Tough first year for Poles and Eberflus

Ryan-Poles-Bears-USATSI18891947.0.jpgWe all know GMs take at least a few years to really evaluate, probably 5 or more before we really know where a GM took his team the first few years of his tenure. But, I don't think it's too early to look back at the 2022 season, draw some conclusions about it, and about the job Poles and Eberflus did overall.

Note that like most of my pieces, this is not for the light of heart or thin of skin. I don't want a team of good guys who make the playoffs once every 5 years, I want a team that pushes for a Super Bowl. If I thought Poles and Eberflus did a good job, I'd say so in the Den. If you don't want to hear that they did a poor job, you don't have to read any further. I'm writing this fan post in large part so I can vent a bit about what I think has happened so far.

Overall, I don't have much of a problem with Poles or Eberflus right now. I think they can both turn out to be really good. But, I do have some problems. I think they had a bad year, and I don't think it's too early to say so.

The Good

1. I think that Poles overall evaluated that the roster lacked young talent across the board, especially at key positions, and therefore the roster needed to be turned over. I said right after last season that the Bears had to trade Mack and Quinn. I was told by starry-eyed Bears fans that I was giving up 30+ sacks. It turned out to be less than 10. Poled did well to get back a second and a fourth. Maybe he could have gotten a little more for Mack but when you have valued players over 30, those are the ones you can get something for and the last time you can get something for them. It's what any rebuilding team should do. Poles pretty much cleaned the roster of all veteran talent besides Eddie Jackson, who was having a nice year before injuries ended his season.


Jack Sanborn was a nice find

2. I don't know if Braxton Jones is a starting NFL LT, but he's a nice pick for the 5th round, and Jack Sanborn looks like a great UDFA find as long as he doesn't have trouble staying on the field.

That's about all I got.

The Bad

1. No help for Fields.

The offseason started with the hopes that the Bears could make some modest upgrades to their offensive personnel, or at least keep pace with the Nagy-fense. The first wave of FA came and went, and the apologists said it's still early. The second and third waves came and went and all we got was Lucas Patrick and Byron Pringle, and the apologists said there's still the draft. The second round came, went, came again, and went again.

By this point, we're entering the third round of the draft with Mooney, ESB and Pringle as our starting WRs. Our LT is Larry Borom, our RT is Teven Jenkins, with Lucas Patrick at C, Whitehair at LG and ? at RG. I mean you can't expect any Year 1 starters after R2, so by this point, this was the team they went into camp with.

It doesn't take 20/20 hindsight to say that this was a bad plan. In fact, I and many others said exactly that. This is how you support your Year 2 QB? This is how you correct for the mistakes of the previous regime, by giving the QB arguably even worse support than the prior year? Poles finally added N'Keal Harry, Alex Leatherwood, Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield but it was too little, too late. The pass protection and pass targets stunk, and the passing game was dead last. The Bears threw it considerably less than any other team, in what appears to be in large part because the coaching staff didn't think the OL could block it. When they did throw, they gave up a ton of sacks, 4th most in the league despite having by far the fewest attempts. Pathetic. When the throws got out, the receivers didn't bring them in, or did little with the ball once they did, unless they were already in the end zone.


One of Chase Claypool's 14 receptions with the Bears

2. The overreaction to no help for Fields.

I'm quite convinced that by the time R3 rolled around, Poles himself realized his error. Oh shit, I didn't get Fields anyone. So, they're looking at a R3 draft board where all the good targets are picked clean, and it ends with Poles, Eberflus and Getsy talking themselves into taking Velus Jones Jr. He might be 25, he might not be very productive, he might not be able to catch or run more than a few routes, but he's legit fast and is a good player with the ball in his hands, surely we can get the most out of someone like this! What this offense really needs is screens and jet sweeps to a gadget player, that it will take it to the next level.

Now, I admit, I wanted Poles to invest something in WR, and he finally invests something and I complain, but I didn't mean for him to take a R5 talent, let alone a R5 talent in R3. It's hard to call this more than a R5 investment, even though I know he made the investment in the third round. At least take a R3 talent there, but I'd argue even then it's too late. All the good ones were gone. There's probably good value in R3 on an OL or LB or developmental TE maybe but you're no longer likely to get the WR you need. I mean, if a R2 talent fell to R3 I'd say well done, but taking a R5 talent in R3 is a screwup.

Then in camp they realized that the offense sucked shit, so they tried adding Alex Leatherwood and N'Keal Harry, and there was much rejoicing about all the former first rounders on our roster. Then by the first month of the season, I think Poles and the staff agreed: This offense is severely lacking, VJJ isn't ready to make an impact at the NFL level, Harry really is a bust, and the overall lack of protection and targets are making Fields look bad.

