THE MORNING AFTER: Will this rival signal the end again?
CHICAGO – Three years ago, against the same opponent, came the realization that what is now probably won’t be for long.
It was almost to the day of the Bears’ game Sunday against the Packers, but it was actually on November 9, 2014 when one era of the franchise symbolically ended.
In just 30 minutes, Green Bay scored 42 points. In just 30 minutes, Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdowns (SIX!). In a total of 60 minutes, the Marc Tresman era ended not even three years after it began.
“Lambeau Bleep” screamed the headlines of both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times. A 55-14 loss brings out a number of expletives that finish off that sentence, but the Packers did what was necessary.
Very quickly, the Bears and their fans realized that Trestman simply wasn’t the man for the future. Two months later, on December 29th, that became official.
Fast forward three years and two days later. Have the Packers done it again?
No, John Fox didn’t have as miserable of a final score as Trestman did during his November game against a rival in a make-or-break season. A final of 23-16 against the Packers, frankly, isn’t so bad if you looked at it before the season.
It’s the circumstances that might make it toxic for Fox, who may very well have shown that he may not be the man to lead the Bears to the promise land that’s eluded the team for the past 32 years.
For the first time since 2008, his Bears were favorites against a struggling Green Bay team that’s not won since Rodgers exited the lineup with a broken collarbone. Fox’s defense entered the game with eight turnovers in their last three games, and with the Packers not so sound on defense, it appeared this was the time for the Bears to make themselves a factor again.
Instead there was a ill-advised challenge call on a near touchdown by Benny Cunningham in the second quarter. The Bears challenged that it was a touchdown instead of taking the ball first-and-goal at the one, not realizing that the running back’s loss of control of the ball opened it up to a touchback.
The decision to challenge was still made, the play was ruled a touchback, and gone was a shot for seven points.
“Well, it’s all of us – I’m not going to point fingers. It stops here,”said Fox. “In hindsight, there are things we would do differently. That wasn’t part of what we thought would be the result.”
Neither would be what transpired over the rest of the game, when the struggling Packers controlled the pace against the once improving Bears. Even with the week off against a team that played last Monday, they were a step behind on offense in allowing five sacks and rushing for just 55 yards.
Missing Danny Trevathan certainly hurt the defense, but Green Bay put together five scoring drives with a backup quarterback while being down to a third-string running back in the second half. With a rare chance to not face Rodgers or Brett Favre for the first time since 1991, the Bears failed to take advantage in a big way.
It falls on many people, but it starts with Fox.
This was a game that he had to win and had a chance to win, and his group didn’t show up prepared. It’s hard to consider the Bears a playoff contender – which some argued they could be with a strong start to the second half – if they can’t beat a team that was sputtering.
Add in the bad challenge, and this has the feel of another Green Bay game that turns the tide against a coach on the figurative ropes. While he’s brought a level of professionalism to the Bears along with a strong record of success in the league, more and more it feels as if it won’t work out so well here in Chicago.
“I’ve been doing this too long. I’ve never worried about my job security, and I won’t start going forward,” said Fox when asked point-blank if he was thinking about his job status.
Should he want that to be true, he’d best start winning. Three years ago, Trestman’s loss to the Packers made his team 3-6 and they won just twice more, leading to his departure.
A repeat performance by Fox in 2017 and Green Bay might have started yet another farewell tour for a Bears coach.