Rozner: Bears' Fox brings history, humility

As certain as dead voters casting a ballot in Cook County, it's a Chicago tradition that every coach, manager and general manager hired is an absolute win for the franchise, the best possible person for the job.

But the lack of Bears championships the last 30 years would suggest that some have been wrong about the hired and fired in Lake Forest.

So the John Fox news conference at Halas Hall was a big hit Monday among the faithful, who have a right to believe in better days ahead and a responsibility to be remain skeptical of a hierarchy that has been so stunningly incompetent in the days behind.

Fox, nevertheless, arrives at a good time for the local football team. There is a huge mess to clean up and Fox has a history of waste management. He's done it before and there's no reason to think he can't do it again.

Furthermore, the man will turn 60 in a couple weeks, and his 37-year-old general manager was lucky Fox became available. Ryan Pace also was smart to pursue a partner who has been coaching the same number of years that the GM has been on the planet.

Unlike the Bears' previous two head coaches, Fox does not put on airs, nor does he imagine NFL football to be something only understood by a chosen few.

“It's pretty obvious you have to run the ball and stop the run. That's the essence of football,” Fox said Monday with a smile, hardly pretending he invented a concept. “I can promise you that you better be able to throw it, too, especially on third down, and you better be able to stop the pass.

“It's all important. It's our job to get better at all of it.”

OK, there you go. It's football. Get better players and get better at football. John Fox knows he's not the smartest guy in the world, and he doesn't have any need for pretense.

See, that's likable, just as his young GM is likable. Doesn't make you better at football, but this fan base has been subjected to an abundance of arrogance the last 15 years from ownership and management and could use a healthy dose of decency from the coach and GM while they figure out how to fix a colossal mess of a football team

“I'm looking forward to this challenge. I can't tell you exactly what that challenge is yet,” Fox said, confessing he knows little about the roster. “It's about finding the right kind of people. We look for smart, tough people who will condition themselves to be the best players they can be.”

And the Bears need a lot of players. Sure, Fox will be able to fix some items with basic coaching, teaching and shifting players to proper positions, but most of the heavy lifting will come in the draft, where Fox does not look to only one side of the ball.

“My job is to manage and motivate the football team and coaching staff, and I'm tied in with all three phases,” Fox said. “People say, ‘You're a defensive coach.' I can promise you I've seen more offense than any offensive coach known to man the last 25 years.”

Fox is less detail-oriented than some and more CEO than others. He's a solid Point A to Point B manager, more than finishing the product line personally, and he left Denver criticized for losing his edge with the players and missing some of the fire he had when he got there.

But a new job always brings renewed enthusiasm, and Fox will need all of his energy to repair the many broken parts of the Bears' roster. In that regard, Fox will be a 30-mph gust of fresh air.

“I'm brutally honest,” Fox said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I'm not afraid to tell people the truth.”

Asked how he will handle the massive egos dominating a wretched locker room, Fox said, “I'm not smart enough to handle all that. I'm just me. I can't pinpoint it. It's about bringing people together.”

As for the failure at the quarterback position, Fox said, “I want a quarterback that wins. I've had different ones. Just like any other position, it's about decision-making, executing and knowing what to do and how to do it, and then executing under pressure.

“It's still a team game and we all have to do it for our teammates and for something bigger than ourselves.”

That's something Marc Trestman tried to sell, but it only works when you win, something Fox knows after 37 years in coaching.

“Like most things in life, the more you do it, the better you should get,” Fox said. “Experience does help you sometimes. You learn as much from bad decisions as good decisions. I think it helped me the second time around.

“It's like holding Jell-O. It's a tough job. It's lonely at the top. It's a very competitive business and the experience did help.”

Each time he's been a head coach, Fox has made progress quickly with bad teams, but he's not going to make any forecasts yet.

“Understate and overproduce,” Fox said. “I haven't gotten that far to evaluate it. We, in the past, have made pretty good jumps, but I can't predict when and how fast that will happen.”

John Fox isn't what you'd call exciting, but he is humble and there's a lot to be said for that. Humility is essential in a league that tears people to shreds, and it makes a head coach tolerable even in the bad times.

It's something Marc Trestman claimed to be, and something Lovie Smith never once considered necessary.

In that way, John Fox is plenty exciting.

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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