Then, Poles looked out and said, Shit, there isn't even anyone to get next FA or next draft. Shit, shit, what do I do? Then Chase Claypool got dangled, and Poles gave up the 32nd pick for a disappointing player who was on the outs with the team that drafted him. Well, I can't say Poles didn't do anything to address receiver now, now that he took a mighty swing at a guy who looks like Tarzan, and was traded for like he's Tarzan, but plays like Jane. I said the morning before the trade happened not give up much for him, and then he went out and gave up a near-No. 1 pick. And now the apologists say, it takes so long to learn an offense, that we could never have expected more than a year of production from Claypool in the first place. So Poles gave up the 32nd pick for one year of control of a WR2? Over. Reaction. Any Claypool extension would also line up with those of Mooney, Kmet and Johnson, making it even more unlikely this will work out long term. At least he's been a no-show since arriving, so we don't have to worry about that extension.

3. Cutting too deep

I think these guys were a bit aggressive removing each and every last player they could. They had decisions on guys like James Daniels and Bilal Nichols. They said no to all. They had guys like Khyris Tonga and Duke Shelley under cheap contract. They cut them too. It's not that I really wanted Daniels. Or Nichols. Or Tonga. Or Shelley. But, other teams used these guys and we really struggled to replace them.

We used our top pick, a 2nd rounder, to replace Shelley. We entered camp with basically a gaping hole at RG after cutting Daniels. I mean, we had nobody. In the end, Jenkins slid over, but that just leaves a hole at RT. I'm fine replacing Daniels, but replacing him with a hole -- that's cutting too deep.

I'm also personally not a fan of trading away Roquan Smith. Even though I'm not a big believer in paying off ball LBs big money, we have plenty of money and so few good players, that I'd rather err by overpaying to keep the good ones that we do have. On its own it's fine and I might even prefer the draft capital in the end, but on top of cutting all these other guys, Poles really gutted the team, and it showed in the league's worst record.


Everyone knows that rebuilds start at Strong Safety

4. Over-commitment to defense.
At this point writing this, I'm getting pissed off and here come the real curse words. Poles' first -- and only -- semi-big FA move was to try to lock up a 3-technique. Seriously, what the fuck? No big move to help Fields with a protector. No big move to help Fields with a target. But when it comes to 3-technique, there's money to do something. Yeah, yeah, I know how it works, I was here from the Lovie years, "the engine of the defense!" and all that but... is that what we thought when Pace and Nagy were fired? What we really need now, as our one big move, is a fucking 3-technique? When I think of Pace and Nagy screwed up our team, I generally think about how they ignored 3-technique.

Then in the draft, Poles, I think he was trying so hard to be the scouts' best friend and stay true to the draft board, that he totally lost his way. Taking a safety in R2? Right after taking a nickel back? With Eddie Jackson still under contract? Are you fucking kidding me? What team builds this way, from the back of the defense forward, from safety on out? Taking a R2 dip into secondary, sure. Taking a double dip, unconscionable, and I already demonstrated that it just led to Poles making even worse moves to try to overcorrect the situation. It would be one thing if Poles was simply low investment all around, and balanced his top 2 picks between offense and defense, but if anything, he could have gone heavy on the offensive side and I would have fully supported it. Instead he went heavy, but on the defense side.

5. Poor evaluation and/or coaching of the guys they did bring in.

And despite going heavy on defense, they ended up last in defense. This isn't going well, people. If Brisker, Gordon and Sanborn were as good as some say, we're not dead last in defense. The Ogunjobi thing was a bad bet that he was healthy, and it didn't work out. The Ryan Bates thing wasn't enough, and Poles got outbid. What exactly did he do right?

I guess Nicholas Morrow and Justin Jones played ok, not well enough to keep the defense out of the cellar, but ok.

Al-Quadin Mohammed, awful. Byron Pringle, invisible. N'Keal Harry, invisible. Alex Leatherwood, invisible. ESB, every bit the WR4/5 he was coming in. Lucas Patrick has been hurt and not good when he has played. Chase Claypool went from a disappointment in Pittsburgh to Mr. Invisible here in Chicago. I hardly noticed him. Was this a misevaluation by the GM, misuse by coaches, or both?


Swing and a miss!

