PHILADELPHIA — It was inside Lincoln Financial Field nearly four years ago when the Chicago Bears’ spiral started.
44 losses later, it hasn’t stopped.
On Dec. 22, 2013, the Bears played a Sunday Night Football game on an odd 62-degree evening in Philadelphia. Before the game, reporters gathered in an interview room adjacent to the Bears’ locker room for a chat with then-general manager Phil Emery. While waiting for Emery, a very noticeable clamor erupted from the locker room as the Detroit Lions lost in overtime to the New York Giants. The Lions’ loss meant the 8-6 Bears could clinch the NFC North with a win over the Eagles.
They lost 54-11. And they’re 17-44 ever since, after falling 31-3 to the Eagles in an equally embarrassing defeat Sunday.
Progress is hard to measure over the last four years. The roster has since been stripped down by current general manager Ryan Pace, but three years into his rebuild, the Bears still seem far away for competing for division titles, let alone the “multiple championships” Emery used to talk about.
At 3-8 this year, the Bears have been competitive more times than not, but Sunday’s 28-point loss to the 10-1 Eagles served as a good reminder that there’s a big difference between being a good football team and simply playing “Fox ball” just to keep the games close.
The Eagles, who apparently have enough time during the week to choreograph celebratory dance routines, are what a good football team looks like.
Pace is not without blame for what is turning out to be another disastrous season at 1920 Football Drive, but in two of their last three games, the Bears have come out flat and unprepared, a reflection of poor coaching. Twelve weeks into the season, they’re still too undisciplined and the lack of development with this young roster is concerning. Personnel decisions on offense have been baffling and Fox’s general conservative philosophy does not fit well with rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s raw talent. Opting to kick a 54-yard field goal on 4th and 4 in a lost season is proof of that, especially considering the Bears were using a brand new kicker (Cairo Santos) coming off a groin injury who didn’t even have the leg strength to get the ball to the goal posts with the wind at his back.
At one point in Sunday’s game, the Bears sent the punt team onto the field on third down and were forced to call timeout when only 10 players lined up on offense. And that was after an injury delay.
Developing Trubisky has to remain the No. 1 priority, but more urgently, preventing an early regression should be considered an emergency at Halas Hall.
And by emergency, I mean it should be something addressed in Lake Forest by Monday morning.
“Frankly I don’t give a rip. That’s not why I do this,” Fox said about questions regarding his job security.
Perhaps he should. If Pace decides to part from Fox, a move that seems like an absolute necessity for the good of Trubisky, why not do it now? Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio might be an unlikely candidate to replace Fox permanently, but why not give him a shot for five weeks, especially with four winnable games coming up, starting with Fangio’s former team — the 49ers — next week? With nothing to lose, Fangio and Loggains would undoubtedly let it loose, allowing Trubisky to gain confidence against defenses this flawed offense could actually move the ball against.
Just as important, it will allow Pace to get a head start on a thorough head coaching search that Chairman George McCaskey and President Ted Phillips will ideally allow him to conduct on his own, unlike when Pace was hired in 2015 and “advisor” Ernie Accorsi strongly pushed Fox on the organization.
The college coaching carousel is already churning and the NFL’s won’t be far behind. Pace would be best served moving to the front of the line, especially since he does have a talented young quarterback to dangle in front of potential candidates.
The Bears have never fired a head coach in the middle of a season. It’s just not what they do. But if Pace is truly trusted to run the football operations— and the 162,500-square-foot renovation of Halas Hall the organization just announced is a strong sign that he is still held in high regard — then there is no reason why anyone in Lake Forest should stand in his way if he wants to make a move now.
Think about it. What do the Bears have to lose by making the move now? Yes, the majority of the locker room seems to like playing for Fox (Akiem Hicks said Sunday: “I would love to have Foxy back for many years. He is one of my favorite head coaches I have ever had.”), but Fangio also commands respect and it’s unlikely the locker room would just give up on the final five games is a move is made.
Instead, the Bears have much more to gain by giving Fangio a chance and maximizing the remaining time they have to develop Trubisky in 2017.
To be clear, this isn’t a “fire the head coach just for the sake of change” column as much as it is acknowledging the logical end to John Fox’s tenure in Chicago. If the Bears are going to move on from Fox, it might as well be done now.