Bears coach Matt Eberflus was in the mood for true confession after Sunday’s season finale.
Losing 29-13 took on little significance other than the fact it qualified the Bears for the first pick in the draft, and they have it now courtesy of Lovie Smith.
First, the Bears coach admitted the disruptive nature of trading his best defensive players at midseason. He didn’t need to, because it was as obvious as the lack of Justin Fields in the Bears offense Sunday against the Vikings.
Now comes the more important part. It’s the personnel department’s turn to do something, like Eberflus get some talent in free agency not named Ogunjobi and don’t waste the first pick the way the Bears did the way they last had the first pick.
That was a gentleman named Bob Fenimore from what is now Oklahoma State, in the Year of Pete Rozelle Nineteen Hundred and Forty-Seven. Fenimore had suffered a knee injury in his final college year and struggled, yet the Bears decided to draft him anyway with the No. 1 pick overall and he played 10 games for them before his career ended. Not exactly super scouting.
The Bears have twice as much money under the cap—actually more than twice as much—as the Jacksonville Jaguars did last year before they went on their spending spree that led to the playoffs in Doug Pederson’s first year.
They don’t have essential big contracts to get done, unless you consider David Montgomery a must-have player. They have some who could get contract extensions, like Jaylon Johnson, Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet, but they’re all under contract for 2023 anyway and there is no one to eat big chunks away from their cap space.
In fact, if they choose so, they could easily cut a couple more players and save even more space.
So what is Eberflus’ opinion on whether his boss, GM Ryan Poles, can use the first pick wisely and sign players who fail physicals?
“High confidence, no question,” Eberflus said. “No questions.
“The first thing of a personnel manager is the ability to pick players, and he can do that. The place where he came from, he has shown that this year already, and we look at the guys the same way. We like long, lean, fast, physical players. We both have been a part of that in our past, and we’re excited about getting that going.”
Will Anderson Jr. and Jalen Carter both fit that tag, although Anderson moreso.
Owning the first pick, though, the Bears could reap a cache of picks from some team looking to draft a quarterback. So this can’t be discounted, as long as they’re not dropping down too far in the trade.
They’ll put these players in together with the young players they brought this year and who were here for a year or two like Fields, Kmet, Johnson and Mooney, and the youthful foundation is laid.
“And as we start to add talent and start to add these guys, again, free agency and draft, it’s no different,” Eberflus said. ” It’s going to be up to the coaches to develop those guys and to fit them into the scheme so we can play winning football.”
Eberflus didn’t want to say yet whether there will be any changes among those coaches. At one time offensive coordinator Luke Getsy seemed a sure candidate for head coaching jobs elsewhere and he still could, but the head of an offense that finishes last in passing and scores 20 or less in its final six games isn’t likely to be a big attraction. He might be another year away.
As for the other assistants, Matt Nagy used to make coaching changes after every season and then tell everyone he needed time to reflect on whether to do it. And five minutes after saying this at a press conference, the team PR department releases information with a bunch of fired coaches’ names. Whoops.
The Bears need stability now more than anything because instability in the first year of the rebuild was their greatest problem, whether on the offensive line, defensive line or wide receiver.
The transition to the next year comes with much more scrutiny. The honeymoon is over, and if they actually do get Eberflus decent talent then the pressure will really be on the coaches after a 3-14 debacle.
“To me that’s outside the locker room,” Eberflus said. “We can’t control those things, and, again, we’re focused on our standard, how we operate in practice, in the meetings, and in the game.”
They may not be able to control it, but it will be there regardless.
Either way, Eberflus has a positive approach simply because it’s Year 2 coming up.
“Yeah, it’s really cool because you have a year under your belt now,” he said. “You have a good understanding of where the organization is, where you are as a group, and you really have a clear eye view of that, which I think is really outstanding.
“Then, going in now this year for free agency and into the draft, I just think you’re ahead. You know, you’re just ahead that way.”
This is good, because they haven’t actually been ahead much of Year 1.