Fox confident his straight talk will help Bears
Bears head coach John Fox inherited a Carolina team that went 1-15 in 2001, and in two years he had the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
In Denver, he took over a Broncos team that went 4-12 in 2010 and the next year he won the first of four straight AFC West titles. Over the last three seasons, Fox and the Broncos were an NFL-best 38-10 in the regular season.
Fox knows exactly what the most important common denominator was in those turnarounds and what it will take to transform a 5-11 Bears into a playoff contender.
"It's people," Fox said Monday morning at his introductory news conference at Halas Hall. "It's finding the right kind of people. We look for smart, tough people that condition themselves to be the best they can be.
"Football is a very combative, physical game, and it takes combative, physical people. We're going to do our best to find (them), train (them) and compete."
Fox, who has yet to study a Bears roster that underachieved last season, has been focused on assembling a staff. That process was at work Monday morning when the Bears announced the hiring of special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers, who held the same position the last four seasons on Fox's staff in Denver.
Until he becomes more familiar with his roster, Fox won't make any brash predictions about getting a team with just one playoff appearance in eight years back to the postseason. While Fox says he has always preferred to "understate and overproduce," he expects improvement.
"I've never predicted records," he said. "If I could do that, I'd be at a race track somewhere. I can just say that in the past we 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."
Fox is confident his past performance (119-89 in 13 years as a head coach) and enthusiasm will serve him well in his current reclamation project.
"The more you do it the better you should get," he said. "It's not always the case, but if you're passionate about what you're doing, it helps. There's no manual for being a head coach. It's lonely at the top -- a very competitive business. But I think the experience did help."
Fox had open-heart surgery in 2013 and was back on the sidelines in four weeks en route to Super Bowl XLVIII. He'll turn 60 next month, and laughed off any concerns about his age.
"You talk about 60 like I was old or something," he said with mock indignation. "I'm very healthy, very energetic -- and I stay away from mirrors. I truly feel as I did at 36 when I went to work with Chuck Noll and the Pittsburgh Steelers in '89. (When) that goes away, I'll go away. I have a great passion for what I do. I try to surround myself with passionate people."
Fox arrives with a reputation for knowing how to handle the various personalities and egos that are part of every NFL lockerroom. His players can expect to get the unadulterated truth from him, regardless of their status.
"I'm brutally honest," he said. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I'm not afraid or intimidated about telling people the truth.
"I'm just me. I'm not smart enough to be anybody else. It's been this way for a long time. I know it's about bringing people together. That's going to be what we attempt to do, the best we can, every day."
Fox's background is as a defensive coach. He has usually advocated an offense that features a strong run game but can also takes shots down the field. But the game has changed drastically in recent years, with a greater emphasis on throwing the ball to take advantage of rules that favor the air attack. The Broncos' offense the last three seasons with Peyton Manning at quarterback is Exhibit A.
"We talk about the toughness and the personality of running the ball and stopping the run," Fox said. "I think that's the essence of football. That's just me. But I can promise you, you better be able to throw it.
"And I can promise you, you better be able to defend the pass. To be successful, you better be consistent and good at both, offensively and defensively."
The rich tradition of Chicago Bears football is one of the factors that attracted Fox to his new job. But he realizes it comes with high expectations as well.
"I've been in this city, and I'm not going to mention names, but it's kind of vicious in the newspapers and all that stuff," he said. "I wasn't on the receiving end, but I still feel for the other guy.
"But that's OK. This is a competitive game. We know what we're signing up for. I tell my players all the time, 'We're under attack. If you can't handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.' It's what we sign up for. It's why we're compensated so well for what we do."
• Bob LeGere will have more on the new Bears head coach later today. Follow him on Twitter@BobLeGere.
Fast facts on FoxHere's a glance at John Fox's bio and coaching career:
Born: Feb. 8, 1955 in Virginia Beach, VA
College: San Diego St., earning a bachelor's degree in physical education and a secondary education teaching certificate
Family: He and his wife Robin have three sons (Matthew, Mark and Cody) and one daughter (Halle)
Head coaching record2002: Carolina, 7-9
2003: Carolina,11-5 (NFC Champ)
2004: Carolina, 7-9
2006: Carolina, 8-8
2007: Carolina, 7-9
2008: Carolina, 12-4
2009: Carolina, 8-8
2010: Carolina, 2-14
2011: Denver, 8-8
2012: Denver, 13-3
2013: Denver, 13-3 (AFC Champ)
2014: Denver, 12-4
13 seasons: 119-89 (.572)
NFL playoffs: 8-7 (.533)
Combined record: 127-96 (.570)
Coaching history: 1978: San Diego St. (graduate assistant)
1980: Boise St. (defensive backs)
1981: Long Beach St. (defensive backs)
1982: University of Utah (defensive backs)
1983: University of Kansas (defensive backs)
1984: Iowa St. (defensive backs)
1985: Los Angeles Express (defensive backs)
1986-88: University of Pittsburgh (defensive coordinator/d-backs)
1989-1991: Pittsburgh Steelers (defensive backs)
1992-93: San Diego Chargers (defensive backs)
1994: Los Angeles Raiders (defensive coordinator)
1995: Oakland Raiders (defensive coordinator)
1996: St. Louis Rams (consultant)
1997-2001: New York Giants (defensive coordinator)