Eventually, we may point back at September 24th, 2023 and see the day the Chicago Bears’ fortunes changed for the better.
On that day, the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals willed their way to surprise victories over better opponents while veteran quarterback Andy Dalton failed to push the Carolina Panthers over the Seattle Seahawks in a tight game on the road.
Thus, as the Chicago Bears fell to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bears began to separate themselves in the most important football race that nobody wants to win — the race to the top of the 2024 NFL Draft, where Chicago would own the #1 & #4 overall picks if the season ended today.
For an organization in desperate need of talent at all positions (including quarterback), picks like these could be a godsend.
They could be the Bears’ ticket to a generational quarterback (Caleb Williams/Drake Maye) and a generational receiver (Marvin Harrison Jr.) or left tackle (Olumuyiwa Fashanu).
They could be the fuel behind a near-instantaneous Cincinnati-like turnaround, with Williams and his draft-classmate forming the bedrock of an offense that will define Chicago as they push to compete within a few years’ time.
It’s possible that eventually we may see things that way. But today is not that day.
Because what we saw yesterday was, in a word, unacceptable. And it has to change.
Weighing Chicago’s Options
In a game where Chicago managed to fall behind 34-0 at halftime, three things became clear:
(1) The Chicago Bears have a Defensive Head Coach that currently leads one of the NFL’s worst defenses. Details are sloppy, there’s no plan in place to supplement poor pass-rushers, and through three 2023 games we’ve yet to see an opposing QB look bothered in the pocket. Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid only needed one set of adjustments to pick this scheme apart on Sunday and once their offense started rolling they never stopped.
(2) The Chicago Bears have a quarterback that’s wholly uncomfortable throwing from the pocket. Sunday featured rollouts, scrambles, read-option runs, and all the expected trimmings of a ‘Justin Fields offense’, but opposing defenses are fencing Fields into the pocket and daring Justin to beat them through the air. So far in 2023, that’s not something he’s been able to do.
(3) Luke Getsy has dug himself into a hole & I don’t know how he gets out of it. The Bears’ 2023 emphasis on throwing the football seems to have come at the cost of the diverse rushing attack that Chicago so painstakingly built in 2022, but I can’t understand why these two offensive ideas didn’t blend harmoniously. The 2022 Bears seemed able to pick up yards on the ground at will, even when opponents knew the rush was coming — where did that go?
Did the run game fall apart due to a lack of detail in 2023? Is it because Chase Claypool can’t handle the blocking roles that Equanimeous St. Brown excelled in last year? Or is it because Luke Getsy’s offense is yet another Nagy-esque mishmash of formations that have become tells for opposing defenses? It’s hard to say for sure, but one thing is for certain — as things are, nothing is working.
So, where does Chicago go from here? Unfortunately, every step forward includes major obstacles that will need to be cleared.
The Cost of Progress in Chicago
Each of the three main choices floating around Chicagoland come with major risks, despite potential rewards:
(1) “Fire Matt Eberflus”
To me, this is both the most effective potential solution and the most difficult potential solution to justify, primarily because of the departure of Alan Williams. Matt Eberflus seems to be struggling to keep the locker room together as the bottom falls out from under the team, and much like Marc Trestman so many years ago it may be time for a change in the team’s head voice. The team has seemingly quit in 2 out of 3 games this year (GB, KC), the details aren’t present in the team’s play on the field, and players & coaches continue to call each other out through the media — if change should come anywhere, it should come here.
But if Eberflus is dismissed, who calls the defense in he & Williams’ stead? Dave Borgonzi? I’ve never seen a staff juggle the departure/firing of both a head coach and it’s defensive coordinator, let alone so early in the season. Can it be done so soon? The Bears may be reluctant to try.
(2) “Fire Luke Getsy”
While cathartic at first, who replaces Getsy in the interim? The 2022 Chicago Bears intentionally hired a young coaching staff with the goal of building a fresh offense their way, but in so doing they built a staff without anyone ready to assume Getsy’s position in the case of emergency. With a matchup against a poor Denver defense approaching, is now the time for a trial by fire? If not, the approaching mini-bye after Week 5’s Thursday Night game may be the perfect opportunity.
(3) “Bench Justin Fields”
While the 2023 season has felt like an eternity already, Justin Fields has still only played 3 games this year — if anyone in the locker room still believes in him as the team’s leader (and I’m sure many do), benching Fields during what could easily be perceived as ‘a slow start to a big season’ may fracture the locker room irreparably. There’s no going back from this.
If the Bears’ organization is fed up with Fields, one graceful solution the Bears could entertain (though I’m certain this won’t happen) would be to seek a trade. With Aaron Rodgers’ injury in New York and Desmond Ridder struggling in Atlanta, maybe the Bears opt to move away from Fields for the right price? It feels ridiculous to even type this, but given the Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith trades last year I can’t put anything fully past Ryan Poles.
Your guess is as good as mine. But one thing is for sure — after a beating as sound as the one the Bears took yesterday, Halas Hall is sure to be a tumultuous environment for yet another week. Eventually, something’s got to give.
Your Turn: What did you think of yesterday’s game? Do you feel any better the day after?