John Fox has officially been named the 15th head coach of the Chicago Bears. He gets a four year deal according to NFL insider Jay Glazer, although no other details of the contract are known at this time. The Bears are set to introduce their new head coach at Halas Hall on Monday at 11:00 a.m.
Fox interviewed with Bears’ new GM Ryan Pace, in addition to team president Ted Phillips and team chairman George McCaskey, on Wednesday, before reportedly flying back to Denver.
Fox served as head coach of the Carolina Panthers for nine seasons (2002-2010), before being named head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2011. Fox has coached in two Super Bowls, having won an NFC Championship with the Panthers in 2003 and an AFC Championship with the Broncos in 2013.
Prior to his time as a head coach, Fox (59) was a defensive assistant in the NFL for 15 years. He got his start in football with San Diego State University in 1978. There’s no doubt about it: Fox has seen a lot.
His Carolina team made the playoffs three out of nine seasons, each with Jake Delhomme as starting QB, making Fox the winningest head coach in franchise history. The Broncos made the playoffs in each of Fox’s four seasons in Denver, one with Tim Tebow as the starting QB and the rest with Peyton Manning. His career regular season coaching record is 119-89 (.572).
In his first season with Carolina, the team improved from 1-15 to 7-9. They went 12-4 and made the playoffs in just his second season. The Bears’ move to hire a “retread” head coach is not all that surprising, after taking a shot on an out-of-the-box rookie hire in Marc Trestman in 2013 saw the team regress from 10-6 to 5-11 over two seasons.
But hiring a guy who’s done it before has its benefits regardless of the former situation — namely, the Bears know exactly what Fox is because they’ve seen it. Does that automatically mean he will have success in Chicago? No, but the Bears’ brass are now playing the odds that, at the very least, Fox gives them a fighting chance.
From a great report by Mike Klis of the Denver Post: "I can tell you I'm really excited about the new opportunity," Fox said. "And yet it was a real enjoyable four years in Denver. I'm not comparing, but one of the most appealing things about this job is I've been in places like this before, Pittsburgh and New York. Old guard teams, old guard ownership. Family owned, like the Denver Broncos. Great tradition, like the Broncos. Sports towns. Great fan bases."
It also makes sense to pair a coach with Fox’s experience to that of Ryan Pace, who at 37 is the youngest GM in the National Football League. Fox also becomes the first Chicago Bears' head coach with previous NFL head coaching experience since the re-hire of George Halas in 1958.
One might wonder why Fox was even on the market after four-straight playoff appearances, but tensions between he and Broncos’ general manager John Elway had apparently been building for years, and reports suggest they did not see eye to eye on the future direction of the team.
Also of note are reports that Fox had wanted more control over the roster in Denver. It’s noteworthy because Chicago Bears’ GM Ryan Pace said in his first press conference that he (Pace) would have control of the final 53 here. For those who may not immediately understand this dynamic, coaches tend to focus on winning now — and why not? Their job, after all, depends on it — whereas a GM may need to be thinking more big-picture or long-term. This can cause issues with who to keep on the 53-man roster.
But the fact that Fox and the Bears have come to terms suggests this will not, at least initially, be an issue. Reports had suggested from the onset that Chicago was Fox’s ideal landing spot.
So for now, Fox seems like a good fit. The apparent success of the hire is amplified by the fact that, more recently, the list of the top available head coaching candidates had been dwindling — with the Buffalo Bills hiring Rex Ryan, the New York Jets hiring former Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Oakland Raiders bringing in Jack Del Rio, and the 49ers promoting defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.
Seahawks’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn seems to be the favorite to land the job in Atlanta, and the Broncos are reportedly chasing after Gary Kubiak, who previously stated his intention to remain in place as the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive coordinator, rebuffing offers to interview in New York and Chicago, but who has very strong ties to Denver.
For Fox, the next step is to begin assembling his staff and evaluating the current roster. One report from CBS NFL insider Jason La Canfora, suggests that two likely coordinators could be Kyle Shanahan on offense and Dennis Allen on defense. Shanahan last spent time as the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns, while Allen is coming off a stint as head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Bears have also requested permission to interview 49ers' defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. And, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Bears also requested permission to interview Titans' TE coach Mike Mularkey for the open OC spot.
Despite who ultimately comes in, many in the media and around the NFL have long touted Fox’s ability to assemble a solid staff of coaching assistants.
But another issue the Bears must face moving forward is to determine their identity as a team. It’s now plainly obvious that this group cannot transition into an offensive powerhouse the likes of the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots until it finds the quarterback to facilitate such a system.
The reality of the situation suggests that, for now at least, Jay Cutler will likely remain in Chicago, and that means building a team that can win with him, which also means a team that plays strong defense and special teams, as well as balanced offense. Because another reality in which the Bears exist is that the best quarterback in the NFL plays in their division, and probably will for the next six or seven years.
You may be tired of hearing about Aaron Rodgers, but as Lovie Smith once alluded to in an inaugural press conference, beating the Packers is important. Doing that consistently is likely going to take a string of strong drafts and personnel decisions, and getting back to a healthy salary cap situation.
But with a GM and head coach now in place, the plan to unseat the "King of the NFC North" begins today.
Chicago Bears hire John Fox
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by editor Adam Oestmann
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Filed under: Coaches and Management