NFC North: Chicago Bears

Jay Rodgers joins Bears' staff

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26
9:35
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The Chicago Bears announced Sunday they reached agreement with Jay Rodgers to become the club’s defensive line coach.

Rodgers, who is the older brother of recently hired special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers, worked the last six seasons (2009-14) for the Denver Broncos, where he was defensive line coach (2012-14) and also spent time as a coaching assistant (2009) and defensive quality control coach (2011).

Denver’s defense finished the 2014 season ranked No. 2 against the run (79.8 yards per game), allowing the second-fewest runs for gains of 10 yards or more (29). The Broncos' defense also ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing average (3.66 yards per attempt) and tied for ninth in sacks (41).

Prior to working with the Broncos, Rodgers spent nine years coaching college football. A former quarterback at Indiana (1996-98) and Missouri State (1999), Rodgers started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Louisiana State working as an assistant on offense (2001) and defense (2002). Rodgers served as passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Dodge City Community College in 2003, and he’s also worked with quarterbacks at Missouri State (2004) and Stephen F. Austin (2005-06) prior to heading to Iowa State to work with receivers (2007-08).
ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. re-graded the 2014 drafts of all 32 teams, and Chicago’s new grade is worse than the B-minus originally handed out in the aftermath of the club’s draft.

Obviously, we all know it takes a few years to truly measure a draft class. But Kiper did put together some parameters in explaining the process. He wrote:
I look at first-year impact from the rookie class based on relative value -- contributing to a winner is worth more than piling up reps for a bad team. I included rookie undrafted free agents added after the draft. (That's part of the process, really. Like the rookie rankings, I try to ask whether players who contributed could do so for most teams. Again, relative value matters.

So Kiper’s draft grades aren’t necessarily based on performance as much as they are based on the total value added based on where he had originally ranked the players.

Fuller
Kiper liked what the Bears did in aggressively addressing the defensive side of the ball, but pointed out that the club suffered a bit of bad luck in being forced to throw some rookies into the fire, namely cornerback Kyle Fuller, who struggled partly due to experience, but mostly because of nagging injuries.

While defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton flashed at times as rookies, the former appears to possess more long-term upside than the latter. Ferguson and undrafted free agent pickup linebacker Christian Jones each finished 2014 tied for 14th among NFL rookies with two sacks apiece. Ferguson also broke up two passes and Jones notched both of his sacks in the last two games, as he showed growth throughout the season and appears to be set to take on a role at some point as a starter.

A third-round pick, Sutton (25 tackles, no sacks) appeared to be overmatched as a rookie, as did safety Brock Vereen, a fourth-round selection.

The verdict remains out on fourth-round running back Ka’Deem Carey because he didn’t get much action playing behind Matt Forte. Carey averaged 4.4 yards per attempt as a rookie, but didn’t play in the last two games. The expectation moving forward is for Carey to receive more playing time with the Bears moving to more of a run-first philosophy under new coach John Fox.

Sixth-round pick David Fales was active for only one game all season and didn’t play a down. Punter Pat O’Donnell, another sixth-round selection, finished with a 43.8-yard gross punting average, which actually ranked as seventh-best in franchise annals.

Seventh-round pick Charles Leno Jr., meanwhile, played in six games with one start. Still, Leno didn’t see enough action to glean a true evaluation.

Given Chicago’s need at safety headed into the draft, the Bears missed the mark somewhat with the first-round pick. No doubt about it, Fuller will be a long-term fixture at cornerback for the Bears. But current Green Bay Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was available with the Bears picked at No. 14 and he’s coming off a rookie season in which he contributed 94 tackles and an interception. In the postseason, Clinton-Dix’s two interceptions in the NFC Championship Game nearly helped the Packers advance to the Super Bowl.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears President & CEO Ted Phillips said in a letter to season-ticket holders that prices for season tickets will not increase next year in the aftermath of the club's 5-11 finish in 2014 that cost head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery their jobs.

