The second-year turnaround did not happen for John Fox. The Bears coach, who twice in his career has turned in triumphant rebuilds in his second season, will try to win just his fourth game Sunday against the Vikings.
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But, according to those who know him well, Fox will have the opportunity to make his mark in the third season. In addition, much of his staff is slated to return, as well.
The losses have collected for Chicago, a frustrating two seasons. The result is not what anyone has wanted. But in making the decision to stay the course, the Bears appear to be looking at more than box scores.
The Bears have hung tough with teams in playoff contention, such as the Giants, Lions and Packers. They’ve done so with their fourth quarterback of the year, Matt Barkley, who likely would be out of the league if the Bears hadn’t put him on their practice squad to start the season with China jerseys.
They have a whopping 19 players on injured reserve, including many starters.
In addition, their 2016 draft class will be the foundation of the rebuild, a class that has drawn praise from opposing executives.
All of which makes for an interesting evaluation of Fox, his staff and the year: They’ve been forced to play young players and watch them develop. The culture, despite the losses, is a positive one. And they believe the future is bright. Could they follow in the footsteps of the Raiders … or Cubs?
It’s not perfect, of course. There could be some position coach changes, and they need a quarterback. But it will likely be Fox at the helm when it happens.
In other words, the Bears have a long way to go in the road back to respectability. This is a popular opinion, but not a universal one. Take it away, Alshon Jeffery.
“I guarantee you we’ll win the Super Bowl next year,” Jeffery said after Sunday’s 38-10 loss to the Vikings, via ESPN.com. “We had a lot of injuries. I don’t think a team in the league had as much injuries as us.”
Professional athletes making overly ambitious predictions is nothing new. But Jeffery might have set a new bar in terms of distance from reality. Yes, the Bears were banged up this year, but it takes more than knee scopes and separated shoulders for something as organizationally calamitous as 3-13.
Then there’s the issue of Jeffery’s own contract situation. He’s slated to be a free agent, and is coming off a down season in which he was suspended four games for a PED violation. Is Jeffery assuming he’ll be part of this championship juggernaut in 2017? Will the Bears be unstoppable independent of Jeffery’s involvement?
Randle was last seen in Philadelphia where he spent half an offseason after moving on from a tumultuous four-season stint with the Giants. Entering training camp with a shot at being the Eagles’ No. 1 receiver in 2016, Randle instead flamed out during the preseason and was among Philadelphia’s final cuts.
Come May, Randle will attempt to fight for snaps with Kevin White jersey and Cameron Meredith jersey and to make a young Chicago roster that might or might not still boast free-agent Jeffery and trade-bait quarterback Jay Cutler.
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