Imrem: Next step for Bears is to get a new coach
Bears head coach John Fox is going the Joe Maddon route and letting his silvery facial hair grow.
No one is quite sure why, just as they aren't sure why Maddon began darkening his head hair.
Speculation is that Fox wants Bears fans to think he could manage the Cubs to a World Series title, apparently giving up on convincing them he can win a Super Bowl.
The Bears are improved in Fox's third season in Chicago but the next steps are the longest -- perhaps nowhere more so at head coach.
Sunday's 20-12 loss at New Orleans was another sign of progress by the Bears.
"We had a chance at the end," rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky said.
Frustrating for the Bears is that the Saints tried to give them a victory with a couple fourth-quarter fumbles.
The Bears just weren't ready to accept it.
But the Bears are 3-5 at their bye break, a good time to take inventory of where they are and where they're going.
The Saints are on a five-game winning streak and the Bears scared them more than the four previous victims did.
"We're a real competitive football team," defensive end Akiem Hicks said.
Yes, the Bears are competitive but competitive is light years from Super Bowl contention.
Some of the next steps are obvious: Trubisky has to keep growing; the Bears need better receivers; a more reliable placekicker would help.
Then there's the big step: Fire Fox in the offseason and replace him with someone younger, more dynamic, more expert on offensive football.
The Bears shouldn't be fooled by Fox coaching them to as many victories in half of this season as he did all of last season.
That's like being twice as good as bad, or something.
If Fox is responsible for progress, great. But it's one thing to inch from good to mediocre and something else to go from mediocre to good, good to great and great to the Super Bowl.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace has to figure out what to do with Fox, who next year would be in the final season of his contract.
The NFL norm is to not let a head coach work without a multiyear deal, presumably because he couldn't command respect, which is an insult to players.
Much will be decided during the season's second half. The Bears could sizzle, they could fizzle or they could land somewhere in between.
Afterward the head coach will be in the GM's court.
One thing going for Pace, if he decides to replace Fox, is the public wouldn't object. Actually, they would object -- fairly or not -- if the coach returned.
When the Bears hired Pace as a young, inexperienced GM, they should have hired a young, inexperienced coach and let them grow together.
Now the Bears get a second chance to go that way.
The Rams are the model. With young quarterback Jared Goff, they fired a veteran, defensive-minded coach and hired a rookie, offensive-minded coach.
Now Goff is improved and the Rams are 5-2 and contending in the NFC West. They didn't trip over the coaching step in Los Angeles and the Bears can't afford to either.
"I'm excited where this football team is headed," Trubisky said.
The question is whether to head there with or without John Fox.
Hopefully for the Bears, they'll trim the greybeard and replace him with a fuzzy-cheeked young phenom.