Job 1 for John Fox when he began his tenure as Bears coach was changing the culture of losing that had settled in over too many areas of Halas Hall and its football team.
Besides the myriad little things done or installed, the big one was personnel – nothing changes “culture” like good football players. CSNChicago.com recently noted the attitude adjustment that was amply evident in the demeanors of newcomers Bobby Massie and Danny Trevathan.
But talk is nothing if not cheap, and more than simply “good” players, the Bears were in desperate need of players who knew what winning entailed and what you needed to accomplish that – ones for whom losing is a violation of the natural order.
The Bears and GM Ryan Pace went in that direction almost immediately last year when they targeted Pernell McPhee (Baltimore), Antrel Rolle (Arizona, N.Y. Giants) and Eddie Royal (Denver, San Diego), all players who played in winning playoff games. Those free-agency deals were done the day after they traded away Brandon Marshall, someone still looking for his first trip to a playoff after 10 seasons stretching over four different teams, including the Jets last year.
The Bears’ culture-change selection process, which already had them acquire Trevathan (Super Bowl winner with Denver), Massie (part of Bruce Arians’ turnaround of the Arizona Cardinals) and Jerrell Freeman (playoffs with Indianapolis 2012-14), took another major step Sunday with the signing of defensive lineman Akiem Hicks away from the New England Patriots.
Hicks was part of the Patriots’ AFC East championship team by virtue of a trade from New Orleans last season. The experience with Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and an organization ending short of a Super Bowl is a disappointment made an impression.
“The No. 1 thing I would say would be accountability,” Hicks said of the basis of the New England standard. “Being able to hold your players accountable for the job that they’re required to do, and that’s on and off the field.
“Being accountable to each other as far as teammates, knowing that your teammate has your back and will do everything in his power to make sure that you guys come out with the goal that you have in mind. Accountability would be the main message that I would share with anybody about my time in New England.”
Decisions in the free market typically turn on the dollars, but not always, particularly when multiple offers are in front of a player. When defensive end Jared Allen approached the Bears last season about trading him to a better fit, Allen identified a handful of teams, all of which had a legitimate shot at a successful 2015. Those included Carolina, which got Allen to a Super Bowl before he retired.
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Hicks was drafted by the New Orleans Saints when Pace was a top member of the personnel department.
“[The Bears] have been and are still currently making great decisions in order to bring players and the coaching staff and everybody to this organization to build something great here in Chicago,” Hicks said. “I’m a believer. I’ve seen some of the moves that they’ve made and I’ve seen the way that they’ve gone about business and I’m excited to be a part of that, and was excited from afar.”