The bye week is over and the Chicago Bears are about to start the ultimate five-game stretch of the season with many necessary questions looming.
What would they’ve to perform, starting Sunday at Soldier Field in opposition to the Detroit Lions, for coach Matt Eberflus to return for a 3rd season in 2024? Brad Biggs takes a swing at that and lots of extra questions in his weekly Bears mailbag.
Is 7-10 sufficient to avoid wasting Matt Eberflus’ job? Is 7-10 sufficient to avoid wasting his job however with situations on his teaching employees transferring ahead? How do you see this enjoying out? — @oldvulture23
That is among the greatest inquiries to be answered within the stretch run because the Bears put together for Sunday’s NFC North assembly with the Detroit Lions, whom they need to have overwhelmed three weeks in the past at Ford Field. The Bears are looking for to win consecutive video games for the primary time below Eberflus, and that might be a step in the precise route. The Lions (9-3) are a high-quality opponent, which makes this a vital sport for Eberflus. I can’t name his first division win in Week 12 in Minnesota a signature win as a result of it got here in opposition to a Vikings staff that began Joshua Dobbs at quarterback and was with out Justin Jefferson.
I’ve written beforehand that an analysis of Eberflus has to lean closely on this season. You must separate 2022 from this yr as a result of final yr’s roster wasn’t designed to be aggressive and the Bears have been resetting their wage cap by carrying greater than $85 million in lifeless cap area earlier than the season ended. The 3-14 document all the time will likely be on Eberflus’ resume (and that of basic supervisor Ryan Poles), nevertheless it was understood what the staff was doing to place itself for the long run.
The Bears have been anticipated to be extra aggressive this season, and at 4-8 and having blown the primary assembly in opposition to the Lions and the Week 4 sport in opposition to the Denver Broncos, they’re not fairly the place you’d need them. With 5 video games remaining, the Bears may get to 7-10 or maybe even 8-9 (9-8 could be a stretch) in the event that they proceed to play stable protection and get a bit of extra consistency on offense.
A judgment on Eberflus and his teaching employees doubtless will lean a bit of extra closely on how the staff carried out within the second half of the season than the primary half. Do you ignore the primary half? No, however one main query you are attempting to reply is how did the roster carry out because the season progressed. Was the arrow pointing up on the finish of the season? What’s the logical subsequent step in 2024 if the teaching employees returns?
Poles and the management at Halas Hall want to think about a ton of questions. Do the Bears need an offensive-minded head coach if they will draft a quarterback? Do they imagine Luke Getsy and the offensive employees could be match for a brand new quarterback? There are a ton of inquiries to sift by way of, and whereas many have made out Getsy to be the bogeyman, I don’t get the sense that sentiment is shared contained in the constructing.
Eberflus positively may also help his trigger if the Bears can get to 8-9 and even 7-10. That’s throughout the vary of victories most individuals most likely figured was life like earlier than the season. More importantly, although, it’s a couple of really feel. Are the Bears headed in the precise route with the present teaching employees? Is that group getting probably the most it might out of the gamers? Is improvement occurring because it ought to?
Five extra video games is lots of motion for Poles, President/CEO Kevin Warren and finally Chairman George McCaskey to sift by way of. It will occur rapidly. The Bears are comparatively wholesome, and coming off a late bye, they’re additionally well-rested. Let’s see how issues shake out.
Is there any actual hope of creating the playoffs? Tough few video games forward that I don’t suppose the Bears will win. — @just_acy
There was a bit of buzz Sunday when a few of the community graphics included what gave the impression to be any staff that had not been kind of eradicated from the postseason as “in the hunt.” Is there hope for the Bears? Anything is feasible. There’s virtually all the time hope. To stay within the hunt, they most likely must win the following 5 video games, which might imply closing the common season with a six-game profitable streak. That’s to have a practical shot at a wild-card berth. You do notice that because the begin of final season, the Bears have received solely seven video games whole and have but to win consecutive video games, right? Their most up-to-date win got here in opposition to a No. 3 quarterback in Minnesota they usually have been unable to attain a landing.