"The 2014 season started with high hopes and ended in total disappointment," Phillips wrote. "We decided a new direction was necessary, and we have acted quickly and decisively."

Phillips added: "It's time to bring back a winning identity to the Chicago Bears."

Additionally, Phillips promised season-ticket holders "new enhancements to Soldier Field" in 2015.

This could be in reference to replacing the video screens that sit atop the north and south endzones inside Soldier Field. The Bears have actively researched the idea of installing larger and digitally enhanced video screens at Soldier Field, such as the Cleveland Browns unveiled in August at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Browns received rave reviews after the installation of two, high-definition video boards that measure 192 feet wide and 40 feet tall.

"We will continue to deliver value to make your gameday experience at Soldier Field second to none," Phillips added. "Our goal is simple. Play tough and smart and bring the Super Bowl trophy back to Chicago for the greatest fans in the world. You deserve it."

 Chicago Bears
CHICAGO -- A reunion between John Fox and Adam Gase seemed realistic when San Francisco and Denver both bypassed Gase to fill their respective head-coaching vacancies.

But is it that simple?

Gase was scheduled to interview for the Chicago Bears offensive coordinator position on Wednesday, sources close to the situation tell ESPN, a full five days after Fox became the 15th head coach in franchise history.

Gase’s employment options have dwindled, so perhaps the 36-year old coordinator does reach an agreement with Fox to coordinate the Chicago offense.

[+] EnlargeAdam Gase and John Fox
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsAdam Gase, left, is scheduled to interview Wednesday to be the Bears' offensive coordinator.
But according to multiple NFL sources, the belief in league circles is that Fox and Gase were content to go their separate ways when Fox left the Broncos, who in turn plucked Gary Kubiak away from Baltimore to be Fox’s replacement.

One source noted that while Fox and Gase “have a strong mutual respect for one another,” they have differing views on offense, with Fox preferring a more traditional ground attack, mixing in impact plays down the field when available, while Gase is described as a “cutting edge offensive mind” who places of higher emphasis on passing the ball.

Fox is not opposed to throwing the football. Under Fox’s watch, Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad thrived in Carolina’s offensive system, and Fox reaped the rewards of having talented pass-catchers Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker in Denver.

However, Fox is known as an old-school head coach who comes from a hard-nosed defensive background.

Gase’s offense enjoyed tremendous success in Denver, led by one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, Peyton Manning. With Gase calling plays, the Broncos won 25 regular-season games, two straight division titles, and earned a berth in Super Bowl XLVIII.

But for all the accolades, the organization and both men parted ways.

The Bears moved fast to snatch up Fox, but Gase remains in limbo, passed up not only for a handful of head-coaching gigs, but also for potential offensive coordinator openings in Atlanta, Jacksonville, Baltimore and Oakland.

Why?

One source explained that perhaps the reason Gase is still available is because teams have concerns that he will bolt after 2015 for a head-coaching job.

Does a team on the rebuild, such as the Bears, want to have to look for a new offensive coordinator after only one year?

It’s also curious that Fox didn’t move sooner to bring Gase aboard in Chicago, if in fact, the veteran head coach wants to rekindle their working relationship.

However, Gase has several things working in his favor in Chicago. He’s the son-in-law of longtime New Orleans Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt, who worked with Bears general manager Ryan Pace. Gase and Pace have a good relationship. Gase also interviewed to be the Bears’ head coach before Fox and Pace were hired.

Maybe the Bears feel like Gase is simply the best available offensive coordinator (he probably is), and whatever professional disagreements exist between Fox and Gase can be squashed.

But if for whatever reason the Bears decide to let Gase leave Wednesday without a contract, remember that Fox has a proven track record of finding quality assistant coaches -- including Gase, Mike McCoy, Dennis Allen and Jack Del Rio.

The head coach always has the final say on the coaching staff. If Fox doesn’t want to reunite with Gase, then so be it. Fox’s background earns him the benefit of the doubt.
NFL free agency doesn’t start until March 10, but Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace considers the team’s efforts to fill out the coaching staff just as important.

