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Emma: Bears' Dysfunction Comes To Light With John Fox On Hot Seat

By Chris Emma--

(CBS) Buried away by World Series buzz in Chicago is the mess that's now coming to light 25 miles north of Wrigley Field at Halas Hall.

The Bears have begun "a full examination of the football operation from top to bottom," according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. John Fox's place as head coach is considered "shaky" beyond 2016, though general manager Ryan Pace and his front office are considered safe, the report states through sources.

Members of the organization, from the coaching staff to the front office, were involved in "intense" meetings this week, shedding light on how everyone wasn't on the same page, according to the report. The organization has tabbed an outside consultant to assess the situation.

Fox is working in the second year of a four-year contract, while Pace was issued a five-year term.

Now at 1-6 and with a Monday night contest against the first-place Minnesota Vikings looming before the bye week, the Bears' second season under Fox and Pace hasn't gone anywhere near as planned. Fox had previously led the Panthers and Broncos to second-year surges.

The Bears have hardly sniffed progress thus far.

Hired before Fox in January 2015, Pace and his young front office were tasked with building a team that fits Fox's schemes. That essentially means he's choosing the ingredients for the chef.

However, the Bears' hopes haven't come close to fruition, and the disconnect is becoming more clear, as the report illustrates. How the Bears handled quarterback Jay Cutler's return from injury shed a public light on the dysfunction. Fox believed starting backup Brian Hoyer was in the team's best interest, and Cutler was held out from a return from the thumb sprain suffered in Week 2.

As Cutler neared a return to full health, Fox refused to name a starter as Hoyer was efficient but not good enough to win. He was repeatedly questioned why to not name a quarterback.

"Because we don't have a plan," Fox once answered.

Rapoport reported that even third-string quarterback Matt Barkley came into question during the Bears' meetings.

With Hoyer suffering a broken left arm in the loss to the Packers on Oct. 20, it will be Cutler leading the Bears into the Monday night spotlight, with Fox forced to back him.

"He doesn't a choice, I guess, at this point," Cutler said. "Brian (Hoyer) is out, so I've got to go."

Now looking at their future, Pace and top members of his front office were in South Bend on Saturday to scout top quarterback prospects DeShone Kizer and Brad Kaaya in the game between Notre Dame and Miami. Pace was in Clemson three weeks ago to scout Deshaun Watson. If the season ended before Week 8, the Bears would have the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Brought in to replace Marc Trestman, who was fired after two dysfunctional seasons as head coach, Fox is 7-16. In his 15-year head-coaching career, Fox is 126-105.

Pace had previously evaluated other head-coaching options before Fox -- even interviewing Todd Bowles prior to being introduced as new general manager. The Bears offered Pace full control of their football operation, but Fox and his experience was preferred for the young front office, according to a source.

When the Bears hired Pace away from the Saints' front office, he was lauded by members of management for his plan and poise. Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard, a former Bears scout, was considered the front-runner for the job, but Pace was so impressive in his interview that the Bears diverted him back to Halas Hall from his path to O'Hare Airport. He became the hire in a sudden turn of events.

"His plan just stood out," Bears chairman George McCaskey said at the time. "The thoroughness of his presentation, a very charismatic individual himself. As he said, he's leading the charge."

While many of Pace's draft picks -- most notably 2015 first-round pick Kevin White and 2016 first-round pick Leonard Floyd -- have each been inconsistent for different reasons, and as the organization fails to blossom as hoped, Pace is considered to be in safe footing with the organization.

However, Fox is now on the hot seat and in jeopardy of being fired from his third head-coaching job.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago's sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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