Unfortunately for Bears head coach John Fox, things haven’t gone too well since arriving in town. His team has suffered back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in Fox’s career as a head coach, and that means that there are more questions than answers regarding his future with the Bears beyond this season.
With that in mind, Adam Patrick of The Comeback lists the six NFL head coaches who will have the hottest of seats entering the 2017 season, and John Fox made the (undesirable) cut. But before we dig in too deep on Fox, and what Patrick had to say of his upcoming season with the Bears, let’s take a look at the rest of the list, because Fox is certainly not alone.
In fact, he’s joined by some coaches – Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals) and Chuck Pagano (Indianpolis Colts) – whose buns have been toasty before; as well as some newer additions – John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens) and Jay Gruden (Washington Redskins) – who could start to feel the heat this season, as well.
But, as far as this particular list is concerned, there’s one other (non-Fox) name for Bears fans to keep an eye on, and that’s New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Seeing Payton’s name on the list comes as a bit of a surprise, considering that he is a Super Bowl-winning head coach who transformed the Saints into an offensive juggernaut. But the Saints have finished each of the last three years with identical 7-9 records and have made just one postseason appearance since 2012. If the Saints missed the postseason again in 2017 and management parted ways with Payton, you can bet the rumor mill would start spinning in Chicago.
Payton has local ties having played college football at Eastern Illinois and was a member of the strike-breaking “Spare Bears” who suited up for the 1987 Chicago Bears as a replacement player during a work stoppage. He also has a reputation for offensive innovation and quarterback development – which actually goes beyond the time Payton has spent with Drew Brees. And he already has a familiarity with Bears GM Ryan Pace, having worked in the Saints organization. But let’s slow this train way down and refocus on Fox, because he’s still here and Payton is still there.
As you may know, Fox has been considered something of a turnaround artist in prior stops with the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. For both teams, he managed to make the playoffs within two years of arriving as a head coach. Of course, as definitely know, he’s had no such luck in Chicago, as he enters his third season at the helm. So … is he on his way out, then?
Well, not so fast, says Chris Boden of CSN Chicago.
In fact, Boden seems to think that Bears’ staff might stick around for another year – thanks in part to the drafting of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky. As Boden sees it, unless Pace loses confidence in the offensive staff (namely, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone) and its ability to develop Trubisky at a satisfactory pace, pressing the reset button again might be a hard sell.
While this angle is understandable and provides perspective to the situation, a recent trend could suggest Fox and his staff might not be that safe. Both Ken Whisenhunt (with the Tennessee Titans) and Lovie Smith (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) are recent examples of head coaches who were fired shortly after their respective teams drafted first-round quarterbacks. And, for what it’s worth, both Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston took positive steps in their development in the first season with their new coaches.
So with very little certainty going forward, 2017 sure feels like an especially important season for Fox as far as development and results are concerned. If the Bears have better luck on the health front and show some tangible improvement led by players considered to be building blocks, Fox could earn some short-term job security.
But if the Bears continue to be a snake-bitten team that also doesn’t get the kind of development from its core pieces for which everyone is looking, things could get interesting over at Halas Hall.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.