"I look at these coordinators as free agent moves," Pace said. "Sometimes your best free agent acquisition is a coach. If we get the right coordinators and the right coaches, that’s going to set us up. I’m excited about it. Right now, the clock is ticking on these coordinators. So a part of me is like, 'Let’s go, let’s go.'"

Shortly after introducing new head coach John Fox on Monday, Pace caught a flight to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, to meet with the club’s area scouts. From there, Pace planned to head back to Halas Hall to continue assisting Fox in assembling Chicago’s staff.

The Bears announced they reached agreement Monday with former Broncos special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers, who worked with Fox in Denver and in Carolina. As Pace and Fox met with the media at Halas Hall, Rodgers had already started work upstairs in his new office.

The club now needs to nail down the offensive and defensive coordinator posts. Fox said he met with all but two (special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker were out of town) of the remaining members of former coach Marc Trestman’s staff, and hasn’t determined whether he will retain any of them. Fox could also be interested in bringing in some of his assistants from Denver. According to a source, the Broncos have blocked receivers coach Tyke Tolbert from talking to the Bears. Tolbert worked with Fox in Denver and in Carolina.

"There's obviously some good coaches on this staff. I had a team full of coaches back at Denver. So it's a fluid process and we're going to try to locate the best human talent there is, and then move forward to try to motivate them to be the best they can be every day, and that's really coaches and players," Fox said.

Both Fox and Pace acknowledged the Bears could experience difficulty landing an offensive coordinator because of the competitiveness of the current process, with nearly 10 teams around the league looking to fill openings at that position. Kyle Shanahan, a potential Bears target, signed on Sunday with the Atlanta Falcons. Adam Gase, Fox’s offensive coordinator in Denver who also interviewed for Chicago’s head coaching position, is expected to land in Baltimore or Jacksonville.

That could lead to Pace crossing off a couple of names on the dry-erase board inside his office filled with names of potential assistants.

"You should see my office right now," Pace joked. "We’ve got this big dry erase board with all these names. [Fox is] choosing his staff, but he’s taking a lot of input from me. We’re working on that together."

The search for a defensive coordinator continues, too. Though it’s likely the Bears will play a 4-3 front under Fox, the coach said he doesn’t have a preference between 4-3 or 3-4 fronts. Pace said the team hasn’t offered a contract to former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who interviewed on Saturday, and is also a candidate with the Washington Redskins for the same position.

Team president Ted Phillips marveled at the cohesion already displayed between Fox and Pace, saying "they’ve got a whole staff to put together, and they were working tirelessly over the weekend, and they already seem to have that rapport where they trust each other."

That should help considerably as Pace and Fox work to finish assembling the staff.

"We were joking last night [that] we're the first boots on the ground. So it's good to have somebody with me," Pace said. "But there's still a lot of heavy lifting in regards to the coordinators and the coaches. We're working on that right now. We're kind of excited to get back upstairs and keep on going, because it's competitive in that market. So we have to get on it. We are on it."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- If Chicago Bears fans wanted John Fox to dazzle the crowd during Monday’s introductory news conference, those people left empty-handed.

If followers of the NFL’s charter franchise wanted the new coach to exude confidence, in an old-school, nitty-gritty fashion, then Fox knocked the 30-minute question-and-answer session out of the park.

How rare to attend a news conference at Halas Hall where a new hire isn't trying to sell you on his plan.

Fox’s presentation didn’t feel like a sales job, a stark contrast to past hires.

[+] EnlargeJohn Fox
David Banks/Getty ImagesJohn Fox has a track record as a proven winner.
The Marc Trestman move required an enormous leap of faith. Sure, Trestman’s concepts worked in the CFL, but he was nine years removed from working at the NFL level when former general manager Phil Emery shocked the football world when he selected Trestman over Bruce Arians.

Lovie Smith had to initially sell Chicago on the virtues of a defense-first mentality. Smith was a highly respected coordinator in St. Louis, but with no prior head-coaching experience; that choice did not come without a substantial degree of risk.

