CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey and team president Ted Phillips took a critical look at the club’s disastrous 2014 season and reached the conclusion that keeping "the status quo was not an option."
The hiring of soon-to-be 60-year old John Fox represents a genuine break from the status quo.
Fox arrives in Chicago with a wealth of head coaching experience after spending nine seasons in Carolina (2002-10) and four in Denver (2011-14), reaching the playoffs a combined seven times, and finishing as the runner-up in two Super Bowls.
This breaks the franchise’s tradition of hiring first-time head coaches.
Though new general manager Ryan Pace had what several sources described as a "tight" relationship with former Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone, whom the Bears interviewed on Tuesday along with Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Fox became a no-brainer the moment he "mutually parted company" with John Elway and the Broncos.
The Bears, coming off a 5-11 train wreck, could ill afford to pass on Fox, especially after the Bruce Arians debacle from two years ago, when former general manager Phil Emery bypassed Arians (21-11 in Arizona) in favor of Marc Trestman (13-19).
Can you imagine Pace choosing Marrone over Fox, and two or three years later firing Marrone after he failed to pan out in Chicago?
It would be disastrous for the organization.
Even if Fox falls short of turning the Bears into a perennial playoff participant, at least the young GM would be able to mount an honest defense: He hired the best man available at the time.
However, strong evidence suggests Fox can change the Bears’ culture.
Fox comes from a defensive background, serving as the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Raiders and New York Giants before landing his first head coaching gig in Carolina, where he went 78-74 overall (three playoff berths, one NFC championship).
Fox’s four-year stint in Denver produced 49 total wins, four consecutive division titles and a Super Bowl appearance last season.
For comparison's sake -- Marrone went 15-17 in Buffalo.
One former Fox player predicted: "[Coach Fox] will bring stability to the Bears. Coach Fox is definitely a players’ coach, but he also preaches discipline, and he’ll lay down the law if he has to. He will immediately improve the defense, while also putting a higher priority on running the football. Honestly, he is a great fit for the Bears. Chicago is lucky he left Denver."
What about Jay Cutler? Can Fox co-exist with Cutler if the quarterback remains on the Bears’ 2015 roster?
"I don’t know what the plans are with Jay, but if he stays, Coach Fox won’t have a problem with him," the player said. "Jay will respect John. How can he not? Coach Fox is a tough guy. He won’t tolerate anything less from Jay."
Respect, authority, stability and credibility -- four words rarely uttered at Halas Hall since Lovie Smith left town.
Even close to 60 years old, Fox provides a breath of fresh air the Bears badly craved.