The Bears are not having a good 2017, but hey, at least they’re not the Cleveland Browns.
And, at least for one more Sunday this year, the Bears took care of business and got to have some fun while doing so.
The Bears beat the hapless Browns, 20-3, in front of a crowd of 41,2578 (with 17,539 no-shows) at Soldier Field on a snowy Christmas Eve. Not a whole lot of that sentence is especially relevant for the long-term outlook for a franchise that remains mired at the bottom of the NFC North for a fourth consecutive year.
For John Fox, beating Cleveland signifies a couple of things. No. 1, he won’t have the disgrace of being the coach of the only team to lose to the Browns in 2017 (Cleveland is 0-15, and travels to face the division-leading Pittsburgh Steelers next weekend — that probably won’t go well). And this is more of an oddity, but beating Cleveland gave the Bears a 4-0 record against the AFC North this year.
No. 2, the win was Fox’s first when favored as the coach of the Bears. In the previous seven games in Fox’s Chicago tenure in which his team was favored by the betting markets, the Bears lost.
No. 3, Fox’s winning percentage with the Bears is now .300 (14-33). Even with a loss to Minnesota next weekend, there’s no chance Fox ends 2017 with the worst winning percentage in Bears history. Abe Gibron’s ignominious .274 mark remains the low-water mark.
The last two coaches to lose to the Browns — San Diego’s Mike McCoy and San Francisco’s Chip Kelly — were both fired after the seasons in which they earned those defeats. Going back a little further, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh remained safe despite an overtime loss to the Browns in 2015, while ex-Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt was sacked six weeks after he lost to Cleveland that same year. And before that, the Browns beat Atlanta on Nov. 23, 2014…and, after that season, the Falcons fired coach Mike Smith.
So four of the last five coaches to lose to the Browns were fired either during or after the season in which they were defeated by the laughingstock of pro sports. But while Fox doesn’t have a loss to the Browns on his ledger, the three consecutive years of losing 10 or more games — while not showing much demonstrable progress — means he likely will not get to coach the fourth year on his contract. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning Bears president Ted Phillips was beginning to research coaching candidates to replace Fox.
As for the game, the Browns were horrendous. DeShone Kizer hit Kyle Fuller in stride in the end zone in the first half, which would’ve been good if Fuller were a wide receiver for the Browns. And Myles Garrett had a pick-six of Mitchell Trubisky called back to begin the second half because defensive end Carl Nassib was lined up offsides. Wide receiver Rashard Higgins fumbled into the end zone (forced by Danny Trevathan) at the Bears’ three-yard line, with Prince Amukamara recovering the ball for a touchback.
The Bears did exactly what they should’ve against a team that’s one road loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers away from being 0-16.
So the Bears avoided what could’ve been their most embarrassing loss in a long time. That doesn’t change much, but it does mean there will at least be some positive Christmas vibes for this team as the season winds down.