GREEN BAY – John Fox will try to do in his first try what his two predecessors weren’t able to do in any of the Bears’ past five tries, which is to say beat the Green Bay Packers in Chicago.
The league’s most time-honored rivalry kicks off the 2015 season on Sunday at Soldier Field, with a new coach trying to make the Bears an NFC North title contender, and the Packers trying to score win No. 1 in their quest to win a fifth consecutive North title.
Once upon a time it was Lombardi vs. Halas, Hornung vs. Butkus, Nitschke vs. Sayers, and Ditka vs. Robinson. Now, it’s two coaches that passed in the night a long time ago as young college assistants on the rise, and two quarterbacks whose careers have been punctuated by this rivalry.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has experienced little in the way of good times when the Packers and Bears have played. He hasn’t scored a win over the Packers in Chicago since early in the 2010 season, when the Bears would win the NFC North title but lose at home to the Packers in the NFC title game. It’s an understatement to say Cutler has struggled against the Packers.
“I’m not really getting into that. All of that stuff is in the past,” Cutler told Packers media during a conference call on Wednesday.
Cutler’s voice resonated with hope. It’s built on Fox, who took teams in Carolina and Denver to the Super Bowl in his previous two head coaching stops.
How do you turn a team around?
“Changing the culture, changing how you do things, getting that entrenched. It’s about getting the best talent you can find and motivating them to be the best they can be every day,” Fox said.
“The first time he walked through the doors, he talked to the team and you could just sense that with him,” Cutler said. “There was a different energy about him. He’s got a winning philosophy. He’s done it in the past. Guys bought into him immediately and we try to improve upon that every day.”
An upset win over the Packers would help Fox sell his program to his players and the team’s fans.
“How fast that occurs is based on the people you have. Getting the right people, checking your egos at the door, working at it,” Fox said.
The coaches aren’t the only new faces in Chicago. Twenty-one players are new, but it’s a trio of familiar names on whom the Bears hang their hope on offense: Cutler, running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett.
“I’ve got four practice games to evaluate, and he hasn’t turned it over in those,” Fox said of Cutler. “Up to now, we’ve been pretty good. Now the real test comes.”
“At this point in my career, we can’t change anything that’s happened in the past six years,” Cutler said. “There’s a real good energy here and we just have to buy in as a team and try to get better.”
The Bears defense is in the hands of coordinator Vic Fangio, who the Packers know all too well from Fangio’s days with the 49ers in recent years.
“He’s got skins on the wall. He’s been in the league a long time,” Fox, a defensive-minded coach, said of Fangio.
“They’ve had great success as of late. I think they’ve beaten us five straight here,” Fox said of the Packers vs. the Bears. “It’s a real challenge and one we’re looking forward to.”
Photos: Snapshots in time: Packers-Bears
Watch: Bears HC John Fox conference call
Watch: Bears QB Jay Cutler conference call
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