5 Things To Know About John Fox To The Chicago Bears

John Fox

John Fox wasn’t an unemployed man for long.

The former Denver Broncos head coach is now on the verge of landing with the Chicago Bears, who wiped the front office clean this offseason after a disappointing 5-11 campaign and a finish at the bottom of the NFC North.

Fox, who parted ways with Denver just hours after the team fell short against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts last weekend in the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs, instantly became the favorite for Chicago’s vacancy.

Here are five things to know about Fox to the Bears:

A proven winner

Fox was let go after an apparent disagreement with Broncos general manager and executive vice president of football operations John Elway. The defensive-minded Fox reportedly did not see eye to eye with Elway about the team’s finish, which included a drop-off in the Broncos’ passing game.

Still, there’s no denying what Fox has done as an NFL head coach, which includes stops in Carolina and Denver. Fox helped the Jake Delhomme-quarterbacked Panthers reach the Super Bowl and nabbed four AFC West titles in as many seasons with Denver.

Of his dozen years as a head coach, eight have resulted in .500 finishes or better. He’s led both Carolina and Denver to Super Bowl appearances and boasts a 208-119 career record and a .572 win percentage.

Change in philosophies

Gone is Bears general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman, and in steps Ryan Pace and Fox. Pace, the team’s new general manager, hails from New Orleans. In his introductory press conference, he spoke of the importance of the relationship between GM and coach, as well as coach and quarterback.

Unlike Trestman, Fox is a more strong-minded coach, not to mention one that specializes in the defensive side of the ball. That should be a much-welcomed sight for Bears fans, who over the years grew accustomed to the Monsters of Midway and more recently the Brian Urlacher era. Last year, though, the Bears ranked 28th in defense DVOA. In contrast, Fox’s Broncos finished fourth in that category.

So why is Fox a perfect fit for the defense-starved Bears? Prior to Fox’s arrival in Denver in 2010, the defense allowed 29.4 points per game, last in the NFL. In addition, they surrendered 390.8 yards per game, another league-worst mark. By Fox’s second year at the helm, the Broncos’ defense ascended to a top-five unit.

What’s next for Cutler?

Fox has had the luxury of Peyton Manning the last few years, but the sheriff isn’t rolling into the Windy City. Instead, Jay Cutler seems to be the immovable quarterback that Fox must find a way to deal with. To Fox’s credit, he’s done more with players such as Delhomme than others might have, and that’s a credit to his style of football.

A lot will be contingent on who Fox selects to be his offensive coordinator, but expect him to find a coach that aims to grind it out with a tough running style. Prior to having Manning as his quarterback, Fox instituted the 1-2 punch of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina, and prior to that the days of Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster.

With Matt Forte at his disposal, expect Cutler to become a handoff machine. That way, the much-maligned quarterback can cut down on turnovers simply by lowering his attempts per game.

Defensive pieces in place

Which players may wind up becoming superstars on the defensive side of the ball? Well, you’d expect Pace to draft defense with the Bears’ first-round pick, but there are some players that may become stalwarts as the unit gets a makeover for 2015.

Last year’s first-round selection Kyle Fuller led the league in the interceptions in the early portion of the season before injuries slowed down his torrid pace. Charles Tillman was injured early on and Tim Jennings had his struggles, leading Fuller to take on a bigger role than anticipated his rookie season. Stephen Paea could be on the rise. The fourth-year nose tackle might have been the Bears’ best defensive lineman in 2014. Rigid defensive lines have been a trademark of John Fox defenses, and a force in the middle of the unit is a must.

Bears in the playoff hunt … in 2015?

As alluded to earlier, Fox has not only turned defenses around in the span of a year but has teams competing sooner rather than later. Fox inherited the 2001 Panthers, a team that went 1-15 the season before he arrived. In 2002, Fox led the team to seven winners and the Super Bowl just a year after that. Even then, only an Adam Vinatieri field goal separated the team from coming out with a different result.

The 2010 Broncos were 4-12 under Josh McDaniels. And remember, Fox inherited Tim Tebow — not Manning — as his signal-caller. In 2011 the Broncos were 8-8 and upset the Steelers in the playoffs. By his third year, the Broncos went to the Super Bowl only to fall short against Seattle. His fourth, an AFC Divisional round appearance.

Not too shabby. Let’s see what Fox can do to fix the Bears’ defense and perhaps find a remedy to a talent-laden Bears offense.

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Sam Spiegelman
Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.