The Bears look like a professional football organization again. After countless missteps under the Emery-Trestman regime, it had to happen this way. The storied franchise needed to do the right thing with this coaching hire. And, much to the surprise of thousands of fans, Chicago Bears’ brass did just that.
New general manager Ryan Pace expects veteran football coach John Fox — with his freshly inked1 four-year deal — to restore order to a damaged Bears’ locker room. That’s job number one. No more media leaks, no more Brandon Marshall shenanigans, no more distractions. Next season isn’t about winning the Super Bowl, finishing first in the NFC North or even beating the Packers. It’s about bringing the team back to respectability. And most fans and critics agree John Fox is the right man for the job: an experienced, respected, well-connected leader. Consider the fact2 that Fox is the first Bears’ head coaching hire with prior head coaching experience since team founder George Halas returned to the sidelines in 1958. Time-after-time, Bears’ leaders brought in unproven, first-timers to do the job with a modicum of success. Ryan Pace is trying something new at Halas Hall; John Fox will try something tried-and-true.
Too many head coaches around the league chose to coordinate on game days, calling offensive or defensive plays from the sidelines. That choice minimizes one of the coordinators and adds more tasks to the head coach’s overly busy workload. Unless that head coach is in the exact right situation, it makes for risky business. Just look at the 2014 Chicago Bears. Despite Aaron Kromer’s title as offensive coordinator, Marc Trestman called most of the offensive plays in Chicago over the last two seasons. Trestman’s lack of focus on greater team needs — like earning the respect of his players and trust of his staff — made him a poorer, less-effective head coach. There’s no skirting around the fact that it is a lot of work to coordinate one side of the ball on game day. The amount of preparation time is daunting and the weight of the pressure is excruciating. Unless a coach’s team — the coaching staff and players — is strong-knit, there is an inherent risk in being a head coach and play caller. Trestman isn’t the only head coach who took on play calling duties in 2014. Among others, Bruce Arians, Jay Gruden, Chip Kelly, Mike McCarthy, Rex Ryan and Sean Payton accepted that extra layer of responsibility. Sometimes it works, many times it fails.
Consider this: three of the four coaches manning the sideline for the conference championships — Pete Carroll, Chuck Pagano, Bill Belicheck — don’t call plays. Some of the other most respected coaches in the league — Marvin Lewis, Tom Coughlin, Mike Tomlin, Jeff Fisher — delegate on game day, giving themselves the freedom to evaluate their whole team as well as their opponent as the game unfolds. The Bears’ new head coach will hand over play calling duties to his seasoned coordinators, whoever they might be. Fox understands the power of empowerment.
John Fox, the former Broncos and Panthers head coach, sets a tone of physicality and discipline. He isn’t stuck on scheme — Fox has overseen 4-3 and 3-4 defenses as well as myriad offenses in his past stops. He is, however, insistent on being physical no matter how his team lines up. The importance of discipline is one reason Fox allows his OC and DC to call their own plays. He is heavily involved with game planning throughout the week but he trusts his assistants to make decisions when the clock is ticking. It allows Fox to share his time and guidance with the entire team. And his players love him for it. “He’s a great coach. I really enjoyed him as a person, but also even more as a coach,” Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware told USA TODAY Sports3. “I would say he’s a guy of character, a guy who, at the end of the day, listens to his players. He gets it done. They have a great coach coming to them. He’s going to be missed here.” Broncos general manager John Elway disagreed with Ware enough to let Fox walk away. Denver’s loss is Chicago’s gain.
A good head coach is important to a football team, nearly as critical as a star quarterback. But the men who advise him during games, and lead meeting rooms throughout the week, make a difference too. Trust that John Fox knows how fill out a staff of talented coaches. Three of his former assistants — Jack Del Rio, Dennis Allen, Mike McCoy — are either current, or former, NFL head coaches. When you’re able to sit atop your own coaching tree, others in the business are naturally drawn your way. Whether he brings in Dennis Allen — former Raiders’ head coach — or someone else to lead the defense, know that a successful league veteran is on the way. Will Kyle Shanahan, Adam Gase or a different play caller wear the offensive headset next fall? We’re not sure yet but we expect the new Bears’ coach to find the right man and let him do his job. Quality coaches answer the phone when Fox calls them up. It’s a fact.
John Fox, and his coaching staff, won’t disappoint you. They’ll command the respect of the players and then coach them into a physical, smart football team. Fox knows what successful head coaches do — build, teach, lead, motivate, win. Higher standards bring greater expectations; Bears’ fans are once again excited about, and expectant of, their football team.
Niral Patel ~ SecCitySportsReport@gmail.com ~ @SecCitySports