Chicago Bears head coach John Fox is on the hot seat – maybe.
And his position there could influence how quarterback Mitch Trubisky gets used as a rookie – possibly.
But Fox isn’t alone on the hot seat. Over at ESPN, the contingent of NFC North writers was asked which coach in the division is on the hot seat, and unlike when the group was asked what should be done regarding Trubisky’s first season with the Bears, there wasn’t a totally unanimous answer.
Fox, despite being ranked as the 12th best coach in football in recent power rankings, is an obvious candidate for this discussion. He’s 9-23 with the Bears since taking over the mess left by Marc Trestman, and the 3-13 2016 season wasn’t exactly a step in the right direction. Further, the Bears’ youth movement was headlined by an April draft that didn’t result in any projected Week 1 starters. Add it all up and it sure seems like Fox, who is in the third year of a four-year contract, might not be around when the Bears are competitive again.
ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson is joined by Lions reporter Michael Rothstein in placing Fox on the hottest of hot seats. Dickerson adds there isn’t even a close second in the race, noting that the team simply “needs to show serious improvement” in order to save Fox’s gig – even if Chairman George McCaskey publicly preaches patience during the team’s rebuild. Rothstein writes that excuses are dwindling for Fox, who has had three offseasons to shape the team to his liking, and has two new quarterback options – neither of which is Jay Cutler.
Both NFC North experts expressed that the Bears didn’t need to make the playoffs to keep Fox with the team, but it’s very clear that development and improvement across the board is to be expected if Fox is to see Year 4 in Chicago.
But Fox isn’t the only NFC North head coach who could be feeling the burn this season. Jim Caldwell could find himself in troubled waters this season, though one could argue his backside is constantly on a hot seat. Caldwell was put on notice in 2015 when the Lions cleaned house in the front office and hired a new general manager, but Caldwell rewarded Bob Quinn’s patience with a 9-7 season and a playoff berth in 2016. However, Detroit wilted down the stretch with a three-game losing streak that ended with the team losing the season finale against Green Bay. Defeating the Packers in that prime-time contest would have netted the team its first division title since 1993 – when it was the NFC Central.
Then again, isn’t every coach not named Mike McCarthy on the hot seat? That’s the argument laid out by Vikings reporter Ben Goessling, who rates the Packers coach as the safest in the division. Every other coach in the division has a lot to gain with a successful season – and much to lose if things don’t go well.
The head coach-GM dynamic in Chicago is the off-field story line to keep tabs on this season, as Fox and Ryan Pace appear to be operating on different tracks at times. Fox is looking to avoid suffering through a losing season for the third straight year – something that has never happened in his career as a head coach. But based on how Pace drafted and approached free agency in 2017, the focus seems to be on the big picture.
Whether he is here for the short-term or the long haul, 2017 feels like it will be a deciding factor on Fox’s future in Chicago.