Waiting is brutal, but early steps of Bears’ rebuild are on right track
The only thing worth judging them on at this point is whether the path they’re plotting looks sensible, and it does. The results are to be determined, but the process is prudent.
It’s understandable to be confused by your feelings about the Bears right now.
There’s good cause for long-term optimism based on the way general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus have maneuvered through their first few months on the job. But they also need patience, which is a massive ask for what feels like the 30th year in a row.
Bears fans are just nine months removed from Matt Nagy telling them his fourth season was the one in which the offense would finally take flight. Their cynicism is warranted.
But for those with the stomach to accept that fixing the franchise is a multi-year process and the upcoming season might be tough to watch — So were the last three, so what’s the difference? — as Poles remains in the demolition phase, there are signs that this is headed the right way.
There’s no guarantee Poles and Eberflus will be the ones to finally strike gold, but their initial steps have been sound.
Poles’ patience might be maddening, especially with his underwhelming, budget-friendly moves at wide receiver, but it’s one of his strengths. He would’ve been foolish to believe this roster, which went 22-27 the last three seasons, merited splashy acquisitions immediately. He’s right to prioritize 2023.
“We can’tfixeverything in one year,” he acknowledged last month. “But we sure can just keep chipping away and just improving.”
Is that frustrating to hear, yet again? Of course. But is it also practical? Yes.
The plan is straightforward and simple: a full teardown now regardless of what it means for the Bears’ record this season, construction begins in 2023 with ample draft picks and salary-cap space, then contention in 2024 — all with the assumption that Justin Fields grows into a franchise quarterback. Poles will be held accountable if the team appears to be behind schedule at any point.
He missed out on having the No. 7 pick — a spot that carries the potential to land Hall of Fame talent — this year because Ryan Pace used it to trade up for Fields last year and he had to offload Khalil Mack to get another second-rounder.
Poles took some heat for using his second-round selections on cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker rather than a wide receiver or offensive lineman, but again, he’s looking at this as a two-year process from a personnel standpoint.
Those were both legitimate roster holes he needed to address before 2023, so there’s no problem with his picks as long as he fills the other needs next spring. He’ll have all his draft picks, and OverTheCap calculates the Bears having an NFL-high $96.9 million in cap space. Those resources have incredible potential in the right hands.
Then there’s Eberflus, who appears to be making good on everything he said about the way he wanted to run the team. Free of any attachment to players Pace acquired, he and Poles have evaluated the roster with the clearest possible eyes.
It doesn’t matter that Teven Jenkins was drafted to be the left tackle of the future if he’s better off on the right side.
It doesn’t matter if bringing in Mack was a landmark deal if his contract doesn’t make sense on a rebuilding team.
It doesn’t matter that Eddie Jackson signed what was then the biggest contract ever for a safety if he’s unable or unwilling to play up to it in coordinator Alan Williams’ defense.
Furthermore, Eberflus has remained committed to the CEO-style role. He has spent a considerable amount of practice time with the offense, and he and Williams have been unmistakably clear that Williams is the one designing the defense.
And speaking of design, how about the profound notion of building an offense around the dynamic, ultra-gifted quarterback rather than trying to force him into something better suited for an Andy Dalton type? It’s a revolutionary idea.
“I hope that they will just tailor the plays to my skillset, which we’re going to do,” Fields said confidently. “Just finding out what I do best, what we do best as an offense... and run that offense.”
No one knows if Fields will become great. No one knows if offensive coordinator Luke Getsy can duplicate the same success he enjoyed in Green Bay now that he no longer enjoys the benefit of coaching the best quarterback ever.
But the only thing worth judging them on at this point is whether the path they’re plotting looks sensible, and it does. The results are to be determined, but the process is prudent.
That’s true of nearly everything about the Bears right now. The waiting is excruciating, but necessary. In the meantime, the new crew running the team seems functional and competent. That’s all anyone can ask at this stage.