MINNEAPOLIS – First, settling any questions about 2017… .
"I guarantee you we are going to win the Super Bowl next year," wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said after the Bears’ 38-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Of course Jeffery didn’t say who exactly the “we” was that he was referring to, and he is headed toward free agency after his franchise tag expires. But for now he’s a Bear, and he was asked about “this team,” meaning the Bears, so take that as him handicapping his current team’s chances this year.
Now, there’s also the matter of who will coach the Bears to that Super Bowl, but indications continue pointing to that being John Fox.
So, pulling the camera back to take in the much bigger picture after Fox finishing his first two Bears seasons a combined 9-23.
Jay Glazer out at FOX Sports reported before Sunday’s kickoff that Fox would indeed be back in 2017 as Bears head coach. And everything from GM Ryan Pace supports the conclusion reached here over the recent past that the Bears will not be making another coaching change.
Speaking with Bears announcer Jeff Joniak on WBBM radio before the game, Pace was clear that on strategic matters, beyond the obvious disappointments of this season, Fox has gotten the Bears turned around culturally and moving in a direction the organization wants.
“In order to develop these younger players, you really need a coaching staff that’s on board with preparing them and with playing them,” Pace said, “and I think John’s done a good job in leading our team and his staff in assisting that development.
“I also think he’s done a good job of instilling the right culture we want in our locker room, and those aren’t small things. The change of culture, that’s extremely difficult. But I think if you get it right, with the foundation of our roster, you can really build on that.”
Whether a turnaround can come sooner rather than later, “we’re on the right course,” Pace said. “I think you see how quickly teams can flip in this league.”
Fox has been part of the NFL long enough to know that kind, even supportive words are hardly conclusive. But he has said privately that he wants to see this thing through, and he reaffirmed that on Sunday.
“I haven’t, at the end of the day, I’ve never worried about job security and I’m not about to start now,” said Fox, adding, “when you have people who look at things logically, you usually come to the same conclusion.”
And right now, Pace and Fox are looking at the situation with some of the same logic, factoring in franchise direction and player development more than win totals even over a two-season stretch, the first in Fox’s 28-year career that he’s been part of two consecutive losing seasons at any level.
“It’s definitely a job I want to finish,” Fox declared.
Which is precisely what the leaders in his locker room want to hear.
“I love coach Fox,” said defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. “I never saw him in despair. He’s put together this team, wants to see it successful and was fighting tooth and nail to make it successful. We never saw any, ‘Oh, well… .” We never saw that. And when you see that kind of thing from your leader, you can’t help but want to play harder for the guy.
“One of the reasons I felt so welcome here was John Fox’s personality. It was refreshing for a coach to have that swagger, that air around him.”
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
Said linebacker Willie Young: “As long as we have the kind of leadership we have in this locker room, we’ll be all right… . There’s a lotta upside here, lotta upside here.”
And finally, some game stuff… . (sorry, have to do it)
The Bears’ 38-10 loss to the Vikings Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium really was neither surprising or likely consequential, beyond securing the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft for the Bears. It finished an 0-8 season on the road for the Bears, a venue where decent teams play .500 or better, and it completed the year of futility with seven losses in the eight games since the mid-season off week.
All of which are the kinds of things that comprise elements of a 3-13 season, the worst win total for a 16-game season since the NFL went to 16 in 1978 and matching the second-lowest win total for any season of any length since the franchise was part of beginning professional football in 1920.
The specifics of this Sunday were pretty simple. The Bears turned the football over five times – three Matt Barkley interceptions, a Jeremy Langford fumble, a Bralon Addison muffed punt – to leave them with 14 giveaways in the last three games (five to Washington, four to Green Bay), vs. one takeaway, a meaningless end-zone interception of Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford by cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc.
Turnover ratio, specifically the lack of takeaways, were a season-long problem, but “the last two games it became problematic,” said Fox.