Bears coach Matt Eberflus: I’ll benefit from ‘the second time through it’

To expect Justin Fields and Eberflus to grow only because of experience, though, is far too passive of an exercise. The Bears can’t hope for improvement merely because of natural growth that occurs between Years 1 and 2.

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Matt Eberflus coaches during OTAs last week.

Matt Eberflus coaches during OTAs last week.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Matt Eberflus sent the Bears home Thursday for a six-week break a different head coach than he was at this time a year ago — a better one, he hopes.

The reason for his optimism: He’s not in his first season anymore.

“When I became the defensive coordinator at Missouri and I was 29 years old, the second year was better than the first year, and it kept getting better, and we kept adding talent,” he said. “And the same thing when I became the coordinator at the Colts. Same thing.

“You get more comfortable in the position. You know how to flex a little bit better. You’re more comfortable with the coaches. The coaches are more comfortable with the players. It’s just the second time through it.”

To continue the college motif, the best part about sophomores is they’re no longer freshmen.

“There’s no teacher like experience — there just isn’t,” Eber-flus said. “You want to swing the golf club? You can talk about it until you’re blue in the face. Until you actually take a lesson and learn how to grip the club, take a stance and swing at it, there’s nothing like experience — in anything you do.”

That’s true of quarterback Justin Fields, too. He’s entering his third NFL season but only now seems to have found the consistent surroundings he craves. Since graduating from high school, he has had the same head coach in consecutive seasons just twice — in 2019-20 at Ohio State and now with the Bears.

That said, expecting Fields and Eberflus to grow only because of experience is far too passive an exercise. The Bears can’t hope for improvement merely because of natural growth between Years 1 and 2.

Rather, the Bears need to make sure both Eberflus and Fields are actively improving. For Fields, that means continuing to improve a passing attack that was still inconsistent on the backfields at Halas Hall this spring. For Eberflus, that means rallying an improved roster from the NFL’s basement.

General manager Ryan Poles spent the offseason putting both men in a better position than they were in 2022, although Eberflus certainly would prefer to have at least one established edge rusher on his roster. Fields has new targets at wide receiver and tight end and two new running backs who figure to get regular carries. There also are new faces — or old faces in new places — at four of the five positions on the offensive line.

Comfort in Year 2 is important, but so is a talent infusion.

“We’ve got a lot of new guys that are new to the system,” Eberflus said. “The rookies are new to the system. All the guys that we acquired during the offseason are new to the system. We still have a lot of work to do.”

In Eberflus’ first season at Missouri, the Tigers gave up 30 points per game. In his second season, that number was 29.3. It wasn’t until Year 3 that they improved all the way down to 22.1.

When he said he was better in Year 2 than Year 1, he was correct — on a technicality. The real growth came the year after that.

Still, for Eberflus, the best part about 2023 is that it’s no longer 2022. And the Bears need to get keep growing to get him another season down the line.

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