PHOENIX—John Fox is a veteran coach who’s made 17 moves throughout his career, coached the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, and is now being counted on to turn the Chicago Bears into playoff contenders.
“I’ve been blessed to be in the tournament several times, but I haven’t won one yet. I’m in it for the love of the game. If they run me out of here, I’ll run out of here,” Fox said at Wednesday morning’s NFC coaches breakfast.
Fox entertained a crowded table of reporters by graciously answering every question posed to him.
What do you think of your rival, the Packers?
“I’ve known Mike McCarthy for a long time. They’ve done a tremendous job. They’re where they are and we have to catch up quick,” Fox said.
How quickly the Bears are able to catch up to the Packers will likely determine how Fox will be judged in his most recent career move.
Two major issues confront him: Fix the defense and improve the play at quarterback.
“I’d say he’d be first on the depth chart,” Fox said of Jay Cutler, who’s struggled in his career to make success match his considerable talent for throwing a football.
Cutler’s future with the Bears is the No. 1 concern among Bears fans and media. Is he the team’s future at the position? It’s a question to which Fox remains noncommittal.
“I’m going to watch him on the field, look at all the practice tape. We’ll evaluate that at every position,” Fox said when asked directly about Cutler’s future.
Reading between the lines isn’t difficult. For Cutler to remain the Bears’ quarterback, he must improve his play.
How long will it take to show improvement on defense?
“Great question. I got it from our board of directors,” Fox joked. “I think it’ll be sooner than later.”
It is on defense, which is Fox’s specialty, the Bears are likely to train their immediate focus. They just signed free-agent defensive end Ray McDonald, and Fox talked about doing more work in free agency before the focus turns to the draft, where the Bears have the No. 7 overall pick.
“We’re piecing it together. There’s still a lot of work to be done in free agency. There are still a lot of good players that are signable,” Fox said.
The Bears compete in a division that boasts offensive stars, led by MVP Aaron Rodgers. You can’t beat the Packers if you can’t play defense.
“They haven’t had success. That’s why you’re there. It tends to be a little overnegative. Sometimes when you come in, there’s new light,” Fox said.
Fox is the new light in Chicago, just as he was the new light in Carolina and Denver. He’s a guy who turns losing into winning. That’s his reputation and the Bears are depending on it.
“It’s all an open competition. You have to start somewhere. We have to start with some kind of lineup,” Fox said.
The reconstruction of the Chicago Bears would seem to have begun.