- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes former Panthers defensive tackle Brentson Buckner on what new Bears head coach John Fox said in his first team meeting after taking over the 1-15 team:
“‘He said, ‘You were 1-15 and they got rid of all the coaches,’ Buckner recalled. ‘None of those coaches played. None of those coaches dressed on Sunday. A lot of reasons you were 1-15 are sitting in this room, and it’s my job to weed you out.'”
I’d say there are a few Bears that need to hear that. Its all roses and sunshine right now between Fox and Bears fans. But this alone makes me think the Bears probably got their man.
- For some reason David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune is under the impression that we care what Brian Urlacher thinks.
- Former NFL safety Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune tells us what we want to hear.
- Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune tries to allay my fears that Fox won’t be able to fix the quarterback position. It didn’t work.My only comfort in this regard is that Bears general manager Ryan Pace will ultimately make the final decision on Jay Cutler. He’s’ has been watching Drew Brees for a good chunk of his career so he knows what a quarterback looks like.
Pace is certainly going to watch a lot of tape before he comes to a decision. That means eventually he’s going to put on the tape of the game his New Orleans Saints played against the Bears on December 15. At that point he’ll know that he has to get rid of Cutler.
- Biggs addresses what will be the next media topic, one that might drive the offseason until March:
“No one knows yet, but the guess here is Fox is comfortable going into 2015 with [quarterback Jay] Cutler as his quarterback.”
Yeah, that’s the way I read it, too. Fox will, at least, probably do his best to de-emphasize Cutler’s role to the extent you can with a quarterback. I’d expect a heavy dose of running back Matt Forte next year.
- Biggs also quotes former Panthers and Bears wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad:
“‘One of the things I appreciated from Fox that he did for every single player was you knew your role on the team. So if you’re the third receiver and you’re fighting for that No. 2 spot in training camp and you don’t win it — you’re not going to have a coach who says, ‘Keep trying, you can get there.’ No, he’s gonna go, ‘Hey my man, No. 2 is No. 2 for a reason and you’re No. 3 for a reason. When we go to three receivers, you are going to be in the game. Right now, I need you to focus on being the gunner on the punt team and I need you to be the best gunner you can be.’”
One of the things that every successful head coach seems to get through to his players is the mantra, “Do your job.” Step one is probably being crystal clear on what that job is. Fox seems to be able to do that.
- Denver Post columnist Benjamin Hochman on the Fox hire. Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“Chicago should be a good fit for him – and if he ever wins a Super Bowl, he’ll be remembered not only as the coach to win a Super Bowl, but to do so with Winnie The Pooh’s Eeyore at quarterback.”
- Kudos to Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times for addressing the delicate issue of Fox’s health.
- John Mullin at csnchicago.com does a nice job of describing some of the differences in the defensive scheme that we might see next year:
“Fox has run a 4-3 defense since his time in Carolina, but it has been substantially different than what the Bears ran under Lovie Smith and radically different from the strange hybrid the Bears evolved into under Mel Tucker.
“The Broncos under Fox were a 4-3 team. But they operated with massive tackles Terrance Knighton (331 pounds) and Sylvester Williams (313) and a defensive left end Derek Wolfe (285) in the mold of Phillip Daniels and Bryan Robinson from the days of Dick Jauron–Greg Blache’s two-gap jumbo front four.”
“Fox, like the Seattle Seahawks’ 4-3 and some of the so-called 3-4 schemes, employed a smaller speed rusher as the fourth member of his front four. This season in Denver it was DeMarcus Ware (258 pounds, 10 sacks).”
Fox also normally played a 4-3 over front in Denver (where the three technique tackle is on the strong-side) whereas the Bears played an under front last year.
Do the Bears have the players to make this adjustment? Mullin thinks DE Jared Allen is more suited to the Denver scheme and points out that Ego Ferguson and Jeremiah Ratliff both might be successful. But they won’t have much defensive line depth. Add in the needs at linebacker and in the defensive backfield (which remain no matter what the scheme) and it seems clear that there’s considerable work to do on personnel if Fox makes this philosophical shift happen.
- On a related note, Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com comments on Fox’s search for coordinators.
“I am fascinated by [Vic] Fangio off the job he’s done in Frisco, and although I couldn’t care less whether the Bears play a 4-3 or a 3-4 as long as they play it well, there are a number of 3-4 fanatics out there in Bears nation who might finally get their wish.”
Fangio ran a 3-4 when he was defensive coordinator for the 49ers.
I’m with Arkush. I don’t care what they run. But I’m having a hard time believing they’ll try to run a 3-4 base. I’d say that it’s more likely that Fox wants to run a hybrid defense of the type that’s in vogue in the NFL now. Fox probably figures he has the experience to coach a 40 front and might want to bring in Fangio to provide the needed expertise to occasionally switch to a three man line.
- Arthur Arkush at chicagofootball.com looks back at the Bears 2014 special teams:
“Phil Emery allowing Devin Hester to escape to Atlanta last spring without a clear contingency plan backfired. Hester showed he had plenty left in the tank for the Falcons, while the Bears cycled through returners.”
In fairness, Emery had a clear contingency plan. It just didn’t work.
The Bears couldn’t keep Hester. He was going to demand too much money and the Bears couldn’t pay what the Falcons paid for a guy that Cutler flat out refused to throw to. Letting Hester go was best for everybody, especially him.
Reading this article was actually painful. You forget how bad they really were until you see so many of the errors collected in one spot. Special teams was a clown show last season.
- Scott Osler at the San Fransisco Chronicle is worried about the 49ers. Most of us are. New coach Jim Tomsula sounds like Forrest Gump at the podium which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that he’s going to be a team motivator. But Osler is worried about a deeper problem:
“Coaches come and go. York and Baalke are as cemented in place as Levi’s Stadium, and, well, gulp.
“This is not a coach-friendly setup. [General manager Trent] Baalke is [owner Jed] York’s football guide and mentor, so Jed will always side with and give power to Baalke, putting the head coach in a weak spot.
“And what has either man shown to instill faith in their ability to lead a team to the Super Bowl?”
Not much. The roster is loaded with talent but that’s obviously not enough. Tomsula looks like Baalke’s version of Jerry Jones‘s “F- you Jimmy Johnson I can even win with Barry Switzer” than a winning choice. In fact, the guess here is that Tomsula’s best qualification is that he’s a good solider who won’t ever contradict Baalke. That’s not a good sign for either man.
- Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com passes on the fact that Rex Ryan has hired former Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer as his offensive line coach. That’s probably a good move for both of them.
One Final Thought
There is something strange when a new guy takes over at a company the way that Pace and Fox are taking over the Bears. Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune quotes former Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross as he elaborates:
“You’ve got an opportunity when you come in right off the bat as a new head coach to utilize the excitement guys are going to have about you.”
There’s also a certain degree of fear. Suddenly the guy in charge doesn’t know you from Adam and your comfort level is gone. Suddenly, you wonder if your job is still going to be there in a few months. That leads to a focus that’s hard to replicate in any other way.
Most people believe that the Bears have embarked upon a multi-year rebuilding process. I think that belief is justified – if you are talking about building a consistent winner. But almost anyone can win for one year if the stars align correctly (e.g. the 2006 Bears).
The Bears actually have the talent to win if they stay healthy next year, if the ball falls their way enough and, especially, if enough guys play above their heads and have what amounts to career years. I’m not saying that they will – a lot of things have to go right. But they have a unique opportunity by starting fresh with new management. Here’s hoping they can take advantage of it.