Matt Eberflus

Bears' Matt Eberflus addresses job security questions as season hits home stretch

Matt Eberflus isn't oblivious to the pressure he faces in the final five games but knows there's only one way he can ensure he returns for a third season

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Matt Eberflus has been around football for his entire life. He understands the pressure that comes with coaching in the NFL. It's a results-based business.

If you don't deliver the desired results, they'll find someone who will.

Eberflus' second season as Bears' head coach got off to the most disastrous start imaginable. The Bears lost their first four games, their defense was the worst in the NFL, and third-year quarterback Justin Fields appeared to be regressing. Throw in the mysterious resignation of defensive coordinator Alan Williams and the Chase Claypool failure, and Eberflus' seat, at least from the outside looking in, was scalding hot early in October.

But things have taken a positive turn over the past two months. The Bears are 4-4 in their last eight games, the defense has made great strides under Eberflus' direction, and Fields has shown signs of progress since returning from a dislocated thumb.

The Bears are trending in the right direction as the season hits the home stretch. But there are still whispers about a pending change at head coach. Jim Harbaugh has been mentioned as a potential replacement. Detriot Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is a popular name.

Eberflus isn't oblivious to the importance of the Bears' final five games to his future but isn't outwardly buckling under the pressure. This is the life of a coach in the NFL.

"You know the season didn’t start the way everybody wanted, for sure," Eberflus said Monday at Halas Hall. "But over the last eight weeks, we’ve put some good things out there. We’re certainly excited about doing that this week. Our focus is -- as any time in the NFL -- is where your feet are. We’ve got to be focused on this game and this game only to put your best foot forward out there, and that’s what we’re doing this week."

On November 1, general manager Ryan Poles gave a strong statement in support of Eberflus as the then-2-6 Bears navigated a wave of adversity after the dismissal of running backs coach David Walker.

"What I see every day, where I see him address the team and I see his approach through adversity, it is stable, man," Poles said. "And I know in the outside world, it doesn’t look like that. And I know it looks like we’re far away. But this dude comes in every day and just keeps chipping away. He has high integrity. The people that he brings in here, he’s done the work to make sure that they’re the people they’re supposed to be. Again, we hold that standard. If it doesn’t follow that and people aren’t acting that way, they’re not here.

"But the way he holds everything down here is incredible for how loud it is, how tough it is. I mean, this team, you watch them, they fight. I know this past weekend wasn’t great, but you can’t watch that team and be like, oh, they’re going to fold. Most teams fold, and they’re not folding. It’s been hard. It’s been really hard, especially from where we started last year, trying to build this and do it the right way. What I see from him on a daily basis and how he gets this team ready on a weekly basis, to me, I see a grown man that has leadership skills to get this thing out of the hole and into where it needs to be."

On Monday, Eberflus was asked if he felt that his job was safe, given Poles' public backing. The head coach reverted to his previous answer, understanding that if the arrow keeps pointing up for the final five games, he'll likely avoid the axe.

"What you can focus on is leadership, and the first rule of leadership is leading yourself," Eberflus said. "Come to work every day, put the plans together — offense, defense, special teams — lead the football team, help the leadership council, lead the football team as well, because true leadership comes from within. I think that's really what you focus on, and that's put your best foot forward every single day."

Those in league circles are split on whether or not Eberflus will get a third season in Chicago. Many factors, including the Bears' draft position and available replacement candidates, could play a role.

I don't get the sense that Poles wants to fire Eberflus. I don't think the 2022 record factors into the equation at all. If we're being honest, the way a 2022 team, relatively devoid of talent, fought until the end is probably a feather in his cap.

The defensive improvement over the last two months also buoys Eberflus' case to stay. The Bears now have the NFL's best run defense and rank ninth in yards allowed.

If the Bears finish strong, there's a good chance Eberflus returns for 2024.

For now, all he and the Bears can do is put their best foot forward.

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