Even the addition of 37-year-old general manager Ryan Pace was met with a certain amount of skepticism, although Pace seemed to alleviate most of those fears when he closed the deal on Fox after a whirlwind week that included Pace traveling to Denver on Thursday to conduct a second interview.

On Monday, Fox didn’t pound the table in an effort to convince Chicago he’s the right guy for the job.

Why?

He doesn’t need to.

It’s simple: coaches with proven track records don’t need to pander to the general public and media.

Fox’s ideas do work. It’s a documented fact.

In 13 years as head coach of Carolina and Denver, Fox reached the postseason seven times, finishing as the runner-up in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XLVIII. Fox won a combined 127 games (including playoffs) before mutually parting company with Denver after a divisional playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s called proof of concept.

“I’ve always been of the thoughts of understate, overproduce,” Fox said. “I’ve never predicted records. If I could do that I’d be at a race track somewhere. I think I haven’t gotten that far to evaluate it. I can just say that we in the past have made pretty good jumps, so we’re looking to do that. I can’t predict exactly how fast or when that will happen. I just believe it will.”

Substance over style. That’s the message that resonated in Lake Forest. Fox is friendly, but he’s not overly concerned about being your friend. Fox is here to do a job. He’s definitely developed a thick skin to criticism, unlike some of his predecessors at 1920 Football Drive.

Fox will never be confused with Rex Ryan, the brand-new head coach of the Buffalo Bills who wins news conferences before they even start, but the Bears don’t need a showman.

The Bears need a renewed sense of accountability -- especially after missing the postseason in seven of eight years.

“I’m brutally honest,” Fox said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not afraid or intimidated about telling people the truth.”

The Bears need a dose of brutal honesty. If Fox follows through on his promise, the franchise appears to be in good hands moving forward.
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A few takeaways on the Chicago Bears' decision to hire former Denver Broncos coach John Fox as their head coach:

1. Return to identity: That’s what Fox’s hiring represents, given his track record for winning football games with a physical ground attack backed by stout defense. That’s the identity the Bears want to bring back, according to new general manager Ryan Pace, and the team should regain it quickly with Fox running the show. What's refreshing about the Bears' going back to a coach specializing in defense is the fact those coaches tend to work in the "now" dealing with the circumstances at hand. According to one personnel executive, offense-minded head coaches typically spend more time planning and devising schemes "showing everybody how smart they are."

Fox’s defensive background won’t stop him from being a presence in the offensive meeting rooms, either, according to former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who played for the coach in Carolina.

"John would always come in and we’d watch the other team [on film]," Delhomme said Wednesday during the "Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN 1000. "We would talk and his whole mantra would always be, 'Hey, remember as a defensive coach, we're trying to make you too anxious.' He said, 'We don't believe that you can sit and just dink and dunk and make something down the field.' That was more the mentality with John, just, 'use our running game, take what they give you, and when we have a shot, make sure we take it down the field.'"

The Bears ranked 30th in rushing attempts in 2014. With Fox at the helm and one of the league’s best-all around backs in Matt Forte on the roster, that will surely change in 2015.

2. Commands a room: When the Bears hired Marc Trestman prior to the 2013 season, one concern was whether he could command the locker room. Obviously, we all know now he couldn’t, given everything that transpired under his watch.

Fox’s track record of success, toughness and "brutal honesty" as Delhomme put it, sets him up to command the type of respect among his assistants and players that Trestman simply couldn’t.

Prior to Fox’s hiring, one staffer said this regarding any potential new Bears coach: "When he stands up in front of the room, people won’t laugh."

3. High expectations, no excuses: That’s what you can expect from Fox, who led the Broncos to a postseason victory with Tim Tebow at quarterback. Injuries derailed Chicago’s playoff hopes in 2011, and in 2013 the defense was rife with inconsistency because of key players missing time. Fox won’t use such challenges as an excuse.

Coming off a Super Bowl season (2003) in Carolina, the Panthers started off 2004 with a 1-7 record, but finished 7-9, winning six of eight down the stretch.

