Chicago Bears

John Fox believes Bears are in “striking distance” of a turnaround

(Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

After going 3-13 and finishing last in the NFC North for the third straight year last season, Chicago Bears head coach John Fox remains optimistic about his team’s outlook for 2017, telling reporters Wednesday he believes the Bears are in “striking distance” of turning things around in the Windy City.

“Going back to a lot of the changes, we’ve had a lot of change,” Fox said, via CSN Chicago. “I think we’re better for it. Unfortunately, you can’t walk around with your chest out about that because of our record the last two years. But I have total confidence, and (Bears GM Ryan Pace) has done an outstanding job and will continue to.

“I understand you have to win. And I finally feel like we’re in striking distance.”

The most interesting thing the introspective Fox shared was that he figured the Bears would have done better to this point. He was hailed for his quick fixes in Denver and Carolina, and that hasn’t materialized here.

“You do always look back,” Fox said. “Obviously there are always things that in hindsight you would change. I think all of us sitting here would look back at things we’ve done and consider that. It’s kind of been what I thought it would be. Other than that, I would have thought that we would have done better to this point. But I kind of still feel really positive and encouraged for where we’re headed. I just saw it happening a little bit faster.”

Fox has worked with Pace to turn over the roster. Of the 78 players on the roster, 13 remain from the previous regime. By the time Week 1 of the season rolls around, that number should be in single digits. That’s standard. When Andy Reid went to training camp in his second season with the Chiefs, there were only 16 players remaining from previous regimes.

“We spent two years basically flipping this roster,” Fox said. “And I’ve mentioned before, from the oldest roster in the National Football League to one of the youngest. But we’ve been subtracting. Even last year with changing guys out like Matt Forte and Robbie Gould, even that’s erasing. Now, finally, I think we’re in a position where I think we can add.”

The biggest add the Bears made this offseason was in the quarterback room, replacing Jay Cutler with Mike Glennon, a move that turned some heads earlier this month when they gave the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer a three-year, $43.5 million deal despite him throwing 11 passes last year and not attempting a pass in 2015.

But Fox understands that it’s a bit of risk anointing Glennon as his starter before the start of training camp.

“It’s a leap of faith to some degree,” Fox said. “But I think you do that in a lot of different positions and evaluations of personnel and people. The big thing with him is that he has been in NFL football games. He has been in a lot of systems and around different players and personalities, and I think he’s handled it well.”

Glennon started 13 games in his rookie season and threw for 2,608 yards with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Conventional wisdom would have suggested he be the starter again in 2014, but the Buccaneers brought in Josh McCown, forcing Glennon to start just six games in his second season. He finished the 2014 season with 1,417 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Additionally, the Bears also cut ties with receiver Alshon Jeffery but signed Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton to fill the void. Both wideouts do not have the same track record as Jeffery, but both are relatively young and still possess some upside.

Fox said at the end of the season he believed the roster needed “eight to 10 guys” to make a push. Between a busy free-agent period and the upcoming draft, they should have about that many new starters.

“We’ve had a lot of change,” Fox said. “I think we’re better for it. Unfortunately you can’t walk around with your chest out about that because of our record the last two years.

“As you reflect back and you understand this league, there are not too many teams that — other than if they have the eraser — are really consistently good. This league is like this (a roller-coaster) every year. It can fluctuate very quickly and very fast. I’m encouraged.”

Fox, who is 9-23 since taking over as head coach in Chicago, is entering the third year of his four-year deal.

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