John Fox is gearing up for what is viewed as a critical year for him, general manager Ryan Pace, and the franchise as a whole.
Fox is preparing for his third season with the Bears, having won nine games in two seasons. The 2016 season bucked the trend Fox’s teams had shown in prior second years, as a 3-13 tailspin led to an overhaul that features a handful of new assistant coaches, fresh faces in the secondary, and a new quarterback.
Despite the trials and tribulations that have fans in a foul mood after losing 10+ games in each of Fox’s first two seasons, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports ranks Fox as one of the best coaches in football. Prisco recently released his list, which has Fox at 14th in the head coach power rankings.
Here is what Prisco had to say about Fox:
“In his 15 seasons with Carolina, Denver and Chicago, he has been to two Super Bowls, losing both, and has five seasons of double-digit victories. He has had a rough go of it in Chicago the past two seasons, going 6-10 and 3-13, but he has had some injury issues. Even so, his belief that running the football wins games is out of date. Failing to change with the times on offense has held his teams back. His .533 winning percentage isn’t that impressive, but he was 38-10 in his final three seasons in Denver. If only they had won a Super Bowl.”
This is fitting and damning all at the same time. In short, the analysis of Fox’s coaching ability and ranking on this list is a microcosm of Bears football. Good enough to be respectable enough to land in the middle of the pack, while simultaneously leaving much to be desired – specifically on the offensive side of the ball.
Fox’s second season was injury riddled, but the criticisms of his team’s offensive game planning are as valid as ever. However, we did see the Dallas Cowboys run their way to the NFC’s top seed last year behind rookie star Ezekiel Elliott. But even then, Dallas’ passing attack evolved with fellow rookie Dak Prescott, wide receiver Dez Bryant, and tight end Jason Witten. Unfortunately for Fox, the Bears haven’t invested in the kind of weapons on the outside that would allow his offense to grow into something more than a ground-and-pound game.
Since arriving in Chicago, he has seen Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery walk in free agency, while also losing Pro Bowl pass catchers in tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receiver Brandon Marshall in trades. If the Bears are to evolve to the point where Fox’s offenses come to the 21st century, they need to continue to add talent at offensive skill positions.
And yet, Fox isn’t the lowest-rated head coach in the NFC North. That dubious distinction belongs to Jim Caldwell of the Detroit Lions, who ranks 21st despite leading the team to playoff berths in two of his first three seasons with the team. Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers ranks as the second best coach in all of football behind only Bill Belichick, while Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings Fox ranks 13th overall – one spot ahead of Fox.