The Bears finished the 2014 season with 10 players on the injured reserve, including seven starters.

"We lost everybody known to man," Delhomme explained about the 2004 season. "We lost [receiver] Steven [Smith] the first game of the year, [running back] Stephen Davis. We lost like every offensive lineman. We were a beat up football team. Well, we had to change our philosophy. We had to start shuffling around the last half of the season. John was like, 'We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.' We had to change it around. We had to take [receiver] Muhsin [Muhammad] and move him from the 'Z' receiver basically to the split end and things like that. It worked. It was by any means necessary. I think that was kind of the approach and the mentality. You’ve got to win on Sunday. That’s kind of the mentality."

4. Quick turnaround: Chairman George McCaskey and team president Ted Phillips discussed their expectations about the Bears remaining competitive while in the midst of a rebuilding project. Luckily for the Bears, Fox knows how to do that.

Fox took over a dysfunctional 4-12 Broncos team in 2011 and led it to an 8-8 record, AFC West crown and a playoff victory with Tebow under center. In Fox’s four seasons, the Broncos won four division titles, and lost only once against an AFC West foe.

In Carolina, Fox presided over another rebuilding project, inheriting a team in 2002 that finished 1-15 the previous season. Fox led the Panthers to a six-win improvement in 2002. Then in 2003, the Panthers finished 11-5 and earned a berth in Super Bowl XXXVIII, only to lose 32-29 against New England in the big game on Adam Vinatieri's 41-yard field goal with four seconds left to play.

"I think you bring an instant winner as soon as you walk in," Delhomme said about Fox.

5. Working with Jay Cutler: If the Bears decide to stick with Cutler as the quarterback, Fox might be the perfect coach to administer the tough love he needs. Cutler was coddled under Trestman and former coach Lovie Smith. A former Fox player told ESPNChicago.com’s Jeff Dickerson that Cutler and the coach would be able to work together.

"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."

That would represent a major change. Trestman enjoyed a solid working relationship with Cutler, but ultimately was forced to bench him in 2014 in favor of Jimmy Clausen, because the coach couldn’t get the quarterback to play within the confines of the offense. According to multiple sources, Cutler in 2012 wouldn’t even speak to the offensive coaches under Smith. The sources said former backup Josh McCown had to serve as a liaison between the offensive staff and Cutler.

Under Fox, the expectation is such dysfunction won’t exist.
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Chicago’s hiring of new head coach John Fox on Friday naturally leads to speculation about what is to become of quarterback Jay Cutler.

Signed to a seven-year contract worth $126.7 million last offseason, Cutler figures to become a hot topic of conversation among Fox and the brass at Halas Hall in the coming days. But new general manager Ryan Pace, who had been director of player personnel for the Saints, recently said the team won’t make any decisions until he gets a chance to get to know Cutler.

Pace can do that now that he’s hired a head coach.

“The quarterback obviously is a critical, critical position to achieve sustained success. But it’s not the only position. For us to have a lot of success, all 53 guys are going to be accounted for,” Pace said. “So, yeah, I witnessed things with Drew Brees that I have in my mind that I know why he was successful and those are ingrained in me. But I want to get to know Jay. I want to get to know him further before I come to these conclusions.”

Team chairman George McCaskey will leave Cutler’s fate solely up to Pace and Fox. But regardless of the conclusion Pace and Fox reach, options regarding Cutler seem limited.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhNew GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox will decide about Jay Cutler's future in Chicago.
Whether or not Cutler remains on the roster in 2015, the Bears are still responsible for $15.5 million in fully guaranteed salary and would owe the quarterback another $10 million in fully guaranteed money for 2016 if he’s still on the roster on March 12, three days into the new league year.

Cutler’s contract does include offset language for guaranteed money. So if Chicago were to release Cutler, whatever salary he receives from his next team would be subtracted from the $15.5 million owed by the Bears, with cap savings deferred.

