CHICAGO — When John Fox was hired to coach the Chicago Bears, general manager Ryan Pace said he was “a proven winner” and “the perfect man to lead our charge.”
Almost three years later, it’s not going very well. And it might not be going on for much longer.
Chicago managed just eight first downs and 147 yards of offense in its fifth straight loss on Sunday, falling 15-14 to the lowly San Francisco 49ers on five field goals by former Bears kicker Robbie Gould. Fox dropped to 12-32 in his third stop as an NFL head coach and is assured of a third consecutive losing season.
“It was hard to even talk to the team after this loss,” Fox said. “I think we had a great week of preparation. I think the guys’ mindsets are good, and they are working at it. It is just that we haven’t been able to finish on those close games. We’ve had our share of them, and today was another example.”
Fox coached Carolina and Denver to a combined six division titles and seven playoff appearances in 13 years before he took over Chicago in January 2015. 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.
But the 62-year-old Fox hasn’t been able to turn around the Bears. Not even close.
Chicago went 6-10 in Fox’s first season in charge and then slipped to 3-13 last year. After showing signs of promise earlier this season — the Bears beat AFC North-leading Pittsburgh in September, and posted consecutive wins against playoff contenders Baltimore and Carolina in October — the defense has regressed a bit and the offense continues to sputter with rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky behind center.
“We’ve just got to be better as an offense, and it starts with me,” Trubisky said. “I got to continue to get better each week and be more consistent, especially on third down. Just we need to be more balanced and we will, moving forward. We’ll see what we’re made of this week.”
Trubisky was 12 for 15 for 102 yards and a touchdown for Chicago (3-9), which visits Cincinnati next weekend. Tarik Cohen had a spectacular 61-yard punt return for a touchdown, giving the Bears a 14-6 lead with 5:49 left in the first half, but that was the final score for Fox’s team.
San Francisco trailed 14-12 when it got the ball at its own 8 with 5 1/2 minutes left. Jimmy Garoppolo then directed the 49ers on a 14-play, 86-yard drive to Gould’s winning field goal with 4 seconds remaining.
Fox said the Bears thought about letting San Francisco (2-10) score after it drove deep into Chicago territory — possibly preserving time for one final chance for Trubisky and company — but they decided against it.
“Yeah, we talked about it, but it would have had to be done at about 1:36 or 1:40, whatever it was,” Fox said. “We felt good about the block we had on a potential field goal. Neither one of those are great options at the 5- and 4-yard line.”
Gould pumped his right arm and yelled toward the Bears sideline after connecting on the winning kick . Gould, the Bears’ career leader in points and made field goals, was cut by Chicago prior to the 2016 opener.
Fox said he didn’t see Gould’s reaction, so he had no comment on the display. The coach has one more year left on his contract after this season, and he offered no indication of any major changes in the pipeline after Chicago dropped to 2-5 at home.
“We’re going back to work with our heads down, and we will continue to work,” he said.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap