So here’s the worst-kept secret and most anticlimactic news story in the history of the NFL. John Fox is the new coach of the Bears.
Fox is not a great hire.
Fox is not a bad hire.
John Fox is the safe hire.
Many have described the Phil Emery/Marc Trestman era in Bears history as an “embarrassment,” and some even have gone for “dumpster fire.”
Ryan Pace has been hired to come to Chicago and win Super Bowls. But his first order of business must be to restore a modicum of dignity, normalcy and professionalism to the Bears organization.
Todd Bowles, Dan Quinn, Adam Gase or others might have been able to get that job done.
With Rex Ryan or Doug Marrone, you ran the risk they actually could have made things worse.
We know John Fox will bring a stable and professional hand to oversight of the Bears coaching staff; he will put together a highly professional and talented group of assistants; and he will clean up the Bears’ locker room in very short order.
Every Bears player, everyone in the Bears front office and every Bears fan knows exactly what they are getting in John Fox.
And every other team in the NFL knows the Bears are a rival to be taken seriously once again.
Is John Fox the guy the Bears will win championships with, or even contend again, in the near future?
That may be a horse of a different color.
Let’s forget the Broncos’ years for just a moment.
John Fox’s nine years as coach of the Carolina Panthers are eerily similar to Lovie Smith’s nine years as coach of the Bears, except Lovie was markedly more successful.
Fox ran the Panthers from 2002 to 2010, went 73-71, won two NFC South crowns, made three playoff trips, lost one Super Bowl and was 5-3 in the playoffs.
Lovie ran the Bears from 2004 to 2012, went 81-63, won three NFC North titles, made three playoff trips, lost one Super Bowl and was 3-3 in the playoffs.
Both are excellent defensive coaches who just couldn’t get the offense or the quarterback thing worked out – Jake Delhomme and Rex Grossman were their Super Bowl losing QBs – before each ran out of time.
The biggest difference between Fox and Lovie is that Fox was fired in Carolina after a 2-14 season and immediately was hired in Denver, while Lovie was canned after a 10-6 campaign and sat out a year before taking over in Tampa.
So why will Fox prove to be a better choice than Lovie?
Things went well for Fox in Denver, where he won four AFC West titles in four years.
The first was the most impressive, as his club was only 8-8 but he and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy made the move to Tim Tebow at quarterback shortly before midseason and completely overhauled the offense on the fly, in season.
Whether that’s a comment on Fox or McCoy, who has gone on to do a nice job in San Diego, is in the eye of the beholder.
After that, Fox was gifted Peyton Manning and a raft of all stars to go with him and went 38-10 the past three seasons, 2-3 in the playoffs.
Success or failure is, again, in the eye of the beholder, although it’s clear what John Elway thought.
Here’s what’s different about Fox and Smith. Fox is far more personable, far more media savvy and is going to be a breath of fresh air in town after the Trestman and Smith show.
Here’s what’s different about the Bears with Fox. The defense already is better because he will get players in the right positions and will get a lot more out of his veteran defensive line.
If Pace proves to be good at his job and the talent is upgraded significantly, the Bears could be a playoff contender as soon as 2016, not before.
What about Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall? Ah, let the next news cycle begin!
• Chicago Football editor Hub Arkush can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.