John Fox ideal candidate for Bears coaching job

John Fox’s credentials are pretty interesting.

His teams have made the playoffs in seven of his 13 seasons as head coach — a stretch in which the Bears have made the postseason three years and have three wins to show for it.

He took the 2003 Panthers to the Super Bowl with a 28-year-old Jake Delhomme posting an 80.6 quarterback rating and a 3.6 interception percentage in his first year as a starter.

Eight years and approximately 1,500 miles later, Fox was coaching the Broncos to a playoff win against the Steelers with Tim Tebow — and his 46.5 completion percentage.

Let’s point out the elephant in the room. John Fox was 39-10 with Peyton Manning and 81-79 without him.

All things considered, Fox is still the best known coaching candidate.

For the sake of fairness, the following is an analysis of Fox’s pre-Manning head coaching career.

Offensively, Fox seems committed to the run. His teams rank in the top third in rushing attempts (10.5 of 32 teams on average) and top half in rushing yards (average rank: 13.7) and in the middle in yards per attempt (16.2).

Bears fans love the idea of running the ball. After watching Matt Forte go underused the last two years while Jay Cutler posted a 4.1 turnover rate last season, I can’t say I blame them. In fact, Forte would provide an upgrade to what Fox had to work with in Carolina, where his leading rushers were Lamar Smith, Stephen Davis, DeShaun Foster (3 years), Nick Goings, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

Of that group, only Davis (2003), Williams (2008-09) and Stewart (2009) produced 1,000-yard seasons. Fitting enough, in those three seasons, the Panthers ranked third, sixth and seventh in rushing attempts; seventh, third and third in total rushing yards and 17th, second and third in yards per attempt.

Davis averaged 22.7 attempts per game in 2003. Williams averaged 18.8 rush attempts in his 1,000-yard seasons in 2008 and 2009. In shared duties in 2009, Stewart averaged 13.8 carries. Furthermore, Williams and Stewart averaged 30.4 rush attempts per game and 5.1 yards per carry in 2009.

If John Fox were to take over as Bears head coach, I suppose it would be up to new GM Ryan Pace to maybe find a tag-team partner for Forte to work with moving forward.

Fox made a name for himself as the Giants defensive coordinator from 1997-2001 with prior experience as a defensive backs coach from 1989-1993 with the Steelers and Chargers. He was also a defensive coordinator with the Raiders in 1994 and 1995.

Defensively, the non-Manning teams Fox was the head coach on had five top-10 finishes in points allowed, four top-10 finishes in takeaways and four top-10 finishes in total yards allowed. On average, his team defenses ranked in the top half of points (average rank: 12.9), takeaways (average rank: 12.6) and yards allowed (average rank: 13).

In short, if you want the Bears to re-commit to running the ball and finding a newfound emphasis on defense, John Fox’s credentials are the best of the known candidates.

A Wasted Season Will Only Lead To Murkier Future For Bears

You think you’re mad now, Bears fans? Just wait until season’s end and you realize that a season slightly better than mediocrity would have been good enough to make the playoffs.

The NFC is a steaming heap of mediocrity, save for the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and — the newest inclusion — Detroit Lions. Being a tad bit better than bad probably gets your team into the NFL playoffs. And when you’re in the playoffs, anything is possible. Even though not everything is probable.

Then again, do Bears fans really want to see their team get pantsed on national television again?

Didn’t think so.

The Bears are already circling the wagons.

At 2-3 with numerous “haters” coming out of the woodwork, the Bears will have you think they have ’em right where they want ’em.

And why not?

Last year, they played the Us vs. Them card all the way to the NFC Championship game. In the coming days and weeks, they’ll play it again. And again. And again.

Unfortunately, I don’t see things playing out the way they did last year.

The Bears defense looks dead, despite the best efforts of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Peanut Tillman and Julius Peppers. The offensive line plays dead. And if that keeps up, Jay Cutler will probably be dead by season’s end.

Oh. And it gets worse.

Pay Forte? That train will start losing steam soon enough. And not because Forte hasn’t been productive. In fact, Forte has been the most productive offensive asset, accounting for nearly half of the Bears’ total offensive yards from scrimmage.

At this rate, Forte is going to get his highest number of touches since his rookie season, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he won’t surpass that. And while it might add up to the kind of career year that generally results in a big pay day, this year is shaping up to be the kind of season that results in the beginning of a downward slope for a guy who takes a lot of hits who plays a position with a short shelf life.

The Bears are in a sticky wicket.

They’ll eventually pay Forte because of what he means to the offense. Unfortunately, it might come only after a season in which the team runs him into the ground, burns him out and wastes a productive year out of its most consistent player as the team hovers around mediocrity.

Remember how ineffective a battered Forte was in his second season? He saw significant dips in yards from scrimmage, yards per carry, touches and touchdowns scored.

The Bears might get that next year and in the following years when a battered Forte returns, a fraction of what he once was a year before after four years of poundings. That’s when fans will wonder why he got paid in the first place.

A poorly assembled offensive line, aging defense and its most productive offensive player heading toward decline sooner rather than later — and you think Jay Cutler wants to be a part of that much longer than he already has to?

Didn’t think so.

I told you the future was a bit scary.

Chicago Bears overcome themselves, Carolina Panthers in victory

After watching Matt Forte carry a bulk of the load Sunday, Marion Barber plowed into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown, putting the game on ice for the Chicago Bears.

Barber then celebrated with an ill-advise — and poorly executed — backflip.

Welcome to the new era of Chicago Bears football where you watch someone else do the heavy lifting, then celebrate like you just clocked out after a grueling 9-to-5 day.