With multiple teams around the NFL appearing to need quarterbacks -- such as Buffalo, the New York Jets, Houston, Tennessee and possibly Cleveland -- trading Cutler would seem a logical move, too. But the Bears would need a contingency plan in place before trying to make such a deal.

It’s worth noting that the upcoming free-agent class of quarterbacks doesn’t present many viable options for Chicago, and we all know no sure things exist in the NFL draft.

The problem with trading Cutler is receiving fair compensation, as teams interested in acquiring the quarterback know the Bears would be desperate to dump his large contract. So if the Bears decide to move Cutler, they’d have to do so knowing they’re not likely to receive fair value. But the money freed up could allow Chicago to build in other areas, namely the defense.

This might irritate some Bears fans, but perhaps the best course of action for the club is to keep Cutler. The Dallas Cowboys proved in 2014 it’s possible to mitigate the effects of a mistake-prone quarterback by building around him and changing the offensive philosophy, which is something Fox demonstrated an ability to do during his tenure in Carolina.

If Pace and Fox rebuild the defense and the coach shifts to more of a run-first philosophy that would allow Cutler to operate more efficiently off play-action, Chicago could win games similarly to the way the Seattle Seahawks get it done.

Statistically, Cutler produced one of his best seasons in 2014, completing a career-best 66 percent of his throws for a career-high 28 touchdowns. Cutler’s 3,812 passing yards ranked as second best of his career, and he finished the season with a passer rating of 88.6, which registers as his second-best rating in nine NFL seasons.

Obviously, turnovers (24) and questionable decision-making significantly diminished Cutler’s 2014 campaign, as opponents scored a total of 95 points off the team’s 29 giveaways.

But that’s not to say Fox can’t win with Cutler, because he can.

“I’m a big fan of Jay personally, and I’m a fan of Jay professionally,” McCaskey said. “But all of the personnel decisions are going to be up to the new general manager and the new head coach.”

For Pace and Fox, the Cutler clock is now ticking.
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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
Fox
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.
CHICAGO -- Veteran head coach John Fox visited Halas Hall on Wednesday to interview for the Chicago Bears' vacant head coach position, the club confirmed.

The interview lasted until Wednesday evening, according to a team spokesperson.

Fox mutually parted ways with Denver after guiding the Broncos to 49 overall wins and four-consecutive AFC West titles from 2011-2014. He led Denver to Super Bowl 48, where the Broncos lost 43-8 to the Seattle Seahawks.

The Broncos were defeated by the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC divisional playoffs last Sunday.

Before Denver, Fox spent nine years in Carolina, qualifying for the postseason three times. Fox went 78-74 overall with the Panthers, including another Super Bowl runner-up appearance.

Fox is also a seasoned defensive coach, serving as the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Raiders and New York Giants.

Fox has connections to Bears general manager Ryan Pace and consultant Ernie Accorsi. Fox worked for Accorsi in New York, and is close friends and former colleagues with Pace's close confident, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.

Fox is the sixth known candidate to interview for the Bears' job, joining Todd Bowles, Dan Quinn, Adam Gase, Teryl Austin, and Doug Marrone.

Bowles officially accepted the head coach job of the New York Jets on Wednesday, while Quinn is the favorite to land the Atlanta Falcons head coach position, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Gase was informed on Wednesday he would not be hired by the San Francisco 49ers, but the young offensive coordinator reportedly spent the day interviewing with his current team, the Broncos. Gase is the son-in-law of Saints assistant head coach and linebackers coach Joe Vitt, who worked alongside Pace in New Orleans.

Marrone has a “tight” relationship with Pace, per several NFL sources. Marrone is also a former Saints assistant head coach under Payton.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears interviewed former Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone and Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin for their head coaching vacancy, the team announced.

Marrone, who opted out of his Bills' contract after guiding Buffalo to a 9-7 regular season record in 2014, worked with new Bears general manager Ryan Pace (2006-08) for three years in New Orleans.

Several sources describe Marrone and Pace as having a "tight" relationship stemming from their time together in New Orleans.

