Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune makes some good points and some not so good points:
This is so [head coach John] Fox: dumping talented players [Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett and Alshon Jeffery] because he doesn’t like something about them, no matter how productive they are, but standing fiercely behind Dowell Loggains and his oft-inexplicable play-calling.
While some reasons for letting players leave are understandable, the Bears still have lost four offensive Pro Bowlers and replaced them with a rookie Pro Bowler in Jordan Howard and, what, Josh Bellamy and a biology graduate from Harvard.
That, see, is the issue here and now: If you’re a coach who can’t coach or won’t coach players with personality or players who aren’t all-football all the time but still produce, then you’d better produce as a coach.
But the only thing Fox has produced is the lame consolation that his players tried hard, the sure sign of someone desperate to hold a job.
The Bears had better be good in free agency, I guess. Or Fox had better be good picking the players he thinks he can coach.
But then, maybe that’s part of Ryan Pace’s plan: Let Fox have his way with these player decisions so the general manager has solid reasons to fire the head coach when the Bears go 3-13 again and then hire a coach he wants instead of someone who appears passive-aggressively forced on him by a consultant and a Bears Senior Disorganizational Figure or two.
I certainly understand the argument about coaching talented but less than ideal players. But it’s worth noting that Fox was trying to institute a culture change in Chicago when he was hired. This was a team that was starting over and to this point, the project has been one of tearing down to the core, then building back up. Bennett and Marshall just weren’t what he was looking for as a part of that core that was supposed to show young, often less talented players who actually need to maximize what they’ve got how its done.
With Jeffery, it’s probably got more to do with monetary value but I’d still claim that things would have been totally different had he trained in Chicago with the team last offseason. The Bears were looking for him to show that kind of commitment to the team and you have to believe that they’re pretty sure there’s no PED suspension with them able to keep an eye on Jeffery in town. As it is, there’s not nearly as much motivation to overpay a guy whose actions indicate that he may not be 100% on board no matter what hot air he blows about believing that the Bear swill win the Super Bowl next year.
In any case, the Bears situation puts Fox and Pace in a different position than the Patriots, who got a great deal out of Bennett because they have a solid locker room and a winning culture established. They didn’t need him to lead young, less talented undrafted free agents by example. They had plenty of other guys for that and the Patriots could afford to absorb Bennett. The Bears, who have had to rebuild from scratch with a young locker room that still doesn’t know how to win, couldn’t.
I might add that, in my opinion, the odds that Bennett resigns with the Patriots are slim. Taking on his baggage for a year at a reasonable rate is one thing. Doing it now will be something else. It’s says here that the odds are good he ends up with a loser next year and plays his part, overly or covertly, in contributing to it with his attitude, just as Marshall did this year with the Jets.
The last part about Pace letting Fox fail so he can fire him after being forced to hire him in the first place is, of course, utter nonsense based upon revisionist history. Pace interviewed Fox almost immediately after he separated with the Broncos, even following him to Denver immediately after talking to him in Chicago. Pace couldn’t wait to hire him and I’m still not convinced he wasn’t right to do so.
The Bears will have to show progress this season to convince the fans and the press that they’re doing the right things. But as far as I’m concerned, they’ve had no choice but to do what they’ve done to this point.