Intriguing scenarios still linger for Bears and John Fox's future

Intriguing scenarios still linger for Bears and John Fox's future

Shaking the last crumbs out of the post-Packers-loss notebook...

In the wake of the Bears’ embarrassing and bewildering loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, an inescapable thought was that the defeat very possibly foreshadowed the end of John Fox’s tenure as Bears coach.

But how soon? And honestly, should it?

The glow of the Bears before the Green Bay game was misleading. I wonder if the hysteria reaction in the wake of it might be, too.

On the “should” point, first – 48 hours ago the Bears had won two of their previous three games, against teams with a combined record of 17-10, and Fox was being fitted for a La-Z-Boy instead of a hot seat. None of that offsets the appalling performance by a Fox team that should have been accelerating into a game that represented nothing short of a season-changing opportunity.

Which should mean that, as tempting or natural as it may be, any judgement of Fox should not be finalized based on the 23-16 loss to the Packers. GM Ryan Pace may have a rolodex of replacement possibilities – every GM does – but he and the organization didn’t launch Fox on Monday, so they have not reached a decision that presumably can’t be reversed by the results of the Detroit game next weekend and the Philadelphia Eagles game the week after.

Put another way...

If the Bears handle the Lions (they defeated Detroit in Chicago last year with Brian Hoyer under center, and lost by three in Detroit with Matt Barkley last year and the Lions headed for the playoffs)...

...and the Bears stun the Eagles (they’ve beaten the AFC North-leading Steelers and 7-3 Panthers already this year)…

…what will be the narrative on Fox’s situation? Just a thought.


On the “how soon?” point: Well known is the fact that the Bears have never fired a coach in-season, and Fox’s presence at the Halas Hall podium on Monday said the Green Bay loss hadn’t done it. Nor had the resulting 3-6 season record, nor had the fact that it was to a Packers team without Aaron Rodgers, nor that the Packers were coming off a short week vs. the Bears fresh from their off-week, and so on.

However, while chairman George McCaskey is committed to honoring and respecting the past, he is anything but a lockstep prisoner of it. He has put his imprint on many areas of the organization since succeeding brother Mike as the apex executive.

Why this could matter is that McCaskey would not be the first chief executive to break with tradition and in this case be agreeable to a coaching change if Pace wants to go that way, perhaps with an interim such as Vic Fangio to finish out the season.

The Bears are historically loyal and patient with their coaches, but McCaskey jettisoned GM Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman after two years. In the process, McCaskey became the first Bears chief executive to fire a head coach after only two seasons (Paddy Driscoll just went back to being an assistant coach under George Halas when Halas was ready to resume head-coaching after a two-year break in the last '50s.)

McCaskey and Pace would have some recent history as suggestive precedent. The L.A. Rams fired Jeff Fisher after wobbling to a 4-9 point with rookie quarterback Jared Goff in place last year. They lost their final three games but are 7-2 this year. The Buffalo Bills dumped Rex Ryan before the end of 2016; they are in the playoff discussion this year. Tennessee fired Ken Whisenhunt seven games into the 2015 season and went to 9-7 under Mike Mularkey in 2016 after the organization removed the “interim” label from Mularkey.

Nothing here should be taken even slightly as predicting or advocating that the Bears making a coaching change after this one game, which left them 2-3 under quarterback Mitch Trubisky. It is very, very unlikely that the Bears cast out John Fox without letting the rest of the season play out. The New York Giants, mired in a season considerably worse (1-8) than the Bears’, issued a statement of support for coach Ben McAdoo. The Bears and Giants are old-school organizations, the Maras and McCaskeys have similar values, and the Giants don’t fire coaches in-season, either.

But going the opposite direction from the earlier next-games scenarios: f the Bears sleepwalk again and are embarrassed by the Detroit Lions at home next Sunday, then have real problems in Philadelphia with the Eagles the following week, no one should rule out a historic “first” for an organization that can only be increasingly classed as desperate.


For those hoping the Bears jettison Fox after this year, a common citation is the fact that no Bears coach has held onto his job after a third straight losing season. That’s a little misleading, if only because it is a very small sample size, and enough exceptions in this case make the rule suspect.