Marrone went 15-17 over two years in Buffalo before deciding to leave at the end of the regular season.

He posted a 25-25 career mark at Syracuse University from 2009-2012, winning a pair of bowl games.

Marrone also coached the New York Jets offensive line (2002-05) for four years before he jumped to New Orleans to serve as the Saints' offensive coordinator.

A first-year NFL coordinator, Austin is a hot name in the coaching carousal thanks to the Lions' defense finishing the year ranked No. 2 overall. The 49-year old is a former secondary coach for the Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks. Austin spent one year at the University of Florida as the Gators' defensive coordinator.

Austin is under consideration in several NFL cities searching for a new head coach, in addition to Chicago. Austin has also been linked to Atlanta, San Francisco and Denver.

ESPN Senior NFL Insider Chris Mortensen reports the Bears plan to interview former Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace made his first major move on the personnel side Monday, firing director of pro personnel Kevin Turks.

Zach Zaidman of WSCR and WBBM first reported the news Tuesday morning.

Turks worked 13 seasons in Chicago’s personnel department, spending the last two years as director of pro personnel after being promoted in 2013 by former general manager Phil Emery. Before that, Turks worked for five years as the club’s assistant director of pro personnel.

Turks originally joined the Bears in 2001 as an intern helping in pro and college scouting before receiving a promotion in 2002 to pro scout. Turks worked in that capacity from 2002-08 before former GM Jerry Angelo promoted him in 2008 to assistant director of pro personnel.

The Bears advanced to the postseason four times during Turks’ tenure, winning four NFC North titles in addition to playing in two NFC Championship Games.

When Pace took the job last week, he said he was “evaluating” whether to make changes in the personnel department.

“To be fair, I have to get to know the people in this building. There are good people in this building,” Pace said. "The first step for me is evaluating the roster, evaluating the staff here before I make those decisions.”
New general manager Ryan Pace’s search for “the best man for the job” to lead the Chicago Bears takes him to Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who will interview Tuesday for the Bears' open head-coaching position.

Having already interviewed Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Bears were expected to push for Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. But Kubiak opted to remain with the Ravens and released a statement Sunday via the team’s website informing of his intentions.

“It is flattering and humbling to be invited to interview for a number of NFL head-coaching positions, and I really appreciate these opportunities,” Kubiak said. “But I have decided to stay with the Ravens. This is a special organization and we, like [head] coach [John] Harbaugh says, are building something great. I want to be a part of that and contribute in whatever ways I can.”

So now Pace and the team’s brass turn their attention to Austin, engineer of a Lions defense that sacked Bears quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen a combined five times in two games this season, in addition to picking off the signal-callers three times. Detroit's defense finished the 2014 season ranked No. 2 overall in the NFL. Austin has already interviewed with the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.

Austin will sit down Tuesday with team chairman George McCaskey, president Ted Phillips, consultant Ernie Accorsi and Pace, who ultimately will make the final decision on the new hire. Pace said he’s open to every possibility at the position and won’t limit the search based on a candidate’s area of expertise, philosophy or systems on either side of the ball.

Experience isn’t necessary either, Phillips said.

“It's finding the right guy that has all those attributes that Ryan and the head coach can feel like they have a good relationship,” Phillips said. “Sure, contractually, Ryan will have [control of] the 53-man [roster]. Every GM that's been here has had that. Every single time a GM is hired, we tell him the same thing; that when you have to go back to your contract and look at who has control, something's wrong. You've got to work out those issues. There's always going to be issues, right? There's no way that two guys, a head coach and GM, always see players the same way. But when they come out of that office, they have to be together.”

Throughout the 2014 season, Austin dialed up a more aggressive scheme in Detroit, mixing up looks often while managing multiple injury issues, in addition to replacing multiple starters.

The Lions hurried quarterbacks on 28.1 percent of their throws during the season, which ranked No. 4 in the NFL. Interestingly, Detroit did it while blitzing on just 25.7 percent of passing downs, which speaks to the level of talent along the Lions' front four.

