Less than three days after he was fired by the Denver Broncos, John Fox has already emerged as a candidate for the Chicago Bears vacancy. Fox, who won four straight division titles with a 46-18 overall record and took Denver to a Super Bowl, was let go after Sunday’s playoff-loss to Indianapolis and now he could be one of the hottest candidates in the league.
With Buffalo hiring Rex Ryan, the New York Jets snagging Todd Bowles, the Oakland Raiders reportedly coming to terms with Jack Del Rio, and the 49ers leading towards Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, the Bears could finish their search in the next few days as the market quickly dwindles.
New Bears general manager Ryan Pace has acted quickly and, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, he has an interview scheduled with Fox on Wednesday.
Fox has virtually no connection to the Bears organization, though he does have some very loose ties to the front office. For one, Fox is close with Saints’ head coach Sean Payton, who worked alongside Pace before the Bears tabbed him last week. Fox was also the Giants defensive coordinator when Chicago consultant Ernie Accorsi was in New York’s front office.
Chicago may be seeking fresh minds to reverse their past struggles. The Bears are coming off their worst season in 10 years, and Pace has already slightly shaken up his front office. On Monday, Pace fired Chicago’s director of pro personnel Kevin Turks, who was essentially the team’s top scout.
Pace could be in the midst of a total overhaul, and the possible addition of Fox might signal that Chicago is looking to improve its defense before worrying about how the next head coach would mesh with and help quarterback Jay Cutler.
Former head coach Marc Trestman was brought in two years ago for his experience with quarterbacks and offensive prowess, but Cutler did not show improvement and the Bears defense plummeted. Chicago allowed 377.1 yards and 27.6 points per game, both 30th in the league this season.
Fox could immediately step in and turn the Bears defensive woes around. Before he joined the Carolina Panthers as head coach in 2002, Fox was the Steelers, Chargers, Raiders and Giants defensive coordinator. In his second season in Denver, the Broncos ranked second in total defense and third against the run.
If Fox either fails to impress or decides to pass, the Bears do have at least two other candidates. Chicago met with Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and former Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Like Fox, Austin fits the bill as a defensive-minded coach. Austin launched the Lions into the playoffs with the league’s No. 2-ranked defense and he clearly knows the NFC North like no other potential candidate.
Marrone could be a step towards improving the offense, and he does have previous head coaching experience. The 50-year-old worked with Pace from 2006 to 2008 when he was the Saints offensive coordinator. Marrone also knows a thing or two about rebuilding a squad. In his second season in Buffalo, Marrone led the Bills to a 9-7 record, their first winning season since 2004.
However, he has shown a propensity to jump ship if he doesn’t agree with his superiors. Marrone left Buffalo after an apparent disagreement over the draft-day trade that netted the team receiver Sammy Watkins in exchange for two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick this year.