Exactly five minutes into his news conference Sunday after the Bears' 48-23 defeat to the Cardinals, coach John Fox abruptly stopped taking questions — which, by the way, outnumber the answers on his sorry roster.
But not before Fox bristled at the idea his 0-2 team — the one giving up an average of 39.5 points per game and dealing with the loss of starting quarterback Jay Cutler indefinitely to a hamstring injury — might suffer from low morale.
"We get compensated pretty well,'' Fox said. "Everybody in there is classified as a professional. That's what professionals do. I'm not worried about morale. We get paid to win.''
At this rate, after the Bears looked like one of the NFL's worst teams, the coach making $5 million per season will get paid at least $1 million per victory by the end of the year. The irony of quarterback Jimmy Clausen taking over after Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson returned Cutler's interception 26 yards for a touchdown was that everybody got to see how drastic the drop-off is from Cutler, flaws and all. Be careful what you wish for, Chicago. All Clausen did in the second half was make everyone curious about David Fales.
All Fox did in the second game of his Bears tenure was make the kind of history he wants nobody to remember. Never has a Bears team given up more points at Soldier Field. And on a day the Bears started their season 0-2 for the first time since 2003, they also tied a franchise record for penalty yards with 170.
If last week counted as a moral victory against the Packers, chalk this one up as a demoralizing loss for an undisciplined team staring at 0-3 no matter what spin Fox applied. Two games in, the Bears have yet to establish a strength, only a collection of weaknesses competing for Fox's attention.
In order, they are: cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Alan Ball getting beaten regularly, a dormant pass rush looking for its first sack, an offensive line trying to jell after Fox waited too long to tweak it, and a quarterback (still) throwing interceptions at the worst possible moments. Lest anyone forget the special teams, which made the Cardinals feel as welcome as when they used to call this city home by giving up David Johnson's 108-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff.
"It's all a challenge,'' Fox said.
If Fox had known how challenging the mountain was with the Bears, would the 60-year-old still have wanted to start the climb? Fox never would say otherwise, though he did seek to quell fears by making an incompatible comparison to the 1992 Chargers, who started 0-4 and finished 11-5.
"Been there, done that,'' said Fox, a defensive backs coach on the '92 Chargers staff. "That's not a prediction. We'll find guys who want to do it, can do it and will get better moving forward.''
Any improvement must include Clausen, thrust into action after Cutler's latest unfortunate injury with 2 minutes, 59 seconds left in the second quarter. Any chance at victory vanished when tight end Martellus Bennett, on an option route, hesitated and Cutler threw behind him when he read the situation differently.
"Those are plays we have to make,'' Bennett said.
Cutler headed to the locker room after trying to make an ill-advised tackle on Jefferson's return on the same end of the field he broke his thumb in 2011 against the Chargers. Memo to Cutler: Smart quarterbacks don't tackle. That decision was worse than throwing the pass.
When Cutler went down, he fell on his right shoulder, leading to speculation that only grew as the Bears waited until the third quarter to clarify his status. You didn't have to be Maurice Jones-Drew to question the injury information, but the Bears insisted Cutler hurt his hamstring, not his shoulder region.
On the play that best summed up the offense without Cutler, Clausen took a low shotgun snap in the end zone and leaped ahead for a loss of 2; an awkward attempt to move forward ultimately recorded as losing ground. The Bears are going nowhere fast as long as Clausen plays quarterback.
"He did the best he could and that's all you can ask as a coach,'' Fox said.
Meanwhile, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians asked his first-string offense to keep playing even after fans flocked to the exits with nearly eight minutes remaining. In leaving quarterback Carson Palmer in to throw his fourth touchdown pass with 2:42 left and throwing a challenge flag the next series after a Bears completion, Arians left the impression he savored every second of embarrassing the organization that didn't hire him in 2013.
Had the Bears hired Arians, a two-time NFL coach of the year, rather than Marc Trestman, it is unlikely the franchise would have been set so far back. Perhaps former general manager Phil Emery might still be at Halas Hall but, after two years of Arians, so would a brighter sense of hope and direction — elements hard to see on a bleak afternoon despite the sunny, blue skies on the lakefront.