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Take Back the North

Can Matt Eberflus notch his first divisional victory?

Chicago Bears v New Orleans Saints Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Matt Eberflus has scraped together 6 wins in 27 tries as the head coach of the Chicago Bears. That’s the worst record for a Bears coach in their storied history, something we’ve talked about in this space previously. In fact, Eberflus needs to win four out of the remaining seven contests to push his winning percentage above that of Abe Gibron by the end of the season. If he’s going to do that, he’s going to have to do something he has not been able to do yet - beat a divisional opponent.

The Eberflus Bears are 0-8 against the NFC North. If Eberflus is going to change the narrative surrounding him and his tenure, this is where it starts:

  • This week at Detroit
  • At Minnesota (MNF)
  • Home vs Detroit (after the bye week)

If December 11th rolls around and the Bears are 3-10 on the year and Eberflus runs his division record to 0-11, how can anyone even defend him?

Taking a look at Bears coaching records against the NFC North since its inception in 2002 and, unsurprisingly, the numbers aren’t great. Dick Jauron bridged the NFC Central and NFC North, playing in the new division his final two years on the job. He compiled a 4-8 mark before making way for Lovie Smith.

Smith’s success in Chicago started with beating NFC North opponents, something he did well with a 32-22 overall mark. When Smith was let go for, well, because Phil Emery wanted his own coach, Marc Trestman slid in and out of the Chicago job in two seasons with a 3-9 divisional record, including an 0-4 mark against the Lions. Woof.

John Fox managed only a 3-15 divisional mark, something I didn’t think could be undercut. He did manage to beat each of the three rivals once over his three years in Chicago, but none of those victories came during his final season. That was the first 0-6 mark for the Bears in the NFC North. The Bears have never swept the division, although Smith earned a 5-1 divisional record three different years. Matt Nagy also notched a 5-1 mark in the exciting 2018 season. Nagy managed to finish his Bears career with a winning divisional record at 13-11, doing most of his damage against the Lions (7-1) with the exact opposite record against the Packers (1-7).

Which brings us back to Eberflus. The 0-8 start in the division puts him in tough company yet again. He has already recorded the second 0-6 divisional record, can he at least avoid doubling up on that dubious distinction? To keep pace with John Fox, he needs to win two of these final four divisional matches. Unfortunately, three of the games are on the road, two are against the team leading the division, and one is against the arch nemesis that has the Bears number. Like, I think the Washington Generals might have a better record against the Harlem Globetrotters than the Bears do against the Packers lately.

I think divisional record is a fair measuring stick for a coach. These are the teams that see each other frequently. They require a little more out of the coaching staff to make the right decisions to consistently beat your rivals. If you can’t win or even stay competitive, that’s all the proving ground we should need to see to know a coach is or isn’t up to the task. It also seems that, in the past, losses to divisional rivals hurt more to George McCaskey and those on the Bears board of directors.

There’s an old saying that if the Bears only won two games but they were both against Green Bay, that many fans would be happy. I’m not sure how true that is for most fans, but at this point, two divisional wins may be the currency needed to sell Bears brass at another year for this regime.

How many divisional games will the Bears win this year? How many does Eberflus need to win to save his job? Sound off in the comments below.