The Chicago Bears picked former Denver Broncos coach John Fox as the team’s new head coach on Friday, according to the Chicago Tribune, succeeding Marc Trestman’s two-year career with a coach that’s gone 119-89 in 13 seasons in the NFL.
It’s a high profile hire for the Bears, who are in desperate need of a turnaround after dropping eight of their last 10 games to close 2014. Fox and the Denver Broncos parted ways after the team fell to the Indianapolis Colts 24-13 on Sunday, ending his four-season stint with the team that resulted in four straight division titles. He was on the market for five days before newly appointed general manager Ryan Pace made him his first coaching hire.
There’s a lot to know about Fox, like, for one, that he’s the father of the Wildcat offense. Beyond that, he’s just the sixth coach in NFL history to take two different teams to the Super Bowl. But if you’re unfamiliar with Fox’s career, here are five things to know about the Bears new hire.
Fox’s coaching style matches the Bears playing style
If you think about Fox’s tenure in Denver, you immediately think about the high-powered offenses that made the team one of the best in the league. But, traditionally, Fox is a run-first, defensive-minded head coach that so greatly fits the classic style of football the Bears have always played. That kind of philosophy should fit well with the current Bears roster, even if it’s due for a major defensive overhaul.
Good news is Fox pulled off quite the defensive turnaround over his first two seasons in Denver, molding a 24th ranked defense his first year into the fourth-best unit in the league in 2012. It’s been in the middle of the road every year since, but average is still better than a team that gave up the second most points per game and third most yards per game in 2014.
The move brings familiarity to the Bears front office
The San Francisco 49ers showed the league how detrimental a disconnect between a team’s general manager and head coach can be. Dysfunction out west this past year led to an onslaught of bad press and the eventual booting of one of the most decorated head coaches in the franchise’s recent history.
Even if it is minuscule, Fox’s hiring brings a small amount of familiarity to both positions in the midst of an overhaul. Pace and Fox both overlapped time in the NFC South in the early 2000s. Pace spent 13 years with the New Orleans Saints starting in 2002, while Fox coached the Panthers from 2002 to 2010. The two also reportedly share numerous mutual friends, including Saints coach Sean Payton.
Fox was the best coach available, by far
The Bears are in dire need of a culture change. Having not made the playoffs since losing the NFC Championship to the Green Bay Packers in 2010, Chicago needed someone to help boost morale coming off last year’s 5-11 season. They’ll get that from Fox, who in the past four years has had just about as many wins as the Bears have had since 2009.
With all due respect to Dan Quinn, Teryl Austin, and all the other coordinators the Bears have interviewed, Fox was the safest option.
Fox can win, in spite of his quarterbacks
Sorry, Jay. But next year’s Bears team will likely have to win in spite of Cutler, as opposed to with him. The one-time Pro Bowl quarterback is under contract through 2020, with a deal that was worth a total of $126 million, $54 million guaranteed. To avoid the cap hit of simply cutting him, the Bears will have to either find a suitor for Culter via trade before next year, or simply bite the bullet and start him (or worse, Jimmy Clausen) come the season opener.
Should it come to that, Fox has a history of winning with sub-par quarterbacks. Don’t forget, this is the same coach who beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Wild Card game with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Tim Tebow during overtime. He’s also the same one who went 11-5 en route to a Super Bowl appearance in 2004 with Jake Delhomme under center.
But Fox can’t win them all
Fox had no problem winning in the regular season with the Broncos. Over four years, he went 46-28, leading Denver to four AFC West titles. However it was in the playoffs where Fox struggled, which is what some are saying ended his tenure in Denver. He went 2-3 in the postseason with the Broncos, and has gone 8-6 overall in his career.
Fox did take two teams to the Super Bowl, the Carolina Panthers in 2004 and the Broncos last season, but neither team won a championship. Here’s hoping that changes with the Bears.
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