The Chicago Bears had conducted only a few interviews before last Sunday’s AFC Divisional matchup between the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts. Until then, GM Ryan Pace had not even considered John Fox, who took the Broncos to the Super Bowl last season.
“I always respected him from afar but I didn't think it would happen like that,” Pace said today. “You hear things around the league all of the time where you’re just chasing ghosts if you do that. It wasn’t until he became available that we were able to act.”
Fox and the Broncos mutually parted ways following Denver’s loss to the Colts, and Pace and the Bears were quick to react.
“When he became available, it was 'whoa, OK, let's talk about this and let's come up with a plan,’” said Pace. “That was a game-changer for me, when he became available. I've followed his career closely. We were in the same division for a number of years when he was in Carolina. [The first phone call] was pretty quick. I would say hours.”
Pace and Fox first met last Wednesday at Halas Hall, yet Fox left Chicago without a contract. That wasn’t good enough for Pace, who flew out to Denver the following day to again sit down with his future head coach.
“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,” Pace said. “I needed to go to feel this out further. So my wife met on a layover and we flew to Denver and met with his family. We went to dinner, me and Stephanie, him and Robin, because that’s part of it. I’ve talked about the personality fit and the chemistry fit, and that was kind of that part for me, being real thorough.
“Here [the interview] was probably a little more formal. There it was just laid-back, just me and him being ourselves.”
Bears brass fully supported Pace’s decision to aggressively pursue Fox, including Ernie Accorsi, who was a special consultant to the process.
“When John became available, that energy, that confidence, that leadership, that experience, we had to go after him,” chairman George McCaskey said. “We wanted to be faithful to the process. Ernie’s advice throughout was let the process guide you to the candidate. Ernie said it himself, and Ryan echoed it today, when John became available, we had to shift gears and make sure we got our guy.”
Obviously, after working so hard to get him, Pace feels he’s found the right man in Fox to lead the Bears to sustained success.
“First of all, to begin with, [Fox] is a winner,” said Pace. “That’s where it starts. He’s intelligent. Guys want to play hard for him. Disciplined. There’s specific things with our personalities, high energy, let’s have fun, let’s win games, be positive. I love that about John Fox.”
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.