It’s almost reminiscent of the old era of Bears football, isn’t it?

The only difference is the Bears were only responsible for so much of the dirty work.

Devin Hester channeling his inner Aramis Ramirez by breaking out of a three-week slump by reminding the world that he’s always a home run threat. Then, there was D.J. Moore doing his best Mike Brown imitation with a touchdown off a tipped pass.

As for the rest, well, that was left for the Carolina Panthers.

Jeremy Shockey had a tide-turning touchdown grab taken away on a ticky-tack penalty. Olindo Mare left one field goal short and had another blocked. And as a team, the Panthers converted on only two of their 12 attempts on third down.

All in all, Carolina left 12 points (13, if you assume the PAT splits the uprights) on the field in a five-point Chicago win, proving the only thing worse than the Bears game plan was their Sunday opponent.

Even then, all signs point to the Panthers outplaying the Bears.

After the game, head coach Lovie Smith said: “We’re not apologizing at all for this win. We feel really good about it.”

How?

Carolina’s offense gained more than 500 yards of total offense, as its game plan of “Throw it to Steve Smith” from the 2005 playoffs still worked like a charm, six years later.

The Bears pass rush was hushed. In the secondary, even Brandon Merriwhether was launching himself like an uncontrolled missile, the unit was still getting torched. Jay Cutler played nothing like the franchise quarterback he was brought to Chicago to be, as for the third consecutive week, Cutler was outplayed by his counterpart.

Chicago made Cam Newton look like a Franchise QB, if only because for the third time in four weeks, the Panthers dug themselves a hole only a strong-arm and strong-willed signal caller could dig out of.

Meanwhile, there is no denying the productivity of the Bears rushing game, which had been non-existent in the three previous games. And while 31 attempts, 224 yards and a 7.2 YPC clip is nothing to scoff at, had the Bears not been able to put up those numbers against the 25th worst run defense in the NFL, they might as well have begun planning their own “Suck For Luck” campaign.

And wouldn’t that be quite the awkward situation for Team Cutler?

Four weeks into the 2011 season, we still don’t know who the Bears are or what they are going to be. They don’t seem to be as good as the team that dominated the Atlanta Falcons for three quarters in the season opener. And Chicago can’t be as look as bad as the unit that was throttled by the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome in Week 2.

Through the first quarter of the season, the Bears are the epitome of mediocre. They’ve put together just enough scoring drives, sustained just enough blocks from a patchwork offensive line and made just enough tackles to survive a relatively rough opening stretch of the season to have just enough confidence to think they’re good enough for an outside shot at the playoffs.

See a pattern?

The Bears are still a work in progress with square pegs trying to fit in round holes. They’re an aging defense and an inconsistent offense with just enough talent to avoid a disastrous season.

But, hey, at least they didn’t lose this week.

Roy Williams: Cut Him Or Keep Him?

Much like your favorite one-hit wonder, Roy Williams continues to make money off one grand performance.

The way many of us enjoyed the Baha Men smash “Who Let The Dogs Out” until it became a hindrance to the rest of the music on our respective radios is the same way I’m looking at the Chicago Bears’ newest addition at wide receiver.

Williams’ act is getting old, fast. And that’s not good, considering he has been on the job for a month.

The lack of accountability and self-awareness is tiresome and a tad bit annoying, which is how I felt after hearing “The Macarena” for the 1,328,745th time.

Throughout the preseason, Williams’ drops have been reported as plentiful and his catches as sparse. If I had a dollar for every tweet from a beat reporter or fan who attended training camp in Bourbonnais that detailed a time where Williams dropped a catchable ball or short-armed a Jay Cutler pass, I’d be posting this from a gold-plated iPad on a boat somewhere tropical.

Instead, I’m trying to figure out a guy who had one productive season (82 catches, 1,310 yards, seven touchdowns) followed by three years of decline is still making paper off something that happened five years ago.

If Roy Williams didn’t have the pedigree of being a former top-10 draft pick from a prominent college powerhouse that churns out NFL talent year-in, year-out like clockwork, he would likely be searching for employment with another team.

Williams isn’t concerned about his poor performance, despite the fact the only thing he has caught since putting on a Bears uniform is a case of the dropsies.

Neither is offensive coordinator Mike Martz, a delusional man who still believes calling an end around for a possession receiver on 3rd-and-1 in the NFC Championship game would have resulted in a big gain had it been executed properly.

Martz talks about Williams like it was 2006, when the tandem turned Jon Kitna into a household name and a fantasy football hero.

The only thing worse than Williams not being in 2006 form is that Williams is as good as it gets for this organization.

Chicago has not had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2003.

In that eight-year span, the Bears have started 10 different quarterbacks start games and had six different quarterbacks lead the team in passing yards.

While continuity under center has not been a strong suit of the Monsters of the Midway, neither has player development at the receiver position.

Juaquin Iglesias, Mark Bradley, Bernard Berrian, Dez White and David Terrell are among the busts drafted by the Bears at wide receiver. Toss in the likes of Muhsin Muhammad, Ricky Proehl, Dwyane Bates and Marcus Robinson and you get a cavalcade of mediocrity.

Johnny Knox has the best chance of becoming the team’s most productive wideout since Marty Booker, but his flaws were on display for the nation to see during the NFC title game as he cut off routes and short-armed passes. Needless to say, the jury is still out on the third-year upstart from Abilene Christian.

At this point, the Bears might be better off cutting ties with Williams.

But because his talent level is superior to any receiver on this, or any previous Bears roster, he will likely be starting opposite of Devin Hester when the season kicks off Sept. 11.