As the team rests, the dominant conversation surrounding the Chicago Bears is whether the team should move on from quarterback Justin Fields or keep him and build around him.
Another major piece of discussion is the job status of head coach Matt Eberflus, along with his coaching staff. That includes, most notably, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. Even general manager Ryan Poles has occasionally been the subject of speculation.
Much of the speculation is caused by the fact that the team is 4-8. But sometimes it seems that fans, media, and pundits forget that this team, also helmed by Eberflus, was supposed to win very few games last year. Some fans and media are acting as if this team was expected to win 10 games and make the playoffs.
The reality is that while the roster was improved in the offseason, especially with the addition of wide receiver D.J. Moore, this was a team that was likely to win perhaps 6 or 7 games at best.
That is not to defend this coaching staff or argue for another year of Eberflus. This author believes Eberflus mishandled the absence of former defensive coordinator Alan Williams early in the season — before Williams resigned over what was reported to be inappropriate workplace behavior.
Another assistant was also let go for apparent inappropriate workplace behavior. While I can’t totally pin that on Eberflus — people who behave badly are the ones who should face the consequences, and the Bears acted more decisively when faced with the situation a second time — it does make one wonder about Eberflus’s ability to hire and vet assistants.
I also take issue with Eberflus’s in-game coaching, particularly a too-conservative approach that helped lead to a meltdown against Detroit. He has, however, performed well as a defensive coordinator filling in for Williams.
A return for Getsy is as hard, if not harder, to defend. Eberflus could argue for another year based on his ability to operate the defense and the fact that 2022 was a tank year. He could argue that he will bring in an OC who is better suited to work with Fields and/or develop a draft-pick QB than Getsy. Getsy has struggled to emphasize Fields’ strengths and may have neutered a quarterback who at times has looked like he should be the Bears’ starter going forward. And while Eberflus can be pilloried for an overall conservative approach as the team nursed leads against Denver and Detroit before collapsing, some odd play calls likely fall on Getsy.
I am not arguing for more of this coaching staff. I am arguing, however, that angry and impatient Bears, who are understandably sick of all the losing, remember that the 2023 season was likely to never be a playoff season — just one in which the team took a big step toward contention in 2024 and beyond.
The bigger question is, has the team taken that step? That’s hard to say. The roster is better, even if injuries have been an issue at times. Fields has looked better after a poor start — and some missed time due to injury — but he still has some flaws in his game that need to be cleaned up. He still occasionally holds the ball too long, still fumbles too much, and still sometimes doesn’t see an open WR.
On the other hand, those issues may be fixable. And the question about whether Fields or someone else should be the QB next season is a topic for a separate article.
By record, the Bears are one win better than last year with five games remaining. By the eye test, the team is better, especially on defense, but is still a ways from being a team in the playoff hunt. It will be up to any offseason changes, to the roster, coaching staff, and/or front office, to help this team make the leap.
Before the season started, I suspected this was a 5-7 win team. That appears to be in play. The Bears are who I thought they were.