Friday January 16th, 2015

The Chicago Bears attempted to think outside the box in 2013 by hiring ex-NFL offensive coordinator and CFL head coach Marc Trestman. Their reward for that roll of the dice was a 13-19 record over two seasons.

New GM Ryan Pace will attempt to clean up the mess with a much more well-known commodity: John Fox, who recently was ousted from the head coaching position in Denver. Fox, 59, carries 119 career regular-season wins, six playoff appearances and two playoff trips on his resume, spanning head-coaching stops in Carolina and Denver.

He now will team up with Pace, the league's youngest general manager, in an attempt to revive the Bears.

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Stability -- Above all, that's what the Bears needed to find this offseason after their 2014 campaign spiraled into utter humiliation. They lost to the Patriots and Packers in Weeks 8 and 10, respectively, by a combined count of 106-37; they dropped their final five games; and, perhaps worst of all, the Bears sputtered to dead last in the NFC North at 5-11.

Upon taking over, the first task for Pace was to find a coach capable of bringing the franchise back to center.

"The first order of business is to hire the right head coach to lead us to championships," Pace said earlier this month. "I can assure you I understand the importance of decision."

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Fox ought to fit the bill. Few current NFL head coaches have been around as long as Fox, who started his NFL career as a defensive assistant in 1989, then later served as defensive coordinator for the Raiders ('94-'95) and Giants ('97-2001). He then took over as head coach in Carolina back in 2002, and in his second season there, the Panthers advanced all the way to the Super Bowl before losing to New England. This season, his third year with the Broncos, ended in similar disappointment but, well, he's been where the Bears would like to go.

The Bears will value his defensive background, bringing Bears back closer to their longstanding identity as a team built on defense, even if the message of another defense-first head coach, Lovie Smith, grew stale toward the end of his nine-year Chicago tenure. The "Monsters of the Midway" moniker could not have felt further from reality over the past two seasons, as Chicago finished 30th and then 31st in points allowed. While Trestman ultimately deserved his fate, much of the blame for his regime imploding fell to defensive coordinator Mel Tucker -- it was almost incomprehensible that Tucker survived the entire 2014 season before being removed from his post.

Now, the biggest question is if Fox can drum up enough offense to avoid the pitfalls that doomed Smith's tenure? File that question away under TBD.

The Broncos led the league in points and yards under Fox in 2013 and were a top-five offense in several major categories over the past three seasons. However, Peyton Manning has to draw most of the praise there, given that the Broncos had minimal firepower in '11, one year prior to his arrival.

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Of course, Fox also pushed that flawed 2011 Broncos squad into the postseason, albeit at 8-8. The postseason run was made famous by Tim Tebow's lone stretch of NFL glory; Denver posted a 7-4 record in games in which Tebow started, with a wild-card round victory over Pittsburgh providing the icing on the cake.

Fox and his staff also milked some standout performances, plus the aforementioned Super Bowl, from a Carolina offense quarterbacked by Jake Delhomme. The run game was the star of the show, though, during most of Fox's time with the Panthers which, again, will be music to the ears of the old-school Bears franchise.

Given his experience in the league, Fox will be able to help Pace navigate some critical personnel decisions. Chicago holds a top-10 pick in this year's draft, but before that decisions must be made on several notable free agents (Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman).

There also is that little matter of Jay Cutler's future. Trading him in the coming months will be difficult, but will the Bears try?

Pace has a long road to travel en route back to postseason contention. He covered a lot of ground by nabbing Fox.

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