LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Matt Eberflus knew this would be a lengthy Bears rebuild process. Success wasn't going to come overnight. There would be growing pains for both the roster and staff.
In a results-oriented business that often demands immediate success, it would be easy to let frustration creep in, especially when outsized expectations aren't met and questions about job security arise.
But Eberflus has continually stayed where his feet are and looked at the bigger picture of what he and general manager Ryan Poles are trying to accomplish. Daily progress can sometimes be infinitesimal, but eventually, the larger results materialize if you stay the course.
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"You have to have extreme patience during this time, and you got to see growth," Eberflus said Wednesday at Halas Hall. "You have to see that in small increments at times. You have to learn from every performance, and I think that’s part of growing. We’ve continued to do that as we’ve put this football team together."
Eberflus can say that, but he also understands that his 7-22 record isn't good enough, especially given the Bears' dreadful start to his second season. But that incremental growth Eberflus has seen daily at Halas Hall has started to show on the field, and the Bears enter Week 14 with the arrow pointing in the right direction.
"You want the wins, right? The wins, that’s the biggest frustration," Eberflus said. "When are you going to get the wins? You keep doing things right, you keep doing things right, then all of a sudden, the wins will come. That’s what all of my mentors would tell me when I visited during this process. Just keep doing it right and really focus on the fundamentals and details of doing the job right. Hold guys to standards, don’t let that slip. That’s what we’ve tried to do. Again, I know it’s been slow, and I know the Chicago Bears fans– as we do– want more wins. You can certainly see that momentum starting to change, and we’re certainly optimistic for that."
While Eberflus' defense has strung together eight weeks of mostly solid performances -- Los Angeles and the fourth quarter in Detroit notwithstanding -- the offense has continued to be clunky and inconsistent.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy's game plans have been hit and miss, and that's the most generous interpretation. Quarterback Justin Fields has flashed, but the passing game has lacked the consistent explosiveness needed to win in today's NFL.
This is the first time Eberflus has had responsibility for a team's offense. That patience Eberflus preached in pushing through the stagnant times also extends to Getsy, Fields, and the offense.
But there's a line that has to be walked. Patience is essential, but things must be fixed immediately when they aren't working.
"I think that’s always there, the sense of urgency is always there," Eberflus said when asked about exercising patience with the offense. "When the execution is there, you want to keep doing it. When it’s not, you want to have a sense of urgency. I said it the other day, it’s about being optimistic, being positive, but also being real. That’s not just with the players. That’s with the coaches too. What do we need to improve on? You have to make that improvement. That’s part of being a coordinator, that’s part of being a head coach, and that’s exactly what you do."
Getsy took some heat for his screen-heavy game plan during the Bears' 12-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 12. Getsy believed the best way to combat Minnesota's high-pressure defense was with quick passes to the perimeter. That worked initially, but the Vikings caught on, and the Bears' offense sputtered in the second half.
On the Monday after the Minnesota win, Eberflus noted explosive plays to be had down the field against the Vikings. The Bears have to take advantage of those opportunities schematically, and Fields has to hit them when they are called.
"It’s about how do we generate explosive plays," Eberflus said. "You score touchdowns by getting the explosives, right? We all know that.
"But how do we do that in the running game? How do we create advantageous positions for the offense through motions, formationally, to create those advantages, those angles that we want to have so we can pop those runs? And in the passing game — we’re going to have to take more shots downfield to create those explosive plays. Those things are there. We just have to take advantage of it."
Eberflus understands the pressure he and his staff face over the final five weeks. The progress has started to show, but a strong finish would go a long way toward ensuring they get another season.
But the potentially warming seat hasn't forced his reservoir of patience to empty with Getsy, Fields, and the offense. There's a belief that a breakout is coming. The adjustments will be made, and the explosive plays will start to arrive Sunday when the Bears open their critical finishing stretch against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.
"I think they're coming. I really do," Eberflus said when asked about his patience with the offense. "I know Justin throws a really good deep ball, and he's proven that we're excited about our opportunity this week."
If Getsy, Fields, and the offense continue to be erratic and struggle to create explosive plays, Eberflus' patience will be put to the test, and the sense of urgency, with jobs potentially on the line, will be ratcheted up.