The remaining 5 video games — Sunday versus the Lions, on the Cleveland Browns, residence in opposition to the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons and on the Green Bay Packers — seem winnable. I’m fairly sure these opponents will mark the Bears on their schedule as a “winnable” sport for them as properly. I wouldn’t have a ton of confidence within the Bears going to Lambeau Field on Jan. 9 and profitable. Not if the Packers stay wholesome. They may have a playoff spot on the road, Jordan Love is enjoying very properly and the Packers have received the final 9 conferences and 14 of the final 15.
That stated, the Bears move the attention check of late while you’re in search of enhancements, particularly on protection. I’m toying with the concept of choosing them to win Sunday at residence in opposition to a Lions staff that hasn’t been sharp for some time. The manner the Bears have been enjoying, I imagine they’ve an opportunity to shut out the season with some momentum and possibly win three extra video games. If they catch a spark and play a bit of higher, maybe they go 4-1 the remainder of the best way.
But, man, that’s asking them to do one thing we haven’t seen with any degree of consistency for a very long time. A 3-2 or 4-1 end would go away them 7-10 or 8-9, and that’s most likely within the vary most people had them earlier than the season.
If Kevin Warren and the Bears determine to line up their GM, HC and QB, is there threat with doubtlessly all three being rookies? Even if it’s simply HC and QB, is there any type of success price with rookie head coaches paired with a rookie QB? — @bobszafranski
It positive appears just like the Houston Texans, with first-time head coach DeMeco Ryans and rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, are headed down the precise path. Stroud appears like a slam dunk to win offensive rookie of the yr honors. He leads the league with 3,540 passing yards.
Jalen Hurts was in his second yr in Philadelphia when the Eagles employed a first-time head coach in Nick Sirianni. Zac Taylor was in his second season as a head coach (after a 2-14 first yr) when the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Joe Burrow. Those are current examples of latest or very inexperienced head coaches understanding with younger quarterbacks. I might not fear in regards to the chance the Bears have a rookie quarterback or rookie head coach. I might be extra involved they draft the precise quarterback and rent the precise coach.
There’s a cliche concerning the Bears that they typically screw up hiring the coach as a result of they don’t rent one with prior head teaching expertise. That didn’t assist John Fox. Lovie Smith was a first-time head coach. So was Mike Ditka.
The following groups are fairly aggressive proper now — or have been traditionally — with a head coach who had no prior expertise within the position (interim tags not included):
- Ravens: John Harbaugh
- Bills: Sean McDermott
- Bengals: Zac Taylor
- Lions: Dan Campbell
- Packers: Matt LaFleur
- Rams: Sean McVay
- Dolphins: Mike McDaniel
- Vikings: Kevin O’Connell
- Eagles: Nick Sirianni
- Steelers: Mike Tomlin
- 49ers: Kyle Shanahan
Should earlier head teaching expertise be thought-about? No query. Should it’s a deal breaker? No manner. Again, it’s about discovering the precise match organizationally. Criticizing the Bears for not hiring extra head coaches with earlier expertise within the position is lazy. Criticize them for hiring the unsuitable coaches and/or not outfitting the roster with sufficient expertise for the coaches to have success.
Any probability the Bears draft a QB at Nos. 1 or 2 within the draft and hold Justin Fields? Or is Fields positively traded if a QB is drafted? — @jtr_1994
If the Bears draft a quarterback within the first spherical, it could be as a result of they’re prepared to maneuver on from Fields. I might count on them to discover commerce choices in the event that they go in that route. It wouldn’t make sense to have a rookie you’ve deemed to be the way forward for the franchise and Fields.
