By Chris Emma—
CHICAGO (CBS) – Once again, the Bears snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Sunday. It's what they have mostly done during the tumultuous tenure of John Fox.
Just when you think they have reached rock bottom, the Bears plunge deeper. This time, it was a 15-14 loss to the lowly 49ers at Soldier Field that dropped the Bears to 3-9 in a lost season and 12-32 under the watch of Fox. Since he became head coach in 2015, the Bears are an astounding 0-7 in contests in which they entered as favorites and now 8-19 in games decided by one score.
That it was Robbie Gould delivering all of the 49ers' scoring and hitting the game-winner from 24 yards out in the closing seconds on his fifth field goal of the day only made it worse for a depleted Bears organization. Revenge was sweet for Gould, the Bears' all-time leader in points who's latest effort made Fox the franchise's leader in losing percentage.
"It motivated me," Gould said of being released by the Bears. "It drives me every day. I have Ryan Pace and Jeff Rodgers and John Fox to thank for that. Because if I would've stayed here, who knows what my career would have ended like?"
Gould would've encountered one of the darkest eras in the history of a proud organization had he stayed. Though his 49ers are now 2-10 on the season, they have hope in the form of 26-year-old quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and 37-year-old head coach Kyle Shanahan, the latter of whom Gould touted as one of the brightest offensive minds he has ever encountered.
Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky – for whom the Bears traded the 49ers a haul to draft second overall – brings Chicago its chance for better days, but that hope is merely held on potential alone.
On Sunday, the Bears coaching staff prioritized saving their owns jobs over the development of a young roster. It's fair but calls into question why Fox should be allowed to finish the season.
Adam Shaheen, the second-round pick showing flashes of late, played nine snaps and wasn't targeted once. Tarik Cohen, once touted by offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains as the Bears' best playmaker, carried the football twice for five yards.
Loggains called a game that could be best be described as conservative. Former NFL executive Greg Gabriel tweeted that Loggains has to be "the worst play-caller in the league." The great Olin Kreutz added that the "Bears have to give someone else a chance at calling plays." There are far more indictments to the work of Loggains, and it's worth wondering whether he will be employed come Monday afternoon.
Fox had a coaching blunder with the game on the line. With Chicago holding a 14-12 lead and San Francisco driving deep into the red zone, he could've instructed the Bears to allow the 49ers to score a touchdown with 1:40 remaining. It the smarter percentage play and would've given Trubisky the chance to lead a game-winning drive, an ideal opportunity for a young quarterback.
Would've, could've, should've.
Instead, Fox said after the game he felt good about the Bears' chances of blocking the field-goal attempt that was shorter than an extra point. With the Bears out of timeouts, Gould connected on his fifth field goal from 24 yards out with four seconds remaining. Trubisky watched from the sidelines.
"Winning's the number one priority and getting better every day is the second priority," Trubisky said. "No matter what, you're always trying to win – each game, each day. It's got to be a competitive mindset. That's what it's got to be every day.
"You put all the work in and it doesn't mean anything if you don't come out here on Sunday and get the win. Getting better every day is the emphasis, but winning is everything."
Comments like these are admirable from Trubisky and why teammates look to him for leadership, but they're also not true when it comes to this Bears team. How he grows as a young quarterback will define the franchise's future – something far more important than the ninth loss of a season already gone.
The Bears made Trubisky their starting quarterback four games into the season after Mike Glennon played poorly. The initial intentions were for Glennon to start all season and Trubisky to develop off to the side in what would serve as a redshirt season.
Trubisky started just 13 games at North Carolina and entered the league a raw quarterback, but the Bears believed playing NFL games was the next step in his development. They only risk hurting Trubisky by trusting him to a self-motivated coaching staff.
Sunday at Soldier Field brought the latest poor showing by a team from which progress was hoped. The Bears managed to take another step backward in a game they should've won.
Four weeks remain for the Bears, who have plenty more to lose than football games.
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