Today should’ve been about Justin Fields having the best game of his young NFL career — even if it was against the Denver Broncos.
But it wasn’t. Because why would fate allow something that positive?
Nope, the Bears instead gave us that all-too-familiar taste of defeat with a twist, ripping defeat from the jaws of victory thanks to a hilariously bad defense, an abysmal fourth-down play call, and two late turnovers from Fields.
But that couldn’t be the only source of embarrassment for the Bears. Nope, not here.
Watching head coach Matt Eberflus fumble through varying explanations for why disgruntled wide receiver Chase Claypool wasn’t in the building on Sunday and won’t set foot in Halas Hall this week (unless he’s cut or traded) was like watching a man sign his own arrest warrant. Whatever happens from here on out, ‘Flus is almost certainly fired.
While we’re at it, general manager Ryan Poles, who lit the 32nd pick of the NFL Draft on fire to bring Claypool in the middle last year, hasn’t done anything to retain his job next year either. Even if some might debate whether the Bears can afford to eat the money they’ve committed to the coach and GM, a clean break is absolutely necessary.
You can’t have a defensive-minded head coach fielding the worst defense in football, and you can’t be the general manager who hired a “culture” guy only to see the culture set itself on fire after an off-season of hype.
If you believe that Flus and/or Poles have to go, though, you’ve likely also decided the fate of one Justin Skylar Fields as well, no matter how this season ends for him.
Hear me out.
Fields was great on Sunday for 3+ quarters, and he should never have been in a situation to rescue the Bears in crunch time. As awful as the Broncos’ defense is, the third-year quarterback made honest-to-God, “The Guy” throws on time and into minuscule windows. He did everything right — until the end.
But he’s not enough to rescue this sinking ship and stop Eberflus and his crew from getting fired. And even if he was…should Bears fans want that?
As it stands right now, the Bears own both the first and second overall picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, which means they are in pole position for Caleb Williams and a pick of another epic offensive talent to put around him. Perhaps more importantly, though, they could wipe the slate completely clean and finally get a quarterback, head coach and general manager all on the same timeline. (At least give us the quarterback and coach!)
If the Bears keep Fields after this year — say, they and the Panthers somehow win their way out of the top two picks — that means Fields would likely get his third head coach and another offensive system going into his fourth season. How does that put him in a position to succeed?
Or think of it this way: would it be better to still have Fields with a new coach and system or have Williams (or another new QB) with room to grow in a new offense?
At some point, this ceases to be about Fields and whether or not he deserves to be a franchise quarterback. There’s still a world in which he does.
The question is whether it’s best for the Bears (or for him) if that happens in Chicago.
For the good of the Bears’ franchise, Matt Eberflus must go. Ryan Poles probably should, too, even if he doesn’t. If that’s the case, a new regime is going to take the new QB on a rookie deal over Fields, whom the team would need to pay at least a fifth-year option, 10 times out of 10 at this point.
Meanwhile, the Bears have already done enough to hurt Fields in his career, including making his second season tantamount to a remake of The Hunger Games. Wouldn’t it just be better for him to go to a team and offense that would let him be himself from the jump?
In the end, all this is nothing but coping.
Some cope by clinging to hope even when there’s not much to be had. After all, who’s to say the Bears still can’t turn it around and steal a wildcard spot in a bad NFC, right? Right??
Others protect themselves by cutting bait emotionally and moving on to the future, which presents a tremendous amount of hope going forward for the Bears.
Whichever way you lean, though, the almost certain reality is that Matt Eberflus will not coach the Chicago Bears next season. That means Justin Fields likely won’t be — maybe shouldn’t be — the quarterback on principle, even if most of the mess isn’t his fault.
One way or another, change is coming.