That “close, but no cigar” feeling was an unfortunate constant during the John Fox era in Chicago.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the former Bears head coach feels as if his team was oh-so-close to turning the corner at the end of his regime.
“I do think it’s closer than people think,” Fox told John Mullin of NBC Sports Chicago in his first expanded public comments since being fired on New Year’s Day. “We inherited a mess… but I felt we were on the brink at the end.”
Fox might be onto something. Of the 34 losses the Bears suffered in the last three years, 19 have been by eight points or less – meaning the Bears were within a touchdown and two-point conversion of their opponents. Unlike the Marc Trestman era, Fox’s teams were consistently competitive and always battling in tight games. The Bears were constantly close, even in games where they were under-manned or simply had lesser talent than their opponents. But credit Fox for keeping the team in a bunch of games it otherwise had no business being in.
Another way Fox was successful as head coach was changing the culture, something several players made mention of during the regular season. Creating culture change during three straight double-digit loss seasons was no easy task, but Bears insiders inform Mullin that Fox eliminated the bad vibes lingering around Halas Hall left behind from the failed Phil Emery era.
“I think that [Halas Hall] building is entirely different; they feel it,” Fox explained. “I do think that it was a positive.”
Fox inherited a mess when he arrived in Chicago. He said it himself. The locker room was left in disarray by a head coach whose players knew he had no control of the situation. Fox probably never saw himself as the kind of coach who would be the bridge guy, but that’s exactly what he became in his three-year stint. Matt Nagy now inherits a much healthier organization, one with a developing potential franchise quarterback and salary cap flexibility that could grow exponentially before the new league year officially begins. So even though Fox won’t be around to see through the rebuild after the tear-down, he can take to heart that he left the Bears in a better place than where he found them.