Justin Fields

Why Bears' future is murky across the board as Black Monday approaches

Historically, several NFL coaches get fired after the end of the regular season

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Black Monday is– as the name implies– a dark day for many NFL coaches. It’s the day after the regular season finale, when many teams announce that they’ve decided to part ways with a GM, head coach, or coordinator. But for the Bears things look cloudy. The team has several big decisions ahead not just with their coaching staff, but with their quarterback as well.

Let’s start at the top with Ryan Poles. The beginning of his tenure as Bears GM may have rattled fans, as he traded away Khalil Mack for a second-round and sixth-round pick, then signed Larry Ogunjobi, only for Ogunjobi to fail his physical. Poles took a ton of heat early this year, when it became clear that his Chase Clyapool trade was a bust. In November 2022, Poles sent a second-round pick to Pittsburgh for the embattled wide receiver (and that pick ended up being the No. 32 selection in the draft), but Claypool never found his footing in Chicago. Things got so bad, he was asked to stay away from the team. In October 2023, Poles sent Claypool and a 2025 seventh-round pick to Miami in exchange for a 2025 sixth-round pick. Others questioned why Poles would send linebacker Roquan Smith packing, only to spend big bucks on other linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards.

But Edmunds and Edwards have turned out to be integral players in the middle of the defense. Justin Jones, the man signed when the Ogunjobi deal fell through, has played much better with improved personnel around him. Poles had pro personnel misses in 2022 (see: Taco Charlton, Dane Cruickshank, N’Keal Harry, Alex Leatherwood, Nick Morrow, Al-Quadian Muhammad, Byron Pringle), but the Bears were rebuilding and trying to find hidden gems in the NFL bargain bin. In 2023, when it was time to start building the roster back up, Poles had many more hits (see: Andrew Billings, Edmunds, Edwards, D’Onta Foreman, DeMarcus Walker).

It’s still too early to fully judge Poles’ draft classes since they’re all first or second-year players, but early returns indicate he’s got a knack for finding talent from Day One to Day Three. There are definitely picks that look like misses (Velus Jones Jr., Dominique Robinson). He’s got way more picks that look like foundational players or steady contributors, though (Jaquan Brisker, Gervon Dexter, Kyler Gordon, Braxton Jones, Terell Smith, Tyrique Stevenson, Darnell Wright).

The pièce de résistance for Poles is the Montez Sweat trade. Poles could’ve gotten timid near the deadline in light of the Claypool disaster, but he trusted his process and principles, made another monster deal, and it paid off. Sweat has outperformed expectations as the edge rusher the Bears desperately needed and has helped to transform the defense into an elite unit in the process. Thanks to the enormous contract extension that followed the trade, Sweat will be a Bear for the foreseeable future, too.

Poles isn’t going anywhere. He’s safe to direct the future of the franchise as he sees fit. Which brings us to the real questions that should be answered next week.

First, Poles must decide if he wants to retain Matt Eberflus as head coach. After an 0-4 start to this season, Eberflus’ seat started to heat up even though he had only coached 21 games for the team. A 14-game losing streak will do that. But like Poles, Eberflus stuck to his process and his principles. He took over playcalling for the defense when defensive coordinator Alan Williams took his leave from the team in Week 2. Eberflus called a more aggressive game and used creative personnel groups, like dipping into dime packages on third down, to play to his team’s strengths and cover up their weaknesses. He remained the same coach no matter the circumstances. Players appreciated that even-keel approach. It was assuring to know what to expect and how they would be evaluated on a weekly basis. Eberflus preached that they would start to see good results if they kept working diligently and stayed the course. Sure enough, things started to turn. When Sweat joined the team, the defense took off. Now they boast the No. 1 run defense and lead the league in interceptions. The progress is palpable.

