The second-year turnaround did not happen for John Fox. The Bears coach, who twice in his career has turned in triumphant rebuilds in his second season, will try to win just his fourth game Sunday against the Vikings.
But, according to those who know him well, Fox will have the opportunity to make his mark in the third season. In addition, much of his staff is slated to return, as well.
The losses have collected for Chicago, a frustrating two seasons. The result is not what anyone has wanted. But in making the decision to stay the course, the Bears appear to be looking at more than box scores.
The Bears have hung tough with teams in playoff contention, such as the Giants, Lions and Packers. They've done so with their fourth quarterback of the year, Matt Barkley, who likely would be out of the league if the Bears hadn't put him on their practice squad to start the season.
They have a whopping 19 players on injured reserve, including many starters.
In addition, their 2016 draft class will be the foundation of the rebuild, a class that has drawn praise from opposing executives.
All of which makes for an interesting evaluation of Fox, his staff and the year: They've been forced to play young players and watch them develop. The culture, despite the losses, is a positive one. And they believe the future is bright. Could they follow in the footsteps of the Raiders ... or Cubs?
It's not perfect, of course. There could be some position coach changes, and they need a quarterback. But it will likely be Fox at the helm when it happens.
From sources involved in their situations, here is a look at what other changes teams might or might not make:
» Jets owner Woody Johnson is inclined to keep coach Todd Bowles in what figures to be a crucial, pressure-packed 2017. He did win 10 games in 2015, but injuries and a lack of depth hurt him in 2016 -- as did brutal quarterback play. But barring a change of heart, Bowles will get another crack. Don't be surprised if he does so with a new offensive coordinator. Chan Gailey, who turns 65 in less than a week, is expected to either take an advisory role or move on from the Jets in favor of an OC who will be more Bowles' style.
» Ravens coach John Harbaugh, whose team missed the playoffs again, is not going anywhere. He also faces a crucial 2017, but the coach who is signed through 2018 still has the confidence of the organization. That said, he's expected to hire a new full-time offensive coordinator after promoting QB coach Marty Mornhinweg midway through the season. Keep an eye on former Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman for this one.
» Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told SiriusXM NFL Radio and the Cincinnati Enquirer that he's not retiring and will be back. Those who know him well say he would not say that unless given assurances he'd be returning in 2017, regardless. Expect Lewis back with limited changes. Given the sustained success he's had, the string of playoff appearances snapped this year, the culture he's brought, this shouldn't be a surprise.
» Colts owner Jim Irsay told me a few weeks ago he did not anticipate any changes, and it seemed like he really didn't want to make any. Yes, Irsay could have a change of heart. He's been known to be a bit whimsical. But it would be a surprise if GM Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano were not given at least another year to make the playoffs, especially given the extensions they signed last year.
» The Browns still believe in coach Hue Jackson, even if it turns out to be a one-win season. Owner Jimmy Haslam still believes in the analytical-based approach of their higher-ups. But the Browns are said to be searching for a little more scouting muscle. The expectation is for Cleveland to hire a top scout, likely right below GM Sashi Brown, to serve as the main football voice and be charged with finding the kind of players Jackson covets.
» Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has been adamant this season, denying rumors that he, too, will step aside for health-related reasons. "I'll be back," he said. "I ain't going nowhere." OK, then. Arians has said he wants to go out on top and simply doesn't feel like ending his career in 2016 is the way to go. In addition, he's intensely loyal to his staff and wants to stay for them.
» The Chargers will mull a hard decision on coach Mike McCoy and his staff on Monday, weighing more factors than any team could deal with. While GM Tom Telesco is safe, McCoy has been under fire all year. They have not won as many games as anyone imagined. Yet, they've played hard, hung tough, and been in almost every game. There have been unprecedented injuries. McCoy is almost assuredly a better coach for having gone through this season. In addition, there is the serious off-the-field issue involving whether they will be playing in San Diego next year. This is as complex a decision as any team has this offseason, and owner Dean Spanos hasn't made a decision yet.
» If you're looking for a surprise, the Packers could be it. While the coaching staff may tinker after the season, including possibly OC Edgar Bennett likely getting head coach interviews, it is expected to have minimal changes. The front office, however, is a different story. GM Ted Thompson is under contract through 2018, but this could be the year he steps aside and becomes a senior scouting adviser. If Green Bay has success in the playoffs, that possibility increases. There are a few reasons why: First of all, Director of Football Operations Eliot Wolf is coveted and he'll have opportunities to interview as a GM elsewhere. The organization could risk losing him if he's not promoted. Second of all, CEO Mark Murphy still hasn't hired his own guy, and he's been around the organization much more this year as he studies things from the inside. There are plenty of talented people in the Packers front office -- VP Russ Ball, Director of Player Personnel Brian Gutekunst and Senior Personnel Executive Alonzo Highsmith among them. And this could be the year Thompson steps aside to make way for them.
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