Matt Eberflus survived, and will return as the Chicago Bears head coach in 2024. This to the dismay of most fans and experts. Is that anger justified? Let’s take a look at Matt Eberflus’s two seasons and evaluate his performance.
Jaylon Johnson’s development
Johnson has become one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, and to me was the best CB in the league this season (and was robbed of first team All Pro). He also became a little bit of a ballhawk this season with 4 interceptions, and easily could have had more. He had the lowest passer rating against (33.3), the least yards in coverage (195) and highest PFF grade (90.8). He is an elite CB.
Eddie Jackson 2022 season
Jackson struggled this season returning from his lisfranc injury, but last season before the injury he got back to being one of the best ballhawking free safeties in the league, fitting in very well in Eberflus’s cover 3 scheme, with some Tampa 2 mixed in. He had 4 interceptions and was one of the few bright spots on the defense.
Kept locker room together
Sure, good culture is a cliche but at least Eberflus seems to have it. Things got really bad for the Bears but the team didn’t fall apart, unlike other bad teams or even good teams that went through a bad stretch like Philadelphia.
Defensive players have given him credit
Jaylon Johnson, Montez Sweat, and others have publicly voiced support for Eberflus during the Bears defensive run, and it definitely seems like he figured something out to get them to all buy in.
Defense (mostly) elite since Sweat acquisition
Since acquiring Sweat, the Bears were 6th in EPA/play allowed and 9th in success rate allowed, 20 sacks with Sweat compared to 10 without him, and led the league in takeaways (20). The Bears defense found its groove, and with another pass rusher, could be even better.
Update: Firing Luke Getsy/Hiring Shane Waldron as OC, Hiring Eric Washington as DC
Eberflus missed big time hiring Luke Getsy as the OC. Now, they’ve got their McVay/Shanahan tree guy, who has a much better reputation with development offensive players. Most experts had Waldron as the best available OC this cycle. Washington is also a solid hire; while I wanted Chris Harris, Eberflus brought in a guy to develop the weakest and youngest part of the defense in a great DL coach.
Ruining Justin Fields’ development
Eberflus (and Getsy) are a huge reason why Justin Fields has remained inconsistent and no more than a middle tier QB who does some insane things throwing deep and running. They prioritized running and protecting the ball instead of letting Fields play QB and just sling it, while improving in his anticipation and field progression, which is what Matt Nagy tried to do once the original plan of having him sit failed. We saw the effects of their negative coaching that first month of 2022 when Fields looked a lot worse than he did to end 2021. Fields has only improved marginally, when a good coaching staff would have had him improve exponentially. The staff also constantly didn’t trust him and put the ball in his hands even when he played great, undermining his confidence.
The Luke Getsy hire
Connected to the above, Getsy was a QB coach for the Packers who had Aaron Rodgers. He had no experience as OC or playcaller before. While Getsy was good at scripting opening drives, most offensive coordinators are. The adjustments and later game playcalling were awful, or nonexistent. The Bears offense wasn’