With the NFL season kicking off this week, fan bases across the country are excited, as hope springs eternal for the 2015 season.
Except in Chicago. In Chicago, fans are bracing for the worst.
“I haven’t seen it like this in a really long time,” 670 The Score host Laurence Holmes said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I’ve traveled down to Bears training camp for the last 12 years. They had the lowest attendance that I can ever remember. Usually that first practice that they have is sold out. There’s no place for you to sit, there’s barely a place for you to stand. That was not the case. I think that last year the excitement over the way it looked going into the 2014 season with all the things that people were hoping this offense would look like – and the way that it just spiraled down to nothingness by the end of it – you had a house cleaning of the coach and the general manager and the scouting staff. I think it got people looking at this year’s team and saying, ‘The talent is definitely not there.’ It’s going to take John Fox awhile to try and build it up.”
And yet, the question marks aren’t limited to the roster.
“They don’t know about Ryan Pace as a general manager,” Holmes said. “He’s a 37-year-old general manager who hasn’t had any experience in that job in particular, so you don’t know what type of players he’s going to have. And you add on top of that their No. 1 pick, Kevin White – the one guy that actually had Bears fans excited – is hurt, and there was kind of this cloud of mystery on him not participating in practices and then we come to find out that he’s having a rod placed into his leg and is probably not going to be there for an entire season. I think Bears fans can look at this roster and look at the rosters of the other teams in the NFC North and go, ‘Our team doesn’t match up.’ And if you don’t match up in your division, you got no prayer outside of it.”
Fox, for what it’s worth, has a proven track record. He’s won four straight AFC West titles and is beloved and well-respected by his players.
“So far, I think that there is a level of professionalism that wasn’t here, quite honestly, under Marc Trestman as far as who their practices go, how their preparation is being put in,” Holmes said. “I think that John Fox and Adam Gase are on the same page as far as how to most effectively utilize the guys that are already here. They’re going to run the ball. This became kind of a pass-happy offense under Marc Trestman, and I think it didn’t really work for Jay Cutler. I think that he needs more balance and they’re going to have that now. They’re going to run Matt Forte. The problem is still that we don’t know about some of the those factors.”
That includes Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
“Alshon Jeffery hasn’t practiced in a month,” Holmes said. “It’s been a month. Jason Cole was reporting that it might be contract-related, that he’s looking for a long-term extension and maybe that’s why he’s not pushing himself hard enough to get back on the field. You can’t have stuff like that when you have a new coach in town. I suspect that this is a prove-it year for a lot of guys, and they’ve made no bones about cutting ties with guys that have been here before. They walked in the door – Ryan Pace and John Fox – and they traded Brandon Marshall. They’re looking to trim the fat and get this roster the way they want it.”
That may take longer than Fox – or Bears fans – want.
“Honestly, it’s a mess,” Holmes said. “What’s going on with the Bears from a talent standpoint is an absolute mess, and you’re adding in them learning a new offense and a new defense, it’s a lot to undertake. I totally get why people aren’t as excited about this year’s team, but I do think there’s a respect for John Fox. We know he can coach. It’s just a matter of will he have enough time to implement his plan and get new players in there before the fan base gets antsy?”