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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.

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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.

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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.

Consider:

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.”

Fantasy Football Fix Podcast: Backfield bungaloos and Week 5 stock market

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Fantasy Football Fix Podcast: Backfield bungaloos and Week 5 stock market

Slavko Bekovic, Scott Krinch, Glynn Morgan and Tony Andracki try to maneuver fantasy owners through the messy backfields in Denver, New York, Minnesota, Green Bay and Tampa Bay.

The fantasy crew analyzes the Week 5 stock market, plus answers lightning round questions on Cameron Brate, Chris Thompson, Keenan Allen, Chris Hogan and the potential fantasy impact of Mitch Trubisky’s first NFL start.

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Fantasy Football: 10 waiver wire targets for Week 5 and beyond

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Fantasy Football: 10 waiver wire targets for Week 5 and beyond

Dalvin Cook, Chris Carson, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota. The Grim Reaper came for some big names in Week 4.

And we're not really sure how Odell Beckham Jr. survived the Grim Reaper's scythe after looking at this picture.

I give this game everything I got. Ain't no way around it..

A post shared by Odell Beckham Jr (@obj) on

If your team went unscathed in Week 4, hats off to you. If it didn't, don't panic.

We've compiled a list of 10 players who should provide some help in Week 5 and beyond.

1.  Wayne Gallman, RB, NYG

Gallman was inactive for the first three games of 2017, but found himself suiting up for Week 4 and when Paul Perkins went down with injury, Gallman racked up 50 yards and a TD on 13 touches. Nobody has taken the Giants backfield and run with it yet and while it's possible this game was a flash-in-the-pan for the rookie Gallman, he's worth an add just in case. (Tony Andracki)

2. Deshaun Watson, QB, HOU

The rookie set the world on fire in Week 4 with a whopping 307 combined yards and 5 scores. Despite entering the season as the Texans backup to Tom Savage, Watson is already fantasy football's No. 6 quarterback. With his propensity to gain a large chunk of yards on the ground, Watson possesses one of the highest floors among QBs, and should easily be a weekly Top 10 fantasy signal-caller throughout the remainder of the 2017 season. (Scott Krinch)

3. Will Fuller, WR, HOU

Fuller is a big-play wide receiver who scored just 2 TDs in 14 games his rookie season. So of course he finally suits up in Week 4 after an injury and averages just 8.8 yards per catch and immediately finds the endzone twice. He should be up for more big plays in the future and with Watson taking the reins and running with it in the Houston offense, Fuller could be an excellent fantasy option in his sophomore campaign as opposing defense focus on not letting DeAndre Hopkins beat them. (Andracki)

4. Latavius Murray/Jerick McKinnon, RB, MIN

A season-ending ACL injury to star rookie running back Dalvin Cook has now vaulted the Vikings backfield situation to one that the fantasy football community will keep close tabs on going forward. Following Cook's injury in Week 4, Murray out-snapped McKinnon 19/6. While Murray is nowhere near the caliber of player Cook is, he'll still slot in as the Vikings' early-down running back with McKinnon remaining in his role as a third/passing down specialist. Both players should be added to all fantasy rosters, but owners should take a wait-and-see approach when making the decision to insert them into their lineups. (Krinch)

5. Alvin Kamara, RB, NO

Kamara's time is officially here. After seeing only 20 touches in the first three games of the season, the third-round rookie touched the ball 15 times in New Orleans' Week 4 win with five rushes and 10 receptions, totaling 96 yards and a TD. He's clearly ahead of Adrian Peterson in the NO pecking order, but Kamara is also clearly the best pass-catching back in an offense that airs it out. Kamara has improved on his PPR fantasy point totals each week and there's no way he should be owned in only 19.7 percent of leagues. (Andracki)

6. Devin Funchess, WR, CAR

It looks like it's about time to start buying stock in the third-year wide receiver. Funchess had the best game of his career against the New England Patriots on Sunday, hauling in 7 passes for 70 yards and two scores. Funchess has 19 targets in his last two games and is starting to surpass Kelvin Benjamin as Cam Newton's go-to target with Greg Olsen sidelined. Funchess is a must add in all formats. (Krinch)

7. Mitch Trubisky, QB, CHI

If you're looking for a potential game-changer at quarterback, Trubisky probably isn't your guy. Not in his first NFL start in Week 5 against a tough Vikings defense. And not with a shaky supporting cast. But Trubisky could be a matchup play moving forward and provides a new wrinkle in the Bears offense with his mobility. He currently resides outside the Top 20 in terms of fantasy QBs, but his rushing potential alone could make him worthy of a roster spot in deep leagues. (Andracki)

8. Jaron Brown, WR, ARI

We've been waiting for a wide receiver to emerge as Larry Fitzgerald's Robin in Arizona, and if last week was any indication it appears that guy is Jaron Brown. Carson Palmer targeted Brown 12 times against the San Francisco 49ers, which was tops among Cardinals wideouts. If the targets weren't enough proof, Brown played in 95 percent of the offensive snaps in Week 4. On a pass-heavy team like the Cardinals who are without their top offensive weapon in David Johnson, Brown is suddenly a must-own player. (Krinch)

9. J.D. McKissic, RB, SEA

McKissic came from out of nowhere to score 2 TDs on five touches in Week 4 and is owned in just 0.2 percent of ESPN leagues. While that could be enough to warrant a roster spot, we wouldn't recommend wasting a waiver on him, even with Chris Carson nursing a broken ankle. McKissic was filling in for the injured C.J. Prosise and with the latter expected to suit up for Week 5, McKissic could wind back in the lands of fantasy obscurity. Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy figure to handle Carson's workload until the rookie returns. (Andracki)

10. Evan Engram, TE, NYG

Engram is debunking the myth that rookie tight ends need time to adjust to the NFL. The Giants' 2017 first-round pick currently ranks first in targets (30) and receptions (19) and third in yards (200) among rookie tight ends through the first four weeks of the season since 2000. Engram has totaled 18 targets while registering 11 receptions for 107 yards throughout the last two weeks. Obviously he doesn't have the upside of somebody like Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce, but Engram is starting to show he's a viable TE1 in a year where finding a serviceable tight end is like somebody at the White House convincing President Trump to delete the Twitter app from his phone. (Krinch)