Three of the nine coaches since the end of George Halas’ final stint were around for three straight losing seasons. Two were gone after two straight and one – Mike Ditka – was done after one. Under Chairman George McCaskey, Marc Trestman and Lovie Smith were dismissed without reaching the three-and-out standard.

Coach                        Fired after…

Marc Trestman          2 straight losing seasons (2013-14)

Lovie Smith               3 straight .500-or-better seasons (2010-12)

Dick Jauron               4 losing seasons in five (1999-2000, 2002-03)

Dave Wannstedt       3 straight losing seasons (1996-99)

Mike Ditka                 1 losing season (1992)

Neill Armstrong         3 losing seasons in four (1978, 1980-81)

Jack Pardee              (quit)

Abe Gibron                3 straight losing seasons (1972-74)

Jim Dooley                3 straight losing seasons

Besides the results in the standings, the undisciplined, sloppy play of the Bears in the Green Bay loss was the sort of thing that reflects very badly on coaching and coaches, even though none of the eight penalties assessed and three others flagged but declined were on the coaches.

“Lack of focus,” Trubisky said by way of blunt explanation after Sunday’s game. “It seemed uncharacteristic for us because we were locked in and ready to go.”

In fact, the Bears had become better behaved since Trubisky took over from Mike Glennon. They were assessed 10 and eight penalties in Glennon’s last two starts, then 8-5-5-4 in Trubisky’s before Sunday.

“Was it a real clean game, no,” Fox said. “I think we didn't line up properly as far as formation, we went in motion on a play, we went early. You know those are real, you saw 'em as well as I did. It created some behind-the-sticks series and that was a factor, especially on our third-down conversion ratio.”

As far as poor focus, Fox wasn’t copping to much by either coaches or players. “Well, I think you know it's all of the above,” Fox said. “You know there's no doubt about that. But I think there's some new people out there you know that, again it's not an excuse, it's just a reality.”

After releasing him, Bears reportedly bringing back Marcus Cooper


After releasing him, Bears reportedly bringing back Marcus Cooper

Marcus Cooper's offseason has resembled a will they, won't they relationship.

The corner back signed a three-year deal with the Bears last offseason, but struggled last year and was released by the Bears after one year of that deal. However, Adam Caplan is reporting that Cooper could be back in a Bears uniform this season.

Cooper was officially released by the Bears on March 14 and visited the Arizona Cardinals earlier on Friday. Cooper started for the Cardinals in 2016.

Cooper began the year as a starter for the Bears, but finished with just four starts. He finished 2017 with 18 tackles and three passes deflected in 15 games.

His play with the Bears didn't exactly make him Mr. Popular with fans, as can be observed by looking at the savage replies to Caplan's report.

Cooper's original contract for the Bears with valued at $16 million over three years so the reported $2.5 million number is a significant pay cut and could mean he is being brought back for depth as opposed to last year when he was expected to start.

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

As the Bears begin to fill out their draft board in earnest, they’ll do so by evaluating the players they like and the players they think will be available when they pick eighth in April. And what players check both those boxes and go into their draft “clouds,” as Ryan Pace calls them, will depend largely on how many quarterbacks are taken ahead of the Bears’ pick. 

With about a month until the draft, it seems clear two teams will take a quarterback with a top-seven pick: the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. The Browns own the Nos. 1 and 4 picks; the Jets traded up from No. 6 to No. 3, and teams rarely invest that kind of draft capital to not draft a quarterback. 

That leaves a few hinge points in how many quarterbacks are picked by the time the Bears are on the clock:

New York Giants (No. 2 overall)

The Giants still have an aging Eli Manning but could move to use the second pick to draft his long-term replacement. Or, alternatively, they could use this deep class of top-end quarterbacks as an avenue to trade down, add some picks and build out a young core that way. Either of these scenarios would be good news for the Bears, as we’ve seen Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson connected to the Giants at No. 2 as well, if they were to stay there. The Buffalo Bills could be motivated to trade up to No. 2 to make sure they get the guy they want with quarterbacks almost assuredly going off the board at Nos. 1 and 3. 