If the Bears do draft a quarterback, I’d guess prime greenback Fields could be keen to maneuver on as properly. No one has offered a case to me for drafting a quarterback and holding Fields that is sensible. The Bears have a quarterback they’d really feel fairly good about creating as a backup in Tyson Bagent.
Do you count on the Bears to make an enormous play for Chris Jones within the offseason? — @danno561
Initial intuition would inform me no. Is it one thing they’ve to debate? Yes. Maybe verify in on? Sure. Make a “big play” for Jones? I are likely to suppose no. I don’t suppose the Bears are on the level the place they’re one huge signing of a free agent who has reached the height in his profession from getting excessive.
Jones is a implausible participant who has possibly been overshadowed a bit of in his profession by Aaron Donald, top-of-the-line defensive tackles of all time. Jones has 7 1/2 sacks for the Kansas City Chiefs this season and tied a profession excessive with 15 1/2 final season. He’s a disruptive drive in opposition to the move and the run.
He additionally will flip 30 in July and will likely be coming into his ninth season in 2024. He’s a high-mileage man who has missed solely eight video games in his profession. Eventually Jones will look slower and fewer explosive than he was in his prime, after which whoever is paying him will likely be getting a fraction of the return on its funding.
I hedge a bit of on this as a result of I didn’t suppose the Bears could be concerned with 30-year-old defensive deal with Javon Hargrave final March. The Bears at the least checked out the market on Hargrave earlier than it received far more costly than they needed to go. He ultimately signed a four-year, $84 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers that included $40 million assured.
You go after a participant like Jones in free company while you really feel like your roster is at a degree the place possibly you’re one participant away. The Bears don’t seem like they’re one participant away to me. They need to see what the defensive deal with market appears like and take into account some additions, however in addition they need to see rookies Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens take huge steps ahead in 2024.
In my opinion, you reserve the “big plays” in free company for guys popping out of their first NFL contract and coming into their prime years. Jones is past that at this level. He will money in huge time. I’m just a bit skeptical the Bears could be in that group of groups pursuing a 30-year-old who will get a deal close to the highest of the market.
I really feel just like the Bears are near being aggressive. I like the place the protection goes. I like lots of the offense too. QB play is one thing that’s holding them again from ascending. Is it doable the Bears may herald a man like Baker Mayfield? We know what he’s. He’s been fairly constant. I feel teaming him with DJ Moore and Marvin Harrison would make the offense one of many higher items within the league and supply him with top-of-the-line alternatives he’s had since coming into the league. It would additionally permit the Bears to make use of draft picks on the positions like DT/DE and OL the place they nonetheless want a little bit of assist. — John R., Vietnam
If I had a $5 invoice for each situation floated my manner by which the Bears purchase a bridge quarterback to permit them to make use of draft capital to handle different positions, I’d be near paying for a villa in Cabo San Lucas for every week.
Mayfield is throwing to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has handed for two,790 yards, finishing 260 of 409 passes (63.6%) with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions. I’d take Moore and Harrison over that pair, however Evans and Godwin isn’t a foul duo and you’ll definitely do a heck of lots worse. It’s not like Mayfield — who has changed into a journeyman since being picked No. 1 in 2018 by the Cleveland Browns — has no skill-position assist.
The Bucs started the season 3-1, together with a Week 2 victory over the Bears at Raymond James Stadium, after which actually struggled, shedding six of seven video games earlier than a 21-18 win over the hapless Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Since the primary month of the season, they’ve scored greater than 20 factors solely twice.
You can do lots worse than Mayfield if you must lean on a bridge quarterback for a season, however the Bears merely can not take into account this feature or the same one. We’re making an attempt too arduous to overthink the state of affairs. Let me clarify.
If you recall when Ryan Poles was employed as basic supervisor in January 2022, the principle theme he highlighted was placing the franchise ready the place it might get pleasure from sustained success. That’s clearly one of many objectives — if not the important aim — he hammered residence with Chairman George McCaskey that led to his hiring. It’s one thing the Bears, who haven’t had consecutive profitable seasons since 2005-06, need within the worst manner.
