LAKE FOREST – Chicago Bears players read reports for weeks that said coach John Fox’s job was in jeopardy, so it wasn’t a surprise when Fox delivered the news he had been fired Monday morning at Halas Hall.
But the forewarning didn’t take away from the emotion of the announcement as he said goodbye to the players, a departure that was confirmed on Twitter as some were driving to Lake Forest to clear out their lockers.
Fox reiterated the message he delivered to his team after Sunday’s loss to the Vikings in Minneapolis, that he would still be there for players who needed him.
Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski said it was “definitely a rough situation and it’s definitely hard to watch,” and linebacker Leonard Floyd said “everybody was sad.”
“The tone was pretty much emotional as last night,” Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “Today I think was even more emotional, because it actually happened. A lot of guys just gave him hugs and told him that we loved him after he said a few words.”
While Fox fell out of favor with many fans and media members a while ago and eventually the Bears front office, several players said he didn’t lose the locker room despite a 5-11 season.
Linebacker Sam Acho said the Bears avoided the infighting, divisiveness and quitting that could have developed as the team lost five straight games from Oct. 29 to Dec. 3.
The Bears won two of their final four games of the year, against the Bengals and Browns.
“He built a foundation,” Acho said. “The success that he had here, we’re not going to see until later. Whether I’m on this team or not, you’re going to see success in the future, and I think a lot of that is going to be attributed to the foundation and the culture that he built in his 3 years here.”
The foundation, however, only amounted to a 14-34 record over three seasons, and so the Bears players who are returning are left in limbo as they wait for general manager Ryan Pace to hire a new coach.
Mostly defensive players were available to the media during a 45-minute interview period in the locker room Monday morning, and so they also pondered the future of their defense if defensive coordinator Vic Fangio lands with a different team this offseason.
Fangio has helped the group transform into a unit that ranked among the top 10 in the NFL with 319.1 yards and 20 points per game allowed this year. Fangio shared the unit’s statistical improvements with the group Monday, and also said he would be around as a resource while he figures out where his future lies.
Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller, who will be a free agent this offseason, said players must focus on their own preparation for next year, no matter who the coaches will be.
Floyd said he “most definitely” would like to have Fangio back.
“I don’t really run nothing much in the building, but that’s a great guy,” Floyd said. “I love him to death.”