“I do think he has all the qualities that you’re looking for,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell told ESPN NFL Nation Detroit Lions reporter Mike Rothstein.

Austin will get the chance to put those qualities on full display Tuesday for Pace, Phillips, McCaskey and Accorsi. Austin’s body of work in Detroit should carry weight with a team looking to regain the franchise’s identity for annually fielding one of the league’s more stingy defenses.

“Let’s face the facts,” Pace said Friday during his introductory press conference. “The weather here, I’m experiencing it right now, it can be brutal. To win in that environment, you’ve got to be able to run the ball. You’ve got to be able to play tough defense. When you think about the Chicago Bears’ identity over the years, it’s tough, physical defense. And we’re going to get back to that.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- New Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace scheduled more interviews with potential head coaches shortly after he was hired, but team president Ted Phillips said none of the candidates the team has already met with has been eliminated from consideration.

Prior to hiring Pace, the Bears met with Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Phillips said the team wanted to make sure they could speak with Quinn and Gase before their windows to interview closed.

“That’s why we went out and interviewed Dan Quinn and Adam Gase, because their teams had a bye in the first week of the playoffs,” Phillips said. “So we thought, ‘Look, we don’t have a GM. But we do want to make sure we can get in the mix with those two guys because they were impressive candidates.'”

It’s unclear whether the Bears plan to bring back Quinn or Gase for second interviews.

Team chairman George McCaskey said, “I don’t think it would be right to talk about the specifics about the head coach search. It’s in Ryan’s capable hands now, and however he wants to go forward, that’s how we’re going to do it.”

Added Phillips: “Nobody has been ruled out.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – New Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace said Friday that he plans to schedule a future meeting with Jay Cutler, but he declined to evaluate the quarterback’s on-field performance, a resume that includes a league-high 24 turnovers in 2014.

“I just found my office this morning,” Pace said. “I have a list. I’m going to meet with him soon. But right now, seriously, I’m really narrowed in on this head coach search right now. I’ll have time to talk to Jay. But I don’t have a set date.”

Cutler
I don’t want to comment on specific things about him right now. Evaluating the quarterback is more than just what I see on tape. There are a lot of other things that go into the position. For me to fully that question [about Cutler], I need to get to know him as a person.”

Pace is no stranger to the football DNA of great NFL quarterbacks.

The 37-year old talent evaluator spent the last two years (2013-14) in New Orleans as director of player personnel, but he held the title of pro scout in 2006 when the Saints acquired free-agent quarterback Drew Brees, who suffered a torn labrum in his right throwing shoulder in the final game of the 2005 season while a member of the San Diego Chargers.

Brees went on to rewrite the record books in New Orleans, leading the Saints to the 2009 Super Bowl title.

“The quarterback obviously is a critical, critical position to achieve sustained success, but it’s not the only position,” Pace said. “For us to have a lot of success all 53 guys are going to be accounted for. I witnessed things with Drew Brees that I have in my mind that I know why he was successful, and those are ingrained in me. I want to get to know Jay. I want to get to know him further before I come to these conclusions.”

Pace fondly recalled the Saints' push to land Brees in free agency, and their original trepidation over the quarterback’s injured shoulder.

“That seriously was a group effort,” Pace said. “I’m not saying that as a generic answer. It really was [a group effort]. We talked about Drew Brees at the time. Obviously, there were some concerns with this shoulder. We had a plan in place to possibly draft a quarterback, and acquire a veteran free agent, if we didn’t get Drew Brees. That was our backup plan. We were fortunate to get Drew.

“Once you get to know him, once you interviewed him, you realized that he was coming off a shoulder [injury], but he was going to persevere through that. I remember we joke about our first training camp practice, because Drew didn’t throw the entire minicamps or OTAs. So [we’re at training camp], and here’s Drew’s first throw, right? He drops back for a little 5-yard out and he skips [the pass] off the ground. We all look at each other like, ‘Oh, man.’ But that guy’s work ethic, he progressed right through that, and hey, led us to a championship.”

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