What are the frequent denominators for groups which can be routinely within the playoff hunt? Usually you discover a secure entrance workplace and a head coach with some longevity and a monitor document for fulfillment. Those elements are sometimes in place for groups which have what? A top-tier quarterback. It’s extraordinarily troublesome to be a reliable Super Bowl contender and not using a franchise quarterback, and it’s darn close to unattainable to maintain that degree of competitors with out one.
Keeping Poles’ overarching aim in thoughts, and understanding that the Bears most likely haven’t checked the entire containers they wish to at this level with Justin Fields, it looks like most indicators level in a single route: choosing a quarterback at or close to the highest of a draft that ought to provide some glorious decisions.
Timing might be on the Bears’ aspect. This isn’t a poor quarterback class like 2022, when Kenny Pickett was the primary one chosen at No. 20 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. If the Bears deem they should take one other swing on the place — and I’ve been clear I feel it’s headed in that route — that is the yr to do it. They received’t obtain sustained success till they get that place proper, and I don’t suppose Mayfield or one other journeyman would fill that want.
You know what the Bucs are going to do that offseason? See if they will discover an improve over Mayfield.
At the three-quarter level of the season (roughly), who would you nominate for offensive rookie of yr, defensive rookie of the yr, all-around participant of the yr for offense and protection, most improved and largest disappointment? — Mike P., Madison, Wis.
Interesting questions with a few apparent solutions and some good debates. I’m assuming you might be asking particularly in regards to the Bears.
Offensive rookie: RT Darnell Wright. He has performed a team-high 797 offensive snaps (99.4%) and has flashed the dominance that makes it clear why the Bears used the No. 10 decide on him. One knock on Wright is consistency. His play can dip from snap to snap, and that needs to be ironed out transferring ahead. He additionally has a team-high 10 penalties (5 false begins, 4 holding calls, one unlawful block above the waist), and that must be cleaned up. Overall, I feel the staff will likely be fairly proud of Wright heading into his second season.
Defensive rookie: CB Tyrique Stevenson. While Wright doesn’t have lots of competitors because the offensive choice, defensive deal with Gervon Dexter is gaining on Stevenson. The second-round decide from Miami has began 11 video games — he missed the Week 12 sport in Minnesota with an ankle damage — and has one interception, one pressured fumble and 7 passes damaged up. His play has been extra up and down than Wright’s as groups have focused Stevenson, however he has flashed extra constantly than Dexter, who has been approaching within the final month.
Offensive participant: WR DJ Moore. This is a slam dunk. Moore most likely may stand on his numbers proper now — 70 receptions for 1,003 yards with six touchdowns — and be the winner on the finish of the season. He’s averaging 14.3 yards per reception and 10.8 yards per goal. It’s honest to say the Bears have gotten all the pieces they anticipated and possibly a bit of extra from the receiver they acquired within the commerce of the No. 1 decide to the Panthers.
Defensive participant: CB Jaylon Johnson. This additionally seems to be a reasonably straightforward choice, though weak-side linebacker T.J. Edwards has been a tackling machine and defensive finish Montez Sweat has been the type of multiplier GM Ryan Poles hoped he could be since arriving. I’d additionally observe that nostril deal with Andrew Billings has carried out properly, clearly incomes the two-year contract extension he obtained with the Bears rating No. 1 within the league in opposition to the run. Johnson guess on himself coming into the ultimate yr of his rookie contract and will likely be rewarded both with a pleasant extension from the Bears or by hitting the jackpot in free company. He has three interceptions and eight passes damaged up as the principle cog in a gifted and enhancing secondary.
