. At least after the Thursday night Packers game the team would have 11 days before their Monday Night game to make a transition and settle down from the inevitable turmoil that comes with a coaching change.

Furthermore, I wrote a whole piece about this on Tuesday, but there were some things I didn’t fit into the article. The main one was I tried to look up coaches that won nine games in two seasons and had success in their third season. The results aren’t pretty:

-Dick Vermeil (Rams), won nine games in his first two seasons (5-11, 4-12) before breaking out to 13-3 and winning the Super Bowl in year three behind unlikely hero Kurt Warner.

-Pat Shurmur, won nine games in two years with the Browns, did not get year three.

-Ray Perkins (Tampa Bay) won nine games in his first two seasons before winning five games in year three and being fired.

-Norv Turner won nine games in his first two seasons before jumping to 9-7 in his third season but then went 8-7-1 and 6-10 and then 10-6, 7-6 and was fired in week 14. He also won nine games his first two seasons in Oakland and was fired.

One franchise that could be seen as a model for the Bears is the Cowboys. The great Tom Landry won nine games in his first THREE seasons, including an 0-11-1 year (the franchise’s inaugural) and he still didn’t have a winning record until his seventh season. But that was over 50 years ago and Landry was much younger than Fox currently is.

Then they had Jimmy Johnson, who won eight games in his first two years before exploding in his third season with third-year QB Troy Aikman.

There’s likely more but there it is. Not many coaches even get a chance at a third go after two bad years. There should be signs of things getting better but that is not happening.

Summary

We want Fox gone, and while some of us are willing to give him the rest of the season, a few of us are less patient. Next up, we will tackle the question of who we think the Bears should avoid when it comes to replacing John Fox.

Our answers to this question will be coming next.

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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 on Facebook.