The good news, perhaps, is there was no finger-pointing in the Bears’ locker room following Sunday’s debacle against the San Francisco 49ers. There wasn’t anyone putting a coach or teammate on blast to the media or making excuses for themselves after a 15-14 defeat to a 49ers team with 10 losses.
That’s probably a product of the culture John Fox worked to instill in his team after taking over a toxic situation three years ago. But here’s the thing about that culture: It hasn’t led to the Bears winning games.
Fox, after Sunday’s loss, is 12-32 as head coach of the Bears. His .273 winning percentage is now worse than that of Abe Gibron, whose .274 winning percentage from 1972-1974 was the previous low-water mark in franchise history. While the Bears don’t have a room full of loudmouth malcontents anymore, they haven’t been able to turn that into any semblance of success.
“Just, I don’t know man, try to think long-term, for real,” safety Eddie Jackson said. “You got a good enough team, close games like this you should’ve won, but just gotta keep thinking next day, man. That’s about it.”
Jackson, in the last four weeks, has experienced more losses than he did in four years at Alabama (the Tide lost three games in which he played). He talked optimistically last week about the rookies on this team — led by Mitchell Trubisky — working to set a new standard on which the Bears could build in 2018. But setting that standard isn’t easy when the results aren’t there (or, in the case of Adam Shaheen, when you’re only playing 24 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, as he did Sunday).
Jackson was asked if this loss was the low point of the season and said it is. But what’s to say the Bears haven’t hit rock bottom yet?
“You’re 3-9, it’s tough, man,” Jackson said. “It’s tough. Especially games like that, you know you should’ve won. It’s just tough.”
The players on this team aren’t focusing on what will be the biggest storyline surrounding the Bears for the remainder of the 2017 season — a potential coaching change. This team does seem to know all it can do right now is collectively put their heads down and work to make things better.
“I wouldn’t say sad, I wouldn’t say depressed, but it’s just quiet,” Trubisky said of the mood in the Bears’ locker room. “It’s definitely not good, but I still have confidence going forward because I know the guys in that locker room, they care. I know we fought on the field and I know a lot of the guys, they’re putting their bodies on the line — up front, protecting for me, on defense making plays, they’re flying around. We’re not just doing this for nothing, we’re doing it for a purpose. We’re just not getting the results we want.
“The only thing I know is go back to work, go harder, keep getting better at practice, keep pulling together — there’s no finger-pointing, just keep pulling together, sticking together and it’s going to turn around. So I feel good about that.”
What would “better” look like, though? More than 147 total yards on offense, for one. Trubisky completed 12 of 15 passes but didn’t take any risks, either by design or by virtue of an under-manned receiving corps not presenting any opportunities to open things up. Vic Fangio’s defense isn’t without blame here, either, and has now allowed over five yards per play in five consecutive games. There’s a difference between losing but making progress and just losing, and the Bears lately have been doing too much of the latter.
The Bears might have the right culture in place to get better in these final four weeks. Whether they have the right coaches or players, though, appears to be a more important question.