Bears hire John Fox as coach
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) John Fox has a reputation for turning around teams. The Bears are counting on him to do just that.
Fox was hired as Chicago’s coach Friday, four days after he and the Denver Broncos parted ways.
He was widely seen as a likely candidate to replace the fired Marc Trestman once he left the Broncos on Monday, given his record and his ties to consultant Ernie Accorsi and new general manager Ryan Pace.
Fox was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants from 1997 to 2001 when Accorsi was the GM. Saints coach Sean Payton was the offensive coordinator for part of that time, and he is tight with Pace, who was hired out of New Orleans’ front office.
Fox has a 119-89 regular-season record in 13 years with Carolina (2002-10) and Denver (2011-14), with six division titles and seven playoff appearances. He is one of six coaches to lead two franchises to Super Bowl appearances, joining Don Shula, Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, Dick Vermeil and Mike Holmgren.
Fox comes to Chicago with a reputation for overseeing turnarounds, and he will try to do just that after the Bears went 5-11 and missed the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years.
”I would say he’s an easy-going guy, but he’s still old-school football,” Bears linebacker D.J. Williams, who played for Fox in Denver, told Chicago’s WMVP-AM. ”It’s very hard to find a blend of that, somebody who’s like real hard-nosed, but laid-back at the same time.”
Fox took over a team in Denver that went 4-12 the previous year and led them to the AFC West title all four seasons, with Tim Tebow at quarterback the first season and Peyton Manning the next three.
Carolina went 1-15 in 2001, the year before Fox arrived. In his second season, the Panthers went to the Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme at quarterback.
Fox got back there last year with Manning, but the Broncos were blown out 43-8 by Seattle. That convinced general manager John Elway to spend $60 million in guarantees on new defensive players so his quarterback shouldn’t have to carry the load by himself.
Fox, who in the past was criticized for being too conservative, drew more scrutiny midway through this season when the Broncos altered their offense and started to focus more on the run.
Fox becomes the Bears’ 15th head coach and first with previous NFL experience since founder George Halas returned to the sideline for his fourth and final stint in 1958. The only other was Paddy Driscoll, who began a two-year run in 1956.
The Bears decided a shake-up was necessary after a season that began with expectations of a playoff run fell apart. They fired general manager Phil Emery and Trestman, the first steps in what they hope will be a drastic turnaround.
Chicago also interviewed former Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase and then-Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who was hired by the Jets.
Guard Kyle Long was looking forward to playing for Fox.
”Met Coach Fox night before I participated in the combine in passing at dinner. Now he’s my coach. Was a very likable dude!! Let’s roll,” he wrote on Twitter.
With Pace and Fox in place, the Bears can turn their attention toward filling the front office and coaching staffs and addressing a long list of roster issues.
The Bears must decide if they’re going to stick with quarterback Jay Cutler after the offense took a big step backward and do something about a defense that has ranked among the league’s worst the past two years.
Chicago has been to the playoffs just four times since the start of the 1995 season and only once since the 2006 team’s Super Bowl run. The Bears thought they had a contender with a high-scoring offense returning intact and a rebuilt defense to go with it. What happened instead was a season-long soap opera that ended with the general manager and coach getting fired.
There was one distraction after another, whether it was linebacker Lance Briggs being allowed to miss practice to open a restaurant in California the week of the opener, former offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer admitting he was the NFL Network’s source behind a critical report of Cutler late in the season or Cutler getting benched in favor Jimmy Clausen late in the season.
Cutler, who signed a $126 million, seven-year contract at the end of last season, tied Philip Rivers for the league lead with 18 interceptions. That deal makes him difficult if not impossible to trade. Cutting him is a possibility.
Receiver Brandon Marshall played in just 13 games and too often drew attention for reasons that had nothing to do with his performance.
Marshall, who is open about his struggles with borderline personality disorder, at one point gave a rambling news conference over past allegations of domestic abuse. He also challenged a Detroit fan to a charity boxing match on Twitter and was allowed to fly to New York on a weekly basis to record Showtime’s ”Inside the NFL.”
It all added up to one miserable season for the Bears. Now, they hope Fox can help turn them around.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL