The Chicago Bears announced the firing of John Fox on Monday morning at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Illinois. With Fox formally dismissed, the Bears are seeking a new head coach for the seventh time since Mike Ditka was terminated in 1992.
The 62-year-old Fox, who led the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2003 and the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl XLVIII in 2013, struggled mightily on the sidelines in the Windy City. Fox compiled a 14-34 record with the Bears and the team finished in the NFC North’s basement for three consecutive seasons under his tutelage. More troubling from an organizational standpoint, the storied franchise hasn’t appeared in the playoffs since 2010.
Fox is a defensive-minded coach who was almost universally beloved by his players. Moreover, general manager Ryan Pace underperformed and provided Fox with a dearth of talent to utilize on the gridiron. Fox is a solid coach who has shown in two separate cities that he can excel when surrounded by quality players. Yet, change was needed and the Bears must hire an offensive guru who can hone the skills of young signal-caller Mitch Trubisky. Pace, the recent recipient of a two-year contract extension, also needs to acquire more formidable linemen to protect Trubisky and explosive weapons for him to target downfield. While Pace’s ability to recruit cost-effective free agents and draft-advanced college prospects is key, the coach he hires will prove to be utterly critical to the Bears’ short-term and long-term fortunes.
Because Pace is unwilling to surrender any control of Chicago’s 53-man roster, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels won’t even consider relocating from Foxborough to the Land of Lincoln. The primary names for Pace to mull are Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. Of this trio of candidates, Pace should concentrate on obtaining the services of the 39-year-old DeFilippo. DeFilippo has essentially served as a quarterback coach throughout this entire millennium and his work with Eagles gunslinger Carson Wentz can’t be undervalued.
Philadelphia took the 25-year-old Wentz out of North Dakota State with the second pick in April 2016. Working closely with DeFilippo, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Wentz soared and was a leading contender for the MVP award before he sustained a torn ACL in December. Meanwhile, the Bears selected the 23-year-old Trubisky out of North Carolina with the second choice last April. It is extraordinarily difficult to evaluate the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Trubisky because he has started a mere 24 games since high school. Granted, Wentz may simply be a more dynamic force under center than Trubisky. Still, youthfulness and inexperience notwithstanding, DeFilippo could be the ideal mentor to help Trubisky reach his potential.
Pace invested heavily in Trubisky and that duo will largely determine the Bears’ bite in the coming years. To maximize the former Tar Heel’s capabilities in the pocket, Ryan Pace should gamble and entrust John DeFilippo to teach Mitch Trubisky.
BY COLIN LINNEWEBER