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Across The Middle: The Argument for Firing Fox

| November 15th, 2017

Forget clock management. Forget the stupid challenges. Most of all, forget the play calling. John Fox gave fans — and team management — the only ammunition they’ll ever need to fire him last Sunday. In a big game they had plenty of time to prepare for, his team was sloppy. That doesn’t happen to a good coach.

With the loss, the Bears dropped to 0-3 after their bye week under Fox with a point differential of -36. In two out of the three, the Bears went into the bye week with momentum and hopes of turning the season into something but fell flat on their faces.

Of course, Denver fans know the pain all to well. They saw Fox’s team get embarrassed after a week off before the Super Bowl in 2013. They also saw his teams get beat after first-round byes in 2012 and 2014, his last game with the team. In all, Fox is 5-6 after byes since 2011 and they’ve been outscored by 28 points.

This was almost too predictable. As I wrote my coach power rankings last week, Fox’s Bears are sure to disappoint.

The most disappointing part is that the Bears couldn’t do the things they’re supposed to do well. By now, this is supposed to be a team that kicks ass in the trenches. This is supposed to be a team nobody wants to play and, even if they lose, the opponent is supposed to have gotten their asses kicked physically. But the opposite happened.

I don’t care about the play calling. The Bears should’ve been able to run the ball. They came into the game with the sixth-best rushing offense in the league. The Packers had one of the 10 worst rushing defenses. I don’t care that the Packers stacked the box. So did Baltimore. So did Pittsburgh. It didn’t matter. For good, tough running teams a stacked box is a hurdle they merely overcome. Jacksonville has faced a stacked box more than any team in the league and they still have the league’s best rushing attack.

The Bears weren’t the only conservative team in that game. With Brett Hundley at quarterback, the Packers have been among the more conservative teams in the league. And they were again on Sunday, running on 20 of their 27 first down plays. The Bears ran on 11 of 24. But Green Bay, a finesse team, was able to run the ball and the Bears weren’t.

This shouldn’t be happening. The Bears should control the line of scrimmage every game, especially against teams like Green Bay. But they couldn’t. That might be all you need to know about the Fox regime.

Accountability

Kyle Fuller didn’t just have a bad game on Sunday. His performance was an absolute catastrophe and should lead to Marcus Cooper starting opposite Prince Amukamara next week.

I’ve been as big of a Fuller support as anyone, even ranking him as the team’s best cornerback before the season when everyone else thought he sucked and was going to get cut. He’s played reasonably well for most of this season, but not as well as some will try to have you believe.

Fuller has been covering the other team’s second receiver nearly every week and, despite that, Pro Football Focus ranks him 87th among all cornerbacks in the league. I don’t put too much stock in PFF but the truth is probably somewhere in-between their ranking and the Pro Bowl ranking others have provided. He’s a solid player, nothing more, nothing less.

That said, he was so bad on Sunday I am having a hard time getting past it. Forget the long completion he allowed to Adams in a situation where he absolutely could not allow a long completion. He got lost on the touchdown! Flat out lost against a receiver who doesn’t lose cornerbacks. He also missed two tackles, which has been a huge problem, and dropped an interception.

This performance, of course, came after a week in which he had a costly offsides penalty that helped the Saints turn what should’ve been a field goal drive into a touchdown.

Fuller’s mistakes are all caused by a lack of discipline. Like much of the team, his head wasn’t in the game on Sunday and it cost them. Unlike most of the rest of the team, he’s probably not in the future plans regardless and they have a more than capable replacement for him.

Call it making an example out of him if you want. The truth is the players need to start being held accountable.

Challenging Decision

I get why Fox is a punching bag for his decision to challenge the Benny Cunningham touchback, but more people should be directing their rage to the officials who once again thought the Bears shouldn’t get points.

There were two dubious calls, one of which Fox said factored into his challenge as the referees ruled Cunningham to be down at the three-yard line, not inside the one as many believed. After the game, Fox said he thought the worst case scenario was that the ball was moved up a couple of yards. And he should’ve been right.

The call never should’ve been overturned. The replay seemed conclusive that Cunningham was out of bounds. Don’t just take my word for it, listen to the guy who manned the NFL’s replay booth for several years:

I’ve heard former NFL officiating czar Mike Pereira talk on several occasions about what has become an epidemic. NFL officials are no longer using the “conclusive evidence” rule to overturn calls. They’re overturning them just for the sake of overturning them.

I still don’t agree with his decision to throw the red flag, but this is a challenge that Fox still should’ve won. The ball should’ve been moved two yards closer. Instead, the officials took it away completely for no apparent reason.

Bring On The Lions

The Bears will get another good look at two coaches many have pegged as potential replacements for Fox.

Jim Bob Cooter has en embarrassing history to overcome before he is named the head coach of any team, but his Lions are 6th in scoring and 15th in yardage. JBC has made Matt Stafford into more of a game-manager with short passes before allowing him to unleash a few deep balls. It’s almost identical to how Adam Gase coached Jay Cutler.

But JBC’s Lions can’t run the ball. Blame their backfield, blame their line, blame whoever, but it just doesn’t seem like he has much of an idea of how to get that done.

The other coach is Teryl Austin and he is having kind of a weird season. The Lions are 21st in scoring defense and 22nd in yardage in what has to be considered a disappointing campaign for him. What’s weird is they’re 25th in passing yards, but third in interceptions with 11. They’ve also allowed the 7th-fewest passing touchdowns. Conversely, they’re 10th in rushing defense, but 31st in rushing touchdowns.

In other words, the Bears should be throwing the ball to get down the field, but then running it into the end zone. If only it were that easy.

I think the Bears are going to play well this week. I think their defense is embarrassed and they’re not going to let Stafford and Co. get going. I think their offensive line is going to be pissed off and they’re going to find a way to run the ball.

When we, collectively as a fan base, are at our lowest points with Fox, the Bears seem to come through and remind us what he does well. If that doesn’t happen this week and the Bears suffer yet another home divisional loss, I’m not sure Fox should get to coach another game.

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