Through eight weeks, the Bears have been a disappointment again. The team has a 2-6 record, has been blown out three times, and let a 28-7 lead slip away with under 20 minutes to go against the Broncos for another loss. At times, the team has played undisciplined and has demonstrated poor fundamentals.
Add it all up and many Bears fans have called for head coach Matt Eberflus to be fired by season’s end. On Wednesday, GM Ryan Poles said he understands questions about the job Eberflus has done to this point, but shared why he’s confident Eberflus is still the right man to lead the team.
“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. “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.”
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Questions of culture and integrity came up often on Wednesday since the Bears announced they had fired running backs coach David Walker because he wasn’t meeting the team’s cultural standards.
“We have expectations here,” Poles said. “This comes from me, (team president/CEO) Kevin (Warren), (team chairman) George (McCaskey) and Matt. If you don’t meet those expectations of how you move around this building and how you treat people, how you talk to people, how you act, you don’t belong here.”
Walker’s dismissal was the second time an assistant coach had to leave this offseason. Former defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned in September, citing health and family issues. Further reporting from Adam Schefter said Williams left because of inappropriate, but not criminal, behavior. But Poles dismissed the idea that the Bears had a culture problem, or that Eberflus wasn’t doing well to vet his staff members.
“The people that (Eberflus) 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.”
Further, Poles commended how the Bears have played, even though they’ve done a lot more losing than winning over the past year and a half.
“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.”
Fans often point to Eberflus’ 5-20 record as head coach and franchise-worst .200 win percentage as grounds that he needs to go. But the Bears may cut him slack for last years’ 3-14 record, since Poles traded away several of the team’s best players in Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith and began a rebuild in earnest. It’s hard to win when a roster is torn down to the studs.
Culture isn’t something that’s developed overnight. In the Bears’ case there have clearly been growing pains. And at least publicly, Poles is still buying into Eberflus’ ability to build a winning program.
“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.”