LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Usually when things implode with the Chicago Bears, it’s late in the season. By then, the playoffs are out of the question. Jobs are at stake. We can look ahead to the changes at the start of the new year.
It’s not even Week 3 and the Bears had more drama Wednesday than good teams might have in a season.
When it happens in September, there’s still time. There’s a season to salvage. It’s not inconceivable anymore for an 0-2 team to make the postseason. It’s far too early to write everything off and create head-coach candidate lists and start scouting 2024 quarterbacks.
But who’s going to save the 2023 Bears?
Sources from around the league wanted to know, “What is going on?” They found everything peculiar, from quarterback Justin Fields’ comments to defensive coordinator Alan Williams’ resignation.
The Bears have found themselves, once again, in an unenviable position in the NFL, and it’s hard to see the light past the headlines.
When general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus took over, they inherited a disaster. The 2021 season was awful in the building and on the field. It was on them to steer the Bears toward relevance.
Eberflus is now the head coach of a team that has lost 12 in a row. Regardless of whether it is in his control, he has not looked the part of someone who can save the Bears — but he has the most at stake.
Poles has been tasked with turning over the roster and creating something Chicago hasn’t seen since the ’80s — a consistent winner. Even back-to-back playoff seasons would be nice, something that hasn’t happened since 2005-06. The free agents he brought in haven’t made game-changing plays. The draft picks aren’t ready to be counted on the way this roster needs them to be counted on.
Poles isn’t going anywhere, but there’s only so much he can do to save this team now.
Fields got things started Wednesday with an emphatic news conference that — while not his intent, he said later — shifted the onus onto the coaching staff for his struggles. He said he was thinking too much and not playing the way he knows how — trusting his instincts.
Bears QB Justin Fields is addressing the media again in the locker room. Wanted to make it clear he wasn’t blaming the coaches. “I can play better. Point blank.”
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) September 20, 2023
There was a time when some in Chicago thought Fields could save the franchise. Based on his first two games this season, it’s hard to say he’s in position to save the 2023 Bears.
Chairman George McCaskey has been in charge of this franchise since 2011. In that time, the Bears have not won a playoff game. They’re on their fifth head coach and third GM. He’s not in position to save this team right now. Many decisions from McCaskey and former team president Ted Phillips have put them in the situation they’ve found themselves.
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Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has been under heightened criticism for the game plan the first two weeks of the season, and Fields added to that — again, whether or not that was his goal — on Wednesday. Maybe Getsy creates a new, innovative, successful offense that can turn things around, but what has provided the confidence that can happen?
It’s not going to be Williams, the now-former defensive coordinator who resigned Wednesday “to take care of my health and my family,” per his statement, not the team’s, which simply said that he had submitted his resignation. Eberflus as the play caller might be able to stave off any lasting impact of a coordinator resigning after Week 2, but the mystery surrounding it will linger.
DJ Moore? Tremaine Edmunds? Cole Kmet? Jaylon Johnson? Good players, but they’re not All-Pros who can put a team that has fallen apart on their backs.
It isn’t going to be left tackle Braxton Jones, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, amidst all the chaos.
Who inside Halas Hall has earned the trust of Bears fans, let alone players and other staff members, to fix this thing — again?
It might be the new president/CEO, Kevin Warren.
It’s probably too late for him to save this year’s team, but his monumental hiring is the main source of hope that when the organization finds itself in shambles, it can finally find a positive direction. Maybe it’s hope simply because he’s new, and he has been here for this mess, but he started in April. This isn’t his team, yet.
Justin Fields is unhappy, Alan Williams has resigned and the Bears are in disarray
So often the Bears find themselves in the same cycle. We’re seeing it again with the quarterback. They have a head coach who may be struggling to keep this thing together. This isn’t new at Halas Hall.
Warren is the difference. He’s now the one who oversees Poles and the football side while working to build a new stadium for the Bears. He’s the one who is evaluating everyone in the building and how everything operates.
The most important decisions that have shaped this Bears team weren’t made by Warren. He has the resume and fresh eyes to figure out how to steer the team out of this mess and keep the Bears from finding themselves stepping on the proverbial rake over and over again.
That doesn’t mean Warren will make the right decisions. In the NFL, it comes down to the head coach and the quarterback. Any future decisions at those positions will involve Warren.
Will he save the Bears? Maybe, maybe not, but for right now, he’s their best chance.
(Photo of DJ Moore: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)
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