Cleveland Browns (No. 4 overall)

If the Browns get their quarterback with the first pick — Sam Darnold? — they could be sitting in an ideal spot at No. 4. If the Giants draft a quarterback, Cleveland could play hardball and tell teams they’re fine keeping the fourth pick and drafting Barkley with it. That could create a bidding war between the Buffalo Bills (No. 12) and Denver Broncos (No. 5) to trade up and draft the last of the four clear-cut top quarterbacks in this class. In this scenario, Cleveland adds a bunch of picks to an already-sizable stash and accelerates their growth through the draft. 

If the Giants were to trade out of the No. 2 pick, let’s say to the Bills, it may lessen Cleveland’s desire to trade down from No. 4 unless a team in need of a quarterback like the Arizona Cardinals (No. 15) or Miami Dolphins (No. 11) starts lurking around. But as we saw last year with the Bears trading up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky, teams don’t want to leave things to chance if they have conviction on the quarterback they want. So that brings us to the…

Denver Broncos (No. 5 overall)

The Broncos signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal and still have 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch on their roster, though he hasn’t shown much in only five games as a pro. Does Denver absolutely, positively have to draft a quarterback? No. They’re probably in the same boat as the Giants in that regard. But what if they really like Josh Allen and/or Baker Mayfield, both of whom their coaching staff worked with at the Senior Bowl, and one of them is still on the board when the Browns’ pick comes up at No. 4? Or what if Josh Rosen has been their guy all along? 

In that case, John Elway may make an aggressive move to guarantee he gets the quarterback he wants, and not risk losing that guy if a team were to cut the line by trading with the Browns. 

The other scenario is less positive for the Bears: Maybe the Broncos only have one or two quarterbacks out of this group they want, and they either can’t find a trade partner to move out of No. 5 or don’t want to. If three quarterbacks are drafted in the first seven picks, the Bears may not have the opportunity to draft one of Nelson, Chubb or Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, for example, is a super-talented prospect — but we seem to be moving toward a consensus that Nelson, Fitzpatrick, Chubb and Barkley are the four best non-quarterback prospects in this draft. And in all likelihood, the Bears will only be able to draft one of them four quarterbacks are taken before they pick. 

The wild card here is Nelson, given his position (guard) is rarely seen as worthy of being a top-10 pick. But those who saw him up close in college believe he’s a future perennial Pro Bowler, possibly beginning as soon as his rookie year. The Bears’ fit is obvious, with Harry Hiestand coming to coach the offensive line from Notre Dame and the team — as of right now — still having a fairly clear need for another interior offensive lineman. Perhaps Nelson falls to the Bears even if there are only three quarterbacks off the board before they pick, but having four go off the board would make things a little less stressful at Halas Hall in late April. 

Indianapolis Colts (No. 6 overall) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 7 overall)

The Colts already traded down once, and likely did so with the confidence that Chubb would still be on the board at No. 6 to help their limp pass rush. Fitzpatrick seems to be a good fit with Tampa Bay, though a player of his caliber would be a good fit anywhere. Either of these teams still could be persuaded to trade down, especially if the Giants and/or Broncos pass on a quarterback.

Chicago Bears (No. 8 overall)

If four quarterbacks are off the board by the time the Bears pick, that’s ideal for Pace. If three are, he still could get someone from his No. 8 pick “cloud” and be content staying there. If only two are — and this doesn’t appear to be a likely scenario — that means the Bills haven’t found a trade partner and may want to leapfrog the Dolphins at No. 11 to get their guy. More likely, if the Bears are able to trade down from No. 8, it would be because a team like Arizona wants to make sure the quarterback they want isn’t snagged by an opportunistic team ahead of them. 

But Pace's draft history has seen him trade up far more frequently than trade down. If someone who's in his draft cloud is available when the Bears go on the clock, chances are he'll pick that guy and not trade down. 

Plenty can and will change between now and when the draft begins on April 26. But for right now, the landscape ahead of the Bears suggests only positive things setting up for their first-round pick.