Bears

Bears fire John Fox after third consecutive losing season

Bears fire John Fox after third consecutive losing season

Back on March 1, when we were still half a year away from the 2017 regular season, John Fox discussed perhaps his biggest selling point as coach of the Bears: The culture change at Halas Hall.

“The first thing you learn in (the) culture you set is how to compete every day above the line,” Fox said. “Where we have to take the next step is to win and things you have to do to win.”

Fox may have successfully changed what was a toxic culture permeating one of the NFL’s charter franchises in the wake of the Marc Trestman/Phil Emery era. But what he didn’t do was win.

And as expected, the Bears fired him on Monday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and ESPN's Adam Schefter. 

With a 14-34 record in three years as the Bears’ head coach, Fox exits his tenure in Chicago with a .292 winning percentage. That’s the second-worst mark in franchise history; only Abe Gibron’s .274 winning percentage from 1972-1974 is worse. 

While there certainly were valid obstacles that plenty of coaches would’ve struggled to overcome — Fox frequently said the Bears had to do a lot of “erasing” on their roster before building it back up — that 14-34 record is a defining number. The Bears simply didn’t win enough games, and had too many embarrassing duds to cobble together any semblance of progress.

[MORE: How can the Bears pitch themselves to prospective coaching candidates?]

In 2017 alone, there were two exasperating losses to the Green Bay Packers. The first was the end of the Mike Glennon era; a 35-14 drubbing in front of a national Thursday night audience didn’t reflect well on anyone in the organization. A month and a half later, the Bears — at 3-5 and winners of half their games with Mitchell Trubisky as the starter — welcomed a Packers team without Aaron Rodgers to Soldier Field and fell flat, losing 23-16.

That second Packers loss, as well as dour defeats to the San Francisco 49ers (at home) and Detroit Lions (on the road) all but assured that Fox wouldn’t be back for a fourth year. The Bears’ 23-10 to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday clinched an 0-6 record against the NFC North in Fox’s final season; he finished his time in Chicago with a 3-15 record against division opponents.

The sometimes head-scratching strategy of developing Trubisky, which often didn’t allow the No. 2 overall pick to gain relevant experience during games, likely played a part in this decision as well. Ryan Pace may look to bring in a young, offensive-minded coach to create a pairing more conducive to developing the team’s No. 2 overall draft pick.

But for Fox, it all came down his poor record and a lack of measurable “progress,” to use an operative term from 2017. Fox’s Bears didn’t show much progress, and didn’t win many games.

And now, Pace will begin the monumental task of finding the right coach to not only pair with Trubisky, but restore a winning culture to a franchise that’s missed the playoffs in 10 of the last 11 seasons.

[MORE: Bears players react after John Fox's final game]

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen's rookie season with the Chicago Bears was an impressive blend of running, receiving and special teams play. He quickly became a household name. The combination of his diminutive frame and oversized personality made him a fan favorite, especially when he started gaining yards in chunks.

    In fact, of all running backs with a minimum of 80 carries last season, Cohen had the highest percentage of runs that went for 15 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Cohen will have a big role in new coach Matt Nagy's offense this season because of everything he offers a play-caller. He's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and can chew up yards on the ground like any traditional running back. He's a hold-your-breath talent who can turn a bad play into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

    Cohen had 370 rushing yards, 353 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns in what can be described as a limited role last year. John Fox and Dowell Loggains didn't seem to ever figure out how to best use Cohen's skill set. That should be no issue for Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the team's new offensive coordinator, who both bring a creative offensive approach to Chicago.

    Jordan Howard will be the starter and will do most of the heavy lifting. But Cohen is going to have a much bigger role than he had as a rookie, and that should result in more big plays and points on the board.