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A Scout’s Take: Thoughts on the Events at Halas Hall Yesterday

Greg Gabriel with some thoughts after an eventful day at Halas Hall.

SPORTS-FBN-BIGGS-COLUMN-TB Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The fans felt that because 2023 was a disappointment in their mind, there would be wholesale changes made, including the firing of Head Coach Matt Eberflus. That didn't happen, as Flus is still leading this Bears team, but there were several changes made on the offensive side of the ball. These were changes that I felt needed to be made as the areas of responsibility they were responsible for did not come through on the field.

The most important change is at offensive coordinator. We all know the offense underperformed in 2023. It's my opinion that former OC Luke Getsy, while running a sound scheme, did not know how to use that scheme in the right way. Several players, especially quarterback Justin Fields, were not necessarily used in a way that utilized their strengths.

As for the play calling, I didn't feel there was continuity with it. It seemed as if plays were called, but they weren't called in a way where the offense was attacking a defense's weaknesses. You can't win unless you attack the opposing defense.

The Bears replaced wide receiver coach Tyke Tolbert. In my opinion, that was an easy choice as the group as a whole has not developed as needed. The Bears spent a third-round pick on Velus Jones. His development, or lack thereof, has been a disappointment. The Chase Claypool trade fell apart, and Darnell Mooney hasn't been close to the player we saw in '20 and '21. Is that all on the players? I don't think so.

Last, the quarterback coach, Andrew Janocko, was replaced. Most QB coaches are an extension of the OC, and it is easy to see that the Bears quarterback play is not what it should be.

That brings us to Justin Fields. I have said and written several times recently that It's my opinion that Justin has not been coached properly since the day he came into the League. Justin has a very unique skill, yet he wasn't used in a way that utilized that skill consistently. A player with his talent has to be used properly, it's really that simple.

Many people believe that Justin Fields is done in Chicago. I think that is far from being truthful. I feel his career is just starting, especially if the right offensive coordinator is hired.

I have listened to yesterday's press conference twice now, and I realized that between Poles and Flus, Justin was given a vote of confidence at least four times. In the first few minutes of the presser, Ryan Poles stated, "I believe Justin has improved, and I feel he is capable of leading this team." That, my friends, is a strong statement and a strong vote of confidence. If you don't think so, then you just don't understand coach-speak.

Ryan was also asked in several ways (as reporters always do) about the draft. He said he would thoroughly look at all options (as he should; that's his job) but that he would have to be blown away by a prospect in order to take him. He said the exact same thing a year ago.

Poles also stressed several times the importance of character, and by that, he was referring to football character, which has to be excellent in order for him to select a player regardless of position. When he said that, it was a direct reflection on the quarterback. More than any other position, the quarterback is not just about the natural physical talent but the intangibles or what is "under the hood."

In other words, for the Bears to select a quarterback with the top pick in the Draft, they would have to be blown away by not only the player's talent but his football character. Knowing this draft the way I do, I feel it is a good bet that the number one pick will be traded just like it was a year ago. There is not a doubt in my mind, that Justin Fields will be the leader of the Chicago Bears in 2024.

Do I believe the Bears will select a quarterback in the Draft? Yes, but not with that top pick. It's always wise to bring in competition as it makes everyone better, and this quarterback class is deep.

Offensive Coordinator

Within the next few weeks, there will be a new offensive coordinator. Who that will be, I have no idea. I do believe that there will be six to eight quality people interviewed for the job. Part of that interview process will be how that coach plans to work with Justn Fields. Does he believe that Justin can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League?

There were several in the media who have stated yesterday and in the past few days that it will be difficult for the Bears to hire a quality offensive coordinator. First off, that is a ludicrous statement to make, and the people making those statements have no idea how the hiring process works and the value of any OC job in the NFL.

In the League, there are fewer than 32 offensive coordinator jobs available, as some head coaches are also their team's OC. Yes, those teams have an OC in name but that person does not have the control of the offense like a normal OC. Because of the limited number of coordinator jobs available, there will be coaches jumping at the opportunity to become the Bears' OC.

What's funny is that just a few hours after one radio personality made the statement about how hard it would be to hire a quality candidate, one of the best names on the market was already being named as a candidate, and permission was asked to interview him. That coach is the Seattle OC, Shane Waldron. What is interesting about Waldron is he has worked for the Rams under Sean McVay and runs a similar offense to what the Bears currently run.

The scheme is a sound, winning scheme when utilized properly; it hasn't been the last two seasons in Chicago. If Waldron becomes the OC, the transition for the Bears' current players will be easy, as terminology will be similar. Waldon isn't the only candidate; there will be several more, but it tells us that the job is, in fact, appealing to many.

Jaylon Johnson

One of the best and most key players on the Bears' defense is Pro Bowl corner Jaylon Johnson. Johnson is now out of contract and becomes a free agent in March. Ryan Poles went out of his way to say that "Jaylon isn't going anywhere." Poles explained that there has been positive dialogue between the Bears and Johnson and expects something to get done. What's important to realize is that even if a long-term deal isn't completed, the Bears can always use the franchise tag.

The Draft

Poles was asked several times about the Draft. He didn't give any indication as to what his plans were. First, I doubt that on January 11th, he even knows. There are still volumes of information to be gathered on all the prospects. No draft decisions are made in January, In fact with most clubs, preliminary Draft Boards aren't put together until next month before the Combine at the earliest. Right now, there are only grades in the system, but no player has an absolute final grade on him, and it won't be until April when ALL the information is in.

Poles will investigate all the options, including extensive research on ALL the quarterbacks, not just the top few. He will do the same with other prospects at several other positions. Then, he will investigate the value of trading the top pick. At this time, it's impossible to know what teams will actually be interested in trading up,

If you go back to last year, talks with other clubs didn't begin until the Combine in late February. Poles wanted to get a trade done early because he felt that any deal would include a veteran player and help what he had hoped to accomplish in free agency. We don't know if that is what his feeling is now.

What the Bears get in return depends on how far back they are willing to drop. The further back they go, the more value they receive. I would think that because the Bears don't have a second-round pick as of now in this Draft, any deal will include obtaining a new second-round pick and preferably a first in 2025.

The important thing to realize is don't count on anything, like last year, little is going to leak out. It wasn't until an hour before the Carolina trade was made that I got word from a friend with the Panthers that it would happen. We should expect the same this year.

Last, while many fans aren't happy with yesterday's events, they need to be more patient. Constant change and turnover is the formula for failure, not success; I fully support the news from yesterday and honestly believe that it was the right thing to do. But it's essential that Chicago hires the right new coaches, especially the new offensive coordinator.