Most improved: LG Teven Jenkins or CB Kyler Gordon. This appears like a toss-up. Jenkins has performed very properly since coming back from a calf damage suffered within the preseason and appears like he might be a constructing block on the offensive line. Questions about his sturdiness stay, however he has been beginning and ending video games and has been glorious in each move safety and run blocking. Gordon has settled in properly within the nickel position and brings a mixture of protection capacity and energy and toughness. There’s lots to love about each gamers projecting to 2024 and past.
Biggest disappointment: WR Velus Jones. The third-round decide from 2022 has struggled to make an impression on particular groups and has been faraway from the punt returning position. He additionally has been unable to create greater than a tiny area of interest for himself as a gadget participant on offense. He’s the straightforward selection, though I thought-about quarterback Justin Fields, who has not constantly elevated his play as a pocket passer.
Lots of people speak in regards to the QB race on the prime of Round 1 as both Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. Do you see one other QB who might be a 3rd choice the Bears could be extra serious about than the front-runners for media/followers? — @barbersquires
Assuming Williams, Maye and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy declare for the draft, I feel you’re a bunch of 4 quarterbacks who will likely be mentioned completely prematurely of the draft, which begins April 25 (it solely appears like that’s about 9 months away). LSU’s Jayden Daniels is out of school eligibility and could be the fourth quarterback within the combine.
Williams was the presumptive No. 1 decide when the faculty season kicked off in August, and he nonetheless would possibly wind up in that spot. He opted out of USC’s Holiday Bowl look, prone to start making ready for the offseason with the mix, a professional day and personal exercises.
If the draft have been primarily based on the present standings, the Bears would have the No. 1 decide (through the Panthers) and the No. 5 decide, which means GM Ryan Poles would have management of the quarterback market if he needs. The Bears little doubt have been doing their homework on the entire quarterbacks, which implies they certainly have a reasonably good really feel as properly for Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix. I don’t see both of these guys within the combine on the very prime of the draft, nevertheless it takes just one staff to fall in love with a man.
I feel you’ll be able to concentrate on Williams, Maye, McCarthy and Daniels with bowl season about to crank up. I went to see the primary three play reside and was glad to see McCarthy play in Michigan’s greatest sport of the common season in opposition to Ohio State as a result of a lot of the Wolverines’ schedule was in opposition to inferior competitors. I want I may have seen Daniels, who appears just like the Heisman Trophy favourite, however there have been solely so many probabilities to get out and nonetheless see the Bears.
I used to be capable of speak extensively with scouting personnel from all kinds of organizations to assist body reviews on all three. Here they’re:
What is the hit price for QBs taken on the prime of the draft? If the Bears determine Justin Fields is barely above common, would they forgo the chance of choosing a QB and take a extra surefire participant(s)? — @chriscremer9
The hit price isn’t nice for the primary two or three quarterbacks to return off the board, and there’s all the time threat concerned. The price is equally dangerous, nonetheless, for groups to develop into constant contenders to make a deep run within the playoffs and not using a franchise quarterback. The Bears can not plan on choosing on the prime of the draft yearly — even when they traded one among their very excessive picks to a staff in want of a quarterback — so ultimately they’ve to fireside on a quarterback in the event that they’re not satisfied Fields is the man.
The timing right here — Fields being in Year 3, the offense being underwhelming total, the Bears positioned to have their decide of quarterbacks in a powerful class and the actual fact they handed on an opportunity to draft C.J. Stroud this yr — leads me to imagine that’s the route they’re headed in. Five video games stay. That’s practically one-third of a season. So there’s extra soccer to be evaluated, however that’s the situation coming into Week 14.
It appears prefer it may snow earlier than Sunday’s sport at Soldier Field and be windy in the course of the sport. Weather clearly impacts play calling. Regardless of the answer Kevin Warren and the Chicago Bears select, do you count on it to have a roof? — @ajlight315
It’s my understanding the Bears’ plans for a brand new stadium contain a everlasting roof. A retractable roof would price considerably extra money. Their aim is to have an indoor facility that can be utilized year-round for a wide range of occasions.