The two men met the media for only the second time since being hired at their respective positions down in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. They fielded a barrage of questions about an array of topics, covering the defensive philosophy as well as the embattled quarterback and star wide receiver.
As has been speculated for a while now, Pace and Fox confirmed that the Bears will be operating out of a base 3-4 defense this coming season under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
“I think Vic Fangio and John Fox — intelligent guys that will find ways to maximize [defensive players’] skill sets,” Pace noted when asked about where and how players like Jared Allen, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston — traditional 4-3 defensive ends — will line up.
Regarding the highly-paid but underperforming Jay Cutler, both Pace and Fox declined to give him a vote of confidence or name him their starting quarterback.
“Cutler has outstanding physical talent, there’s no denying that. It’s just getting to know the individual and all of the other intangibles that make a great quarterback,” Pace said.
Fox added, “My experience has always been that you need to gather the information, and in turn, you usually make better decisions. We’re in that process, and we’ll keep you posted.”
It’s obvious what team message the Bears are trying to deliver, given that the “getting to know the players” mantra has been repeated often in such a short period of time. Whether or not the Bears keep Cutler may be a question mark, but I have no doubts that they already know what they’re going to do, but are keeping their decision under wraps until after free agency and the draft.
And then there’s the Brandon Marshall saga. Marshall, one of the best wide receivers in the game who had the worst year of his career this past season, is rumored to be on the outs. One of the things that irked Bears brass last season was that he took time out of his schedule to fly to New York each week and appear as a host on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL.”
“I just want to make sure that we understand the Chicago Bears and football are our No. 1 priority going forward,” Pace said, in a clear, concise message to Marshall that if he has any intentions of going back to the show for a second season, he’ll likely do it as a member of a different organization.
I have mixed feelings on the Marshall front. While I want him to stay because of his indisputable talent and importance to the offense, I also understand that the Bears cannot have distractions moving forward if they want to improve as a team. In a perfect world, Marshall would find the guy he was in his first few seasons with the team, a model citizen and hungry football player who wanted to play in his first playoff game and help the team to a championship.
What to do with Cutler and Marshall — as well as how to fill the rest of the holes on the Bears’ roster — is a looming decision that I’m thankful I don’t need to make. But I trust Pace and Fox to make the right decisions for what’s best for this football team moving forward.