Sometimes, you just get lucky
Sometimes, you just get lucky. A week ago, if anyone would have said that John Fox was going to be the Chicago Bears Head Coach in six days, you'd have had that person carted off to the nearest asylum. Last Saturday, John Fox was busy preparing his team to play the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs. They had won the AFC West with a 12-4 record including a 6-0 record in the division. In each of the four seasons Fox was Head Coach in Denver, they won the AFC West, and following the 2013 season, they won the AFC Championship. In the last three seasons, the Broncos are a combined 17-1 in their division. During that same period, their conference record is 29-7.
This past Monday afternoon, following Denver’s 24-13 home loss to Indianapolis, Fox stepped down from his position as Head Coach in what was described as a mutual but amicable parting. Fox Sports Jay Glazer, who is very close to Fox, says this was weeks in the making as Fox and General Manager John Elway had philosophical differences.
John Elway may be a Hall of Fame quarterback, but he is still a neophyte as far as being an NFL executive. He has only been in an NFL front office for four years, and his inability to get along with Fox may turn into the biggest mistake of his young career.
Fox is the Chicago Bears 15th Head Coach, and he has, by far, the best resume of his 14 predecessors. John Fox has been an NFL Head Coach for 13 seasons for two different clubs and has shown the ability to turn both of those clubs around quickly. In 2002, Fox took over the Carolina Panthers following a horrid 1-15 record in 2001. Within two years, he won the NFC Championship and had the Panthers in a Super Bowl. Fox became Head Coach in Denver in 2011. The previous season the Broncos went 4-11. In Fox's first season in Denver, they won the AFC West and a playoff game, and as I stated earlier, they won the AFC West in each of his four seasons as Head Coach.
Fox has shown the ability to win without an elite quarterback. At Carolina, he won the NFC Championship with Jake Delhomme as his quarterback. In his first season in Denver Tim Tebow was leading the Broncos. That’s the beauty of John Fox. He can win with the talent available.
Getting John Fox to Chicago was not an easy task, and I’m sure two people played key roles. The first was consultant and former New York Giants General Manager, Ernie Accorsi. Accorsi had been hired by the Bears as a consultant to assist in the hiring of a new General Manager and Head Coach. His first recommendation was New Orleans Director of Player Personnel Ryan Pace as the new General Manager.
When Fox became available last Monday, I’m sure Accorsi told Pace that Fox was a guy he needed to interview. Fox worked for Accorsi in New York for five seasons as the Giants defensive coordinator from 1997 through the 2001 season. Having been with the Giants for much of that time, I know, firsthand, Accorsi’s fondness for Fox. Following Fox's third season as defensive coordinator in New York, Accorsi said to me “John Fox will someday be an excellent Head Coach.”
The other person that I’m sure had a role in this was New Orleans Head Coach Sean Payton. Fox and Payton were on that same New York Giants staff and are very close. Payton is also very fond of Ryan Pace. There is no doubt that Payton had conversations with both Fox and Pace trying to get these two together and assuring both they could have a winning relationship.
The hiring of Fox is a home run for the Bears. After the disastrous two seasons with Marc Trestman, Fox brings instant credibility to the Bears' locker room. The players will know right away who the boss is and his leadership will show right from the beginning.
This is also a huge win for Pace. Being the youngest general manager in the NFL at 37, he has been able to hire a head coach with a proven track record. Right off the bat, it makes his job a lot easier. Knowing how quickly Fox has been able to turn franchises around, the Green Bay Packers just may want to get a little nervous.
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