Evaluations in the NFL are done constantly, beginning with daily ones based on filmings of practices, moving into game performances (which is how jobs are won or lost) and finally at the end of seasons, when the whole and the parts come under extreme scrutiny.
One result, particularly with the intensity and passion with which the Bears are followed, is that the consequences of individual games can be exaggerated. In either direction: to the positive when an unknown castoff quarterback lights up an afternoon, to the negative, when an unknown castoff quarterback throws five interceptions and that same team whose arrow had been pointing consistently up, as the Bears’ had been after a five-game stretch in which they had lost four but played tough opponents close and outscored those combined five teams (107-105).
That all changes on Saturday afternoon when the offense and defense of the Bears came unhinged to the point of making coach John Fox’s post-mortem comments sound somewhere between hollow and a test-drive for the summary he’ll be giving Bears senior management in another week as part of that season’s-end evaluation.
“Better days are to come,” Fox said regarding what he would say to an increasingly disillusioned BearsNation, one whose expectations were a lot better than 3-12 when Chairman George McCaskey two years ago fired Phil Emery and Marc Trestman and hired GM Ryan Pace and Fox. “We see improvement. It’s not in our record but I think we are closer than people think.”
(That would not be difficult to be after the Bears under Fox have gone 4-16 over the past 20 games, including two losses to Washington.)
Fox and Pace inherited a nightmare, and insiders tell CSNChicago.com that part of the supposed “rift” between Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was in fact simply a frustration on the part of the latter at the size of the turnaround task confronting two veteran coaches accustomed to being at or well above .500 at this point of their second seasons with teams.
“I think sometimes, when you come into a situation, you take some steps back before you take some steps forward,” Fox said. “In my opinion we are in a way better positioned to be in striking distance going forward… . These things weren’t built in a day.”
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
The venom flow directed toward Fox is unlikely to slacken until his Bears reverse the win-loss flow. The media in general doesn’t like him and that’s the prism through which much of the public gets to see him. Winning is the only thing BearsNation rightly cares about and that hasn’t happened for him yet.
The reality is that Fox has never before had two consecutive losing seasons in his previous combined 28 years as an NFL assistant, coordinator or head coach. He’s never had 19 players land on IR, including six of his opening-day No. 1’s (Jay Cutler, Kyle Long, Zach Miller, Kevin White, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan) plus three subsequent replacement starters (Brian Hoyer, Eddie Royal, Josh Sutton) so this year stands as the anomaly in more than a few ways.
The inclination is to view the Washington disaster as a true indicator of the state of Fox's Bears affairs. That’s probably no less an overreaction than looking at the last-second Green Bay loss as proof that the Bears are a field goal away from the Packers.