Lots of that progress is thanks to big strides that young players have made over the year. Brisker, Dexter, Gordon and Stevenson have all improved. Jaylon Johnson has gone from a great cornerback to an elite cornerback. Obviously the players deserve the most credit for their own growth, but Eberflus and his staff have certainly had a hand in their development. That shouldn’t be ignored.

Bottom line, the Bears have gone from the worst teams in the league with a 3-14 record, to the NFL’s middle class at 7-9 with a chance to hit eight wins at Lambeau Field. It feels like Eberflus should be safe this offseason. But what if a Hall of Fame coach like Bill Belichick becomes available to hire? Or other certified winners like Mike Tomlin and Jim Harbaugh? The Bears must do their due diligence if the opportunity presents itself, as any franchise must.

If the Bears do move on from Eberflus, all bets are off for the next two sections. A new coach will bring in his own staff and have his own opinions on the QB. If not, the evaluations continue.

Next in line are offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and Justin Fields. Each man deserves some blame for the shortcomings on offense this year. Each man deserves some credit for great offensive performances, like the 37-17 blowout against the Falcons or the 40 points that the Bears dropped on the Commanders. Their futures may be linked to a degree, as well.

The offense failed to grow at the same rate as the defense, so it should be scrutinized. At times, Getsy’s playcalling has been suspect. Calling three screens in a row against the Buccaneers in Week 2 comes to mind, especially since the third resulted in a game-sealing pick-six. To add insult to injury, Bucs defenders said they knew exactly what was coming so they could undercut the route. At times protection plans have been insufficient, like leaving rookie Darnell Wright or Cole Kmet on an island against premier pass rushers. Getsy failed to make in-game adjustments in other cases, like throwing 20+ passes near the line of scrimmage against the Vikings.

In other areas, Getsy has displayed real growth. He figured out how to get DJ Moore the ball consistently after a slow start to the season. He showed a knack for designing effective QB runs with Fields. He dialed up deep shots against the man-heavy Falcons and it led to several chunk plays and scores. He’s been able to put together effective rushing attacks, no matter if it’s Khalil Herbert, Foreman or Roschon Johnson leading the way.

Then there’s Fields. At times he still waits too long before delivering passes. There are times where it doesn’t look like he’s seeing the whole field clearly. That can result in shorter gains to receivers, or incompletions. His anticipation has improved, but there are still moments when it’s clear Fields needs to throw a ball before a receiver has made his break for a play to have a chance to succeed. Ball control issues continued with 10 fumbles in 12 games.

But Fields can make every throw required of a quarterback. His accuracy is much improved. We haven’t seen a ball sail over a receiver’s head for an easy interception in a long time. Fields still has one of the best deep balls in the league, and his ability to make plays off-script make him a headache for opposing defenses on every snap. A big knock on Fields was that he couldn't lead an offense to score without a short field, or couldn't come through with clutch plays with the game on the line. Late-game scores to put away the Lions and Cardinals, and extended drives against the Cardinals and Falcons proved he can. Fields does things you can’t teach. He isn’t perfect, but no QB is.

Is it fair to give Fields a third offense to learn in just four years, though? Is that a recipe for success?

If you bring in a quarterback, do you want him working under Getsy, who’s on the hot seat? Would it be better to simply get a new QB and OC together, on the same track and timeline?

These are the questions that the Bears needed to ask themselves as they went through their evaluations and why the future is murky for the team. If the team decides Getsy isn’t good enough it might be best for both the Bears and Fields for the team to draft a rookie QB, too. If the team decides to reset with Caleb Williams or Drake Maye, it might be best to reset the clock on the offense entirely. Alternately, if the Bears decide to keep either Getsy or Fields, it might be best to run it back for both of them.

There are a lot of things that can happen for the Bears this offseason. Since they own the No. 1 overall pick they have the flexibility to do whatever they want and they have the bargaining chip to lure in prospective coaches. We’ll get some clarity about the team soon, but some answers won’t come until the team starts digging into their draft work in earnest.

One thing’s for sure though, this is set to be yet another interesting offseason in Chicago.

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