VJJ looks like a reach for R3 and a miss. I don't think any of those late round OL will ever be more than bench players, if that. And, quite honestly, there's nothing that great about Kyler Gordon or Javon Brisker either. They're both fine for rookies, but Gordon missed practice multiple times and ultimately games. Gordon at least improved as the year went on, but Brisker really didn't. Both could still be good, but I read a lot of assumptions that they are or they will be, that I don't think hold. They're not looking like great, BPA, no wonder we passed on WR, picks right now, just ok picks. Meanwhile, George Pickens looks like he'll be a stud. Alec Pierce can play. Cam Jurgens can play.

Can our guys play? One can have different opinions about the players Poles removed and added, but he took a team that was 6-11 and turned it into a 3-14 team with the worst record, worst defense and worst passing offense in the league. The only thing it did well was turn to its young QB to heroically run for 20+ yard touchdowns. In fact, pretty much all the best players on Poles' team were Pace players such as Kmet, Montgomery, Herbert and of course, Fields. Poles didn't bring in anyone who did much of anything.

And now some are saying all of this was necessary to get better? All part of the plan?

Bullshit. They messed up is what happened. They thought non-Nagy coaching, and increased opportunities for guys like Lucas Patrick, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Byron Pringle were all that were needed to have the passing game take a step forward. Instead, the passing game was dead last. Dead. Last. Worse than any year under Pace and Nagy. But at least the defense was also dead last.

But, Poles and Eberflus were put in a bad spot. They can't be evaluated!

Sorry, but after Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy were fired, absolutely nobody said, "Well you can just forget about improving our team in 2022! In fact, we have to go backwards," but now the apologist are out in force saying Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus couldn't improve our team this year, and in fact, they had to go backwards for the good of the long term future of the team. No, no, that's changing the story, moving the goal posts, 20/20 hindsight, and all of that. Nobody was saying any of that before the season except in the media, and we lambasted them for saying so. I agree they can't really be evaluated for a few years and I said so up front, but it's simply not true that Poles had no moves available to him, or that we can't evaluate what he did this most recent season to some degree. He could have traded for Amari Cooper. He could have signed Christian Kirk or Terron Armstead or at least DJ Chark. He could have made a better offer to Ryan Bates. He could have drafted Alec Pierce or George Pickens. He didn't have to trade for Chase Claypool. It's ok to say he made mistakes, but when someone says "these aren't really mistakes!" they're in Squealer territory.

I've also heard, "let's not pretend we'd be better by adding better players unless they're the best players in the league". There are few arguments more annoying. Yes, adding, say Terron Armstead, DJ Chark and Ryan Bates, it makes the team better. Of course it makes the team better, and that's even with Chark missing a good chunk of the season. Amari Cooper could have made a huge difference in my opinion. Yeah I'd rather have Devonte Adams and Trent Williams, but they weren't available.


Nothing helps Justin Fields more than a good defensive tackle known for stopping the run

Now, the idea is, if we just get Claypool a full year, and Mooney returns to health, that they and Kmet can lead the way in an improved passing game? That's what Adam Jahns is pushing -- a relatively quiet FA, just keeping that money to keep this last-in-the-NFL team together so it can grow, until one day the perfect receiver lines up at the perfect spot, because he's all about taking Jalen Carter this year. "The 3-technique is the engine of the defense!" he likes to say.

That probably works out well for them, because Hoge & Jahns spend most of their podcasts making excuses for Bears QBs so if they had good players around them they'd have nothing to talk about. I've liked their podcast for a long time but excusing the idea of doing very little goes way too far.

I remain flummoxed by the Bears' decision to hire a first-time GM and pair him with a first-time Head Coach, especially with that coach coming from the defensive side. Why not get an experienced GM like Rick Smith? Or an experienced HC like Dan Quinn? Poles and Eberflus have proven nothing and their one year of work to date doesn't look very good.

I really think 2 years is enough time to get the passing game into the top-20. I won't cry if it's, say, 22nd but even 25th is too low. I think 2 years is also enough time to get the defense into the top-20 too. We can be a below average team, a 7-win or 8-win type of team, but 2 years is enough time to show that you're making progress from the last regime. 6-11 and a last place finish does not. You've got all the money, you've got the No. 1 pick, now show us something. Show us an immediate Year 2 improvement that sets us up to crush it next year, Year 3 for the regime and Year 4 for Fields. There's no other time left to crush it. It starts right now.

I'm calling it: Poles and Eberflus can get their act together in Year 2 or they can go find new jobs. "Two years is too short. Period." said one frequent poster, but I can't disagree more. This isn't an everyone-gets-a-fair-chance league, this is the NFL. This is a big boy business, and we've got the No. 1 pick and the most cap room. These are developmental jobs. If you can't prove in 2 years that you know what you're doing, the Chicago Bears need to find guys who do.

This Fanpost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.