John Fox is in a tough spot. Entering the third year of a four-year contract, Fox is staring down another very poor season from a win-loss perspective. At the end of the year, the Chicago Bears front office will have to choose between extending a coach who hasn’t won or keeping him on as a lame duck. Or, of course, they could just fire him.
Fox must know this. And in theory, he has a weapon on the bench that could greatly improve his team’s short-term chances. Mitchell Trubisky is a rookie, of course, and with rookie quarterbacks come growing pains, but the bar for improvement has been set remarkably low by Mike Glennon, the Bears’ $15 million man.
Behold, a graphic that is somehow true:
Bears head coach John Fox announced today that Mike Glennon will start against the Steelers in Week 3. pic.twitter.com/SermwtjSA4
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 18, 2017
Mike Glennon has been unequivocally bad, failing the eye test, the analytical test, and based on his lack of mobility, presumably the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. He’s a very tall, nominally ambulatory example of why intangibles matter far less than tangibles. Glennon has received universal praise for his leadership, personal conduct, work ethic, and game planning, from the Bears’ coaches, front office, and players. He also received glowing reviews in similar areas in Tampa Bay.
The Bucs, of course, already demonstrated how teams should best weigh tangibles vs. intangibles when they drafted Jameis Winston, a living, breathing character concern. The Bears, though, practically camped out in the Mike Glennon parking lot, checkbook in hand. The idea, in a vacuum, wasn’t awful. Move on from Jay Cutler (currently off to a good start in Miami, and a better player than Glennon, but that’s no guarantee he’d have been successful in Chicago) and take a flyer on a young-ish quarterback with experience whom you could sign without a long-term commitment, while also finding a more long-term solution in an upcoming draft.
Choosing Glennon, though, was an apparent misfire. He’s immobile, and injuries along the Bears’ offensive line have rendered a clean pocket a rarity. He’s not blessed with arm strength, and the Bears’ inability to stretch the field, or even feign the potential to do so, has opponents stacking the box and eliminating the running game through two weeks. (Jordan Howard and week 1 star Tarik Cohen combined for just 20 yards on 16 carries.) Glennon also commited multiple costly turnovers, including one of the worst throws I’ve ever seen from an NFL quarterback, from the decision on down:
And still, Trubisky sits, and will continue to sit, running the scout team as the No. 2 quarterback.
Some Bears fans have begun to clamor for Trubisky, and that’s not a surprise. Hell, it might not even be crazy to think the Bears wouldn’t have a playoff chance, given the state of the NFC. It’s not likely, but stranger things have happened, though injuries piling up on both sides of the ball hurts. And it’s also fair to wonder whether playing Trubisky is the best way to develop him for the long-term.
John Fox, though, continues to stick with Glennon. And in this case, more than normal, we might be seeing a coach favoring the long-term development of a valuable player over potential short-term gains, even though Fox might not be around to reap the benefits. John Fox didn’t ask for Mike Glennon, though he was probably consulted. And he certainly didn’t ask for Mike Glennon at the price the Bears paid. Yet he still continues to send him out there, refusing to allow even the slightest of controversy to sneak in. That speaks to either a startling degree of distrust in Trubisky (which would be shocking, given how well he performed in the preseason) or an adherence to an organizational development plan.
The latter seems much more likely, and perhaps Fox recognizes that protecting and developing Trubisky is his best chance to sign an extension this offseason, moreso than tossing him in too early just to pick up a few extra wins.
Fox, of course, isn’t blameless. Trubisky took hits late in the Bears’ fourth preseason game (a game he’d previously exited) when the Bears called for multiple passing plays. Imagine a concussion or other injury in that scenario. Fox also continues to baffle with his overall coaching strategies; down 23-0 and near midfield with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Fox punted the ball away. Tampa promptly marched down for a field goal as time expired. John Fox is clearly not the kind of coach capable of aggressively maximizing a roster of lesser talent.
And when Mike Glennon is the quarterback, it would take a hell of a squeeze to wring out a few wins. So, Fox will likely ride out the season, probably turning to Trubisky at some point during the year, likely after it’s too late to put up anything but another bad record in Fox’s third year in charge.
That might not be enough to keep his job, but if Trubisky pans out under the developmental plan Fox is apparently helping to run, the Bears will owe him going forward, whether Fox is on the sideline or not.