Bears

Fox working miracles with Broncos

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Fox working miracles with Broncos

Hell likely finish well up the track in voting for NFL coach of the year. This season so far has belonged pretty much to Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco and to loss-less Mike McCarthy in Green Bay.

But like Harbaugh, without benefit of a typical offseason for orientation with his new team, John Fox has set in motion a turnaround in Denver that ranks among the NFLs best in recent years and does not appear to be done yet.

Fox was fired after the 2009 season following a 2-14 finish in Carolina (where he previously took a team from 1-15 to a Super Bowl within three years in his first head-coaching job). Now he has the Denver Broncos, up from a 4-12 record under Josh McDaniels in 2010 to 7-5 already and a tiebreaker lead in the AFC West, a spot they have occupied only once (2005) since 1999.

Turnarounds are accomplished ultimately by players but choosing those and remaking an organizations culture is the immutable starting points.

Culture makeover

Fox is Denvers third head coach in four years (Mike Shanahan 2008, Josh McDaniels 2009-10). Shanahan was taciturn, McDaniels abrasive. Fox is neither of those.

I think every week he always brings something new to our team meetings and a new outlook, just in his speeches, said quarterback Tim Tebow. He's always encouraging guys, and he's just upbeat, very positive, and players feed off of him. It's been kind of a feel of just do your job and count on the person next to you doing his job, and believe in everybody, be resilient and keep fighting.

Indeed, reforming the culture was the mission statement. Stories of his relaxed, unpretentious style abound through the organization, which are simply Fox being Fox.

At the end of the day, it was a similar situation that I experienced going into Carolina, Fox said. You do have to change the culture, you do have to change the mindset, and it takes a minute. And the guys have responded well.

Changing the changes

Fox himself has made changes in even his own ways of doing things. He is a devotee of the base 4-3 defensive scheme, but has turned Von Miller loose from a linebacker spot unlike his previous style in Carolina.

Offensively, he made the change from Kyle Orton to Tebow and then to more of a scheme in line with Tebows talents, however unorthodox.

Ive been in this business for a while and actually did a lot of research on Tim even when he came out, Fox said. I was well aware of his intangibles and the passion and the enthusiasm he plays the game with. I got to see that all through training camp.

Ironically, Fox caused a stir with a comment to NFL.com that if Tebow were operating in different offense, hed be screwed. The remark, taken out of context, appeared to lump Fox in with Hall of Famer and team executive John Elway as a Tebow doubter.

In fact, the full comment was vintage Fox, complimentary of his quarterback with the seemingly kidding at the end. Fox apologized and lost neither the team nor his turnaround cornerstone.

"He's just been very positive, Tebow said, and I think guys have really responded well.

Bears Season in Review: Adam Shaheen

Bears Season in Review: Adam Shaheen

The Chicago Bears 2019 season was a lesson in disappointment in almost every way possible, from the quarterback to the offensive line and even the vaunted pass rush. But no position underwhelmed more than tight end, and Adam Shaheen was a big reason why.

The former second-round pick of the 2017 NFL draft failed to make any impact whatsoever. And that's not hyperbole. He appeared in just eight games, registering nine catches for 74 yards and zero touchdowns. Believe it or not, his stat line was an improvement over 2018 when he had just five catches for 48 yards in six games.

Shaheen's career narrative has been defined by injury, and it continued last season. He was placed on injured reserve in late-November with an apparent foot injury, marking the second-straight season that his year came to an early end.

It's been a remarkably disappointing career for Shaheen so far, who was viewed as a Rob Gronkowski-lite coming out of Ashland University. His jump from the small-school ranks to the NFL was expected to include a steep learning curve, but after three forgettable seasons, it's safe to say Shaheen's failed in almost every way possible.

The Bears are expected to bring Shaheen back for 2020 and he'll likely be in a training-camp battle for a roster spot. Chicago is going to add more talent to the position via either free agency or the NFL Draft and it wouldn't be a surprise if Shaheen begins the offseason schedule last on the depth chart.

It's been an unfortunate outcome for a draft pick that seemed so promising in 2017. Instead of growing into a fixture in the Bears' lineup, Shaheen will be left to fight for his NFL future this summer.

Kirk Cousins on John DeFilippo: 'He’s going to add a lot to Bears' staff'

Kirk Cousins on John DeFilippo: 'He’s going to add a lot to Bears' staff'

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins spoke with Chicago Sun-Times reporter Patrick Finley at the 2020 Pro Bowl and offered a glowing review of Bears quarterback coach, John DeFilippo, whose addition to Chicago's coaching staff is expected to bring the best out of Mitch Trubisky, the Bears' incumbent starter who's entering a make-or-break offseason with the team.

“He’ll be outstanding,” Cousins said. “He’s a great coach. He’s been around this league for a long time. I think it says a lot when someone like Matt Nagy, who knows quarterbacks so well, hires him. I think that says a lot about ‘Flip.’

“When you look at what he did with Carson Wentz as a young player, I think there’s a lot to like there. And he’s going to add a lot to that staff. It’s going to be to my detriment, because we’re in his division. But he’s a great coach.”

DeFilippo was the Eagles quarterback coach for two seasons (2016-17) and played an integral part in Wentz's development between his rookie and second seasons. Under DeFilippo's tutelage, Wentz went from a solid rookie season to an MVP-worthy campaign in 2017. It's also noteworthy that DeFilippo managed to get the best out of veteran Nick Foles, who replaced Wentz after a season-ending injury. Foles went on to enjoy a miraculous Super Bowl run.

DeFilippo certainly has his work cut out for him with Trubisky. The former second-overall pick has looked like an average starter (at best) through 41 regular-season starts and regressed mightily in 2019. Blame for his regression has been shared among the offensive line and play-calling, but he deserves much of the criticism too. His mechanics were sloppy, his accuracy was lacking and he just didn't play with the kind of downfield killer instinct Nagy wants from his starter.

Nagy's end-of-year comments about Trubisky needing to learn how to identify coverages didn't create much confidence in his near-term trajectory, either.

But that's why DeFilippo is in town. And if Cousins' comments prove to be true, then we may be on the precipice of a breakout season from Trubisky.

Or maybe DeFilippo will be the tie-breaking voice that allows the Bears to move on if Trubisky's struggles continue.