LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — John Fox was not backing down from the challenge as the Chicago Bears' new coach.
No matter how tough it is, he was not shying away.
"I'm looking forward to this challenge," Fox said Monday. "I can't tell you exactly what that challenge is yet, but I understand that it starts with being successful in your division."
The Bears finished last in the NFC North at 5-11, missed the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years and fired general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman.
They hired Ryan Pace as GM and then turned to Fox last week, just days after he coached the Denver Broncos in the playoffs, to replace Trestman.
Fox did not provide any answers about the futures of quarterback Jay Cutler or receiver Brandon Marshall at his introductory news conference. He is more focused on filling out his staff.
Fox brings a 119-89 regular-season record in 13 years with Carolina (2002-10) and Denver (2011-14), with six division titles and seven playoff appearances. He is one of six coaches to lead two franchises to Super Bowl appearances, joining Don Shula, Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, Dick Vermeil and Mike Holmgren.
"John Fox is a proven winner and when he became available, honestly, the game changed," Pace said. "The more time I spent with him and his family, the more it became apparent that he's the perfect man to lead our charge."
Fox oversaw turnarounds in Carolina and Denver, and the Bears are hoping for a similar result this time.
It won't be easy, considering how chaotic last season was in Chicago.
There was no shortage of drama, whether it was Lance Briggs missing practice the week of the opener to open a restaurant in California, former offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer leaking a critical story of Cutler or Marshall repeatedly drawing headlines for reasons that had little to do with his play.
Fox brings credibility. He led the Broncos to division titles all four years, even if those seasons ended in ugly losses. He oversaw an impressive turnaround in Carolina, with the Panthers going from 1-15 in 2001, the year before he arrived, to the Super Bowl in his second season.
Denver went from 4-12 to the AFC West title in Fox's first season with Tim Tebow at quarterback. The Broncos got to the Super Bowl last season with Peyton Manning, only to get blown out by the Seahawks.
They got knocked out this season by Indianapolis. Fox and the Broncos agreed to part ways the following day, and a week later, he was standing at a podium in the Bears' practice facility, embarking on a new chapter after the last one ended in bitter fashion.
Denver GM John Elway had said he was disappointed the team did not go out "kicking and screaming."
"We did disagree," Fox said. "Not on anything specific, obviously we parted ways. Felt good about it. Hugged walking out. I said that a week ago today and I still feel that."
Once Fox became available, it didn't take long for Pace to call him. They interviewed Wednesday at Bears headquarters and again the following day in Denver in a less formal setting. On Friday, they finalized the deal.
"I just wanted to be thorough with it. Obviously, we still needed to conduct an interview, and then even more so, I wanted to go out there and meet him just more thoroughly. I felt good once we went through all those steps that we had the perfect guy for the job."
Fox talked about establishing the run, an area the Bears abandoned at times last season, and re-establishing Chicago as a force on defense after getting shredded for two seasons.
He also insisted that the Bears won't ignore the pass, saying, "I can promise you, you better be able to throw it."
There's no question they have a talented quarterback. But Cutler's future is in question after he tied for the league lead with 18 interceptions.
A massive seven-year contract that he signed after last season makes him difficult to trade. Cutting him is an option if the Bears are determined not to have him back.
Pace said the quarterback situation came up in every interview the Bears conducted.
Fox did not tip his hand when asked if Chicago can win with Cutler. He said he wants to meet with the quarterback.
"I know everybody makes a big deal about the quarterback — and I get that," Fox said. "But it's still a team game. We all have to do it for our teammates and for something bigger than ourselves. I look for that in any position."
NOTES: TE Martellus Bennett was selected to the Pro Bowl with New England's Rob Gronkowski headed to the Super Bowl. ... The Bears hired Jeff Rodgers as special teams coordinator. He spent the past four years in the same role with the Denver Broncos under Fox and spent two seasons on Fox's staff in Carolina. ... Pace when asked if the Bears have offered former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio their job: "No. I mean no. We're talking to a lot of guys right now."