John Fox has worked at rooting out some of the negative culture left over from the two years under Marc Trestman pretty much since he arrived from Denver to succeed Trestman. That involved winning football games as well as personnel changes within the locker room and above.
Some of that has worked, a lot hasn’t, all summarized in a 5-9 record.
Fox sent a decidedly pointed message in his remarks following the loss at Minnesota. It’s been a message amply evident before that embarrassing performance but became more pointed in the waning days of a formative season.
“We are going to be marching forward,” Fox said, “and we will find guys that will be part of our core.”
Meaning that the core is far from in place and also in formative stages.
Fox and staff together with the personnel staff of general manager Ryan Pace have their templates for what they want. But as much as any physical traits, Fox’s template stands on what he considers core values:
“Focus, Intensity, Preparation and then really the Mental Toughness to create all those things on a consistent basis,” Fox said, acknowledging, “so we’re not there yet.”
Fox has had favorite axioms framed and hung on Halas Hall walls, things like, “Ability is good but dependability is critical.”
The message has been sent and heard, even if not entirely or consistently acted upon.
“Those words always come up,” said defensive end Willie Young. “Obviously those are some topics that we could talk about all day, but those are some key components to us getting this thing turned around.
“I think truthfully it’s something that every individual, whether it’s football or life in general, you go down that list and you ask yourself are you staying true to those principles? If your answer is yes to every one of them, then you’re doing the right thing. You’ll come out on top.”
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As much as the losses, the way of the losses has bothered Fox. Lack of focus. Lack of intensity. Lack of preparation. Lack of mental toughness.
Some decisions have been made for 2016. Some are still to play out over the remaining 120 football minutes over the next two weekends. But as to who has or how many have been disappointing in the search of a core, Fox still uses one standard.
“I’m not good at the blame game,” Fox said. “To me, it’s all of ‘us.’ It’s coaching, it’s playing, it’s executing. Ultimately, we’re all in it together. I would say I’m disappointed in our record and kinda really leave it at that. Because that’s kinda what we’re measured on.”