MINNEAPOLIS — John Fox’s postgame press conference lasted all of a minute following Sunday’s 23-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, with the third-year Bears coach, to paraphrase Marshawn Lynch, seemingly only there so he wouldn’t get fined.
“Look, I’m here, the league makes me be here to talk about this game, and that’s what we’ll keep it to,” Fox said when asked a question about his future. “And anything after that, we’ll keep you posted. Any other questions?”
There weren’t, besides a follow-up about if he really didn’t know when he’d meet with Ryan Pace and team ownership to decide his fate. Fox abruptly walked off the podium, bringing to end what all but certainly was his last press conference as head coach of the Bears.
The Bears didn’t announce a decision on Fox shortly after the game, as the Indianapolis Colts did in firing coach Chuck Pagano on Sunday afternoon. Players said Fox’s comments to the team after the game didn’t feel like a farewell address, and Fox did say (in his opening statement before taking two questions from the media) that he told the players “there’s a good culture in that locker room, there’s good guys. Obviously we need some pieces added. And really, to every one of them, to everybody in there, there’ll be better days moving forward.”
In all likelihood, the better days moving forward — if they happen — will be without Fox. If he indeed is on his way out, he’ll have left a largely positive impression on his players, even if they collectively are 14-34 in the last three years.
“He believes in us even when everyone else doubts,” linebacker Sam Acho said. “And for me as a player, you can’t ask for anything more. Everyone else is doubting you and he believes in the bottom of his heart, the depths of his soul. That’s all you can ask for as a player. You want a coach who believes — that was my only goal, when I was a free agent last year, my only goal was to go to a place who had a coach who believes in me. And coach Fox is that. That’s who he is.”
Added linebacker Danny Trevathan, who played for Fox in Denver from 2012 to 2014 prior to joining the Bears before the 2016 season: “I know he’s a great coach and whatever he does, he’s going to be good at.”
Fox does deserve credit for changing what was a less-than-harmonious culture after arriving at Halas Hall in 2015. The Bears didn’t quit on the 2017 season, even as the losses piled up, and Fox had a lot to do with that.
But does not quitting on a season really matter when the team is 5-11?
“The record don’t show it,” wide receiver Kendall Wright said, “but we played way better than what the record shows.”
Still, the record is the record. Fox has the second-worst winning percentage of any coach in Bears history, has a brutal 3-15 record against the NFC North and lost 10 or more games in all three of his seasons in Chicago. That’s a lot of losing.
Fox’s players, though, wanted to make it clear that they bore the biggest responsibility for that 14-34 record during his tenure.
“The coaches don’t play the game,” wide receiver Josh Bellamy said. “Players play the game. It’s not the coaches that play the game. It’s on the field. You don’t see a coach out there running routes or throwing the ball. All they do is call the plays and it’s up to the players to change the culture and make it happen. I feel like that’s what we gotta do and we gotta find way to do it.”
Akiem Hicks perhaps had the most poignant comments when discussing his likely soon-to-be-former coach. If and when Fox is fired in the coming hours, it’ll weigh on these players who, of course, understand the business side of things. They didn’t play well enough for Fox to keep his job, and the coaching staff didn’t coach well enough to justify a fourth year.
But there will be plenty of disappointment in the Bears’ locker room that they couldn’t do enough to save the job of a guy who is genuinely liked in there.
“It’s a guy you want to fight for week in, week out,” Hicks said. “You look up to (him) because he’s had so many championship-level teams. You almost want to be on his list of great teams and just somebody you respect and admire.
“There’s nobody that I think it weighs on more than Fox. When I leave the building 6:30, 7 at night, his truck is still there. He’s clocking his hours and doing his best to make us better.
“For him,” Hicks added, with a long pause to collect his thoughts, “I wish we had finished better.”