The Bears hiring of John Fox was the first time since George Halas re-assumed the reign of the Bears in 1958 from Paddy Driscoll that the Bears hired a head coach that had experience as a head coach. Driscoll is the only other Bear Head Coach in their history with previous experience as a head coach. He led the Cardinals from 1920-22 as a player coach.
Fox gives the Bears and Ryan Pace immediate credibility after the 2014 tumultuous season under Marc Trestman. Fox has had an impressive 13 year run as an NFL Head Coach. He has a 119-89 record in nine seasons with Carolina and four with Denver before coming to the Bears (now 124-95 overall including this season). Included was a 2-14 finish in 2010, his last season in Carolina. Other than that, Fox's teams have finished no worse than 7-9 in his 12 other NFL seasons.
Fox said the right things about the Bears tradition in an interview with the Denver Post when he was hired.
"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."
His teams have won with a variety of styles and a plethora of different players. Melissa Isaacson summed it up perfectly on ESPNChicago.Com.
"Since Mike Ditka, the Bears have won four playoff games. Fox won five with Jake Delhomme. He won one with Tim Tebow, which is more than the Bears have won in the past four years."
Fox as a Coordinator
Fox spent seven years as a defensive coordinator before taking over in Carolina for the 2002 season. He was with the Raiders in 1994 and '95 and then spent five years with the Giants under Jim Fassel. As a coordinator, Fox's teams finished in the top half of the league five of his seven years. Four times as a coordinator, his teams finished in the top ten in yards.
The one constant with Fox's defenses as both a coordinator and as Head Coach has been their strength against the run. Nine times in his 20 years running an NFL defense, Fox's teams have finished in the top ten against the run. The one thing fans should not expect is a ball hawking defense that was the norm in the Lovie Smith led cover two. Fox's defenses have finished in the top ten in takeaways only five times.
Rebuilding the Bears
The Bears defense has been on the decline since their Super Bowl appearance following the 2006 season. Even with a strong 2012 season, the Bears finished in the bottom half of the league in yards allowed in four of Lovie Smith's last six seasons. As Trestman was originally hired to fix the offense, Fox is being brought in to fix the defense and the culture of the team.
Fox's Quarterback for most of his Carolina tenure Jake Delhomme spoke about Fox's ability to delegate, lead and take charge as needed.
"John was very good at letting his coaches coach. But if there was an issue and he wanted it corrected or done a certain way, well, he's the head man, and it's going to be done a certain way. That's very simple."
Fox's Record With Quarterbacks
Delhomme was the Quarterback that Fox has worked with the most. After six seasons in New Orleans, Delhomme joined the Panthers in 2003. In his first season and Fox's second with Carolina, the Panthers went to the Super Bowl. Although Fox prefers to establish the run first, he has shown the ability to adapt to his Quarterback and personnel.
His teams have finished at or near the top of the league in rushing and passing. With Payton Manning, Fox and Bears Offensive coordinator Adam Gase finished in the top ten the last three years in passing yards, touchdowns and in the top four in points scored.
Under Fox and Gase Jay Cutler is having arguably the best year of his career. Cutler's 14 to six td/int ratio, 92.5 Qb rating and only 1.5 sacks allowed per game are the best of his career. His 65.43 QBR and 251 yards per game are his third highest of his career. He has been more disciplined and a better leader under what has been a great combination of Fox and Gase.
Improvement in the Defense
The defense under Marc Trestman and Mel Tucker set new records for futility. The last two seasons the Bears ranked 30th for yards and 30th and 31st in points allowed. Each of those seasons would have qualified for the worst in Bears history. Under Fox and Vic Fangio they have improved to 19th and 14th. They were third and fifth in Smith's last season. That was with an aging roster that was led by Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs. Fox and Fangio have a big job ahead of them to rebuild the the defensive roster.
When appearing in NBC5 Sports Sunday on November 29, Peggy Kusinski asked Fox who his cornerstone defenders would be going into next season. With five games still left in the season, Fox said that the coaching staff still had evaluating left. Kusinski's take was the Jeremiah Ratliff was one of the cornerstone's of this year's defense. Last off-season's signing of Pernell McPhee has greatly helped the defense and pass rush. It's hard to know who the Bears will target in the offseason to fill holes through free agency and the draft.
After a disastrous 2014 season its impressive that Fox has the Bears in position to have a chance at a playoff spot. They currently sit in tenth place in the NFC. Green Bay and Seattle currently hold the two NFC Wildcard spots. Atlanta, Tampa and the Giants currently sit ahead of the Bears.
Their schedule down the stretch is not that difficult. They play the 49ers (3-8), Redskins (5-6), at Vikings (8-3), at Buccaneers (5-6), vs. Lions (4-7). All of those teams except San Francisco will be fighting for a chance at the playoffs. They have a reasonable chance to finish 4-1. The job Fox has done after a 2-5 start has been impactful. The other teams fighting for the two wildcard spots face more difficult schedules for the remainder for remainder of the season.