By Matthew Barajas
Light Post // January 2015
Say what you will, but John Fox fell into the lap of the Chicago Bears and new general manager, Ryan Pace. And after the nightmare that was the 2014 season, the Bears couldn’t have scripted their coaching search any better. They went from interviewing hot commodity coordinators with no NFL head coaching experience, to hiring a veteran leader who brings with him a tough, defensive-minded, run first philosophy.
Sounds like Bear football.
With multiple Super Bowl appearances, and a reputation for turning bad teams into good ones, hiring John Fox to lead your team isn’t all that bad of a move. But the truth, this is where he wanted to be. After his mutual parting with the Broncos, the only team he chose to interview with was the Bears, and he’s excited about the opportunity to coach one of the league’s founding franchises.
You’d have to think being the head coach of the Chicago Bears means more to a guy who has been in the league for over 25 years than someone coming in as a first time head coach. There’ll be a level of respect Fox brings with him into the building every day, for both the organization and the job itself, which is something that should resonate with Bears players and fans.
The arrival of Fox, as well as Pace, signifies an era of change for the Bears. In hiring a young, energetic GM and a coach with 119 victories already to his name, the Bears have shown they’re finally prepared to go down the path of doing things differently from years passed.
That alone should warrant some sort of award.
Yes, Pace is new to the GM role and has a lot to prove, especially come draft time. But he comes from being part of the New Orleans Saints system, where he was part of an organizational turnaround that culminated with a Super Bowl championship in 2009. His 14 years of experience there helped groom him for the position he holds now. His decision to hire Fox as his first managerial move has already shown he knows how to capitalize on a good thing.
Over the last two years, the Bears’ total defense ranked 30th in the league. In John Fox’s first year in Carolina, the defense went from last to second overall. In his second season with the Broncos, they became the number two overall defense, and were third in 2014. He’s coming off three straight double-digit win seasons and four straight division championships.
Yeah, so he had Peyton Manning for three years. Big deal.
He had Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow for his first year in Denver and Jake Delhomme in Carolina. Now what?
The guy has proven he knows how to coach an NFL football team. Our last coach sure didn’t.
Does he have a bit of a challenge in front of him? Sure, no one said he didn’t. But it’s a challenge he’s familiar with. Consider the state of the teams Fox took over in the past with Carolina (1-15) and Denver (4-12). To him, this Bears team appears to be in a little better shape. It also doesn’t hurt he’s inheriting the best group of offensive talent that he’s ever had coming into his first season with a team.
With Fox’s defensive background, there’s added emphasis to quickly bring order back to that side of the ball. Playing the division rival Green Bay Packers twice a year is extra motivation to speed up the process. So what does he do? He hires former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to head up the defense.
In his first three seasons in San Francisco, Fangio’s defensive units were top five in a laundry list of defensive rankings, including points allowed (16.1), yards allowed (306.5), and third down defense (34.1 percent conversion rate). He also happened to go 4-0 against Green Bay during his time with the 49ers, with two of those games coming in the postseason.
Of course, the Bears did none of those things.
Because there really wasn’t a whole lot to cheer about this year, Chicago fans should feel really good about the moves the Bears have made. After watching some of the worst Bears football ever this season, we’ve gone out and acquired an experienced NFL head coach and a young general manager who has already shown he has a vision for how to build this team. In doing that, they’ve positioned themselves to be a much more competitive football team over the next few years.
And if they’re excited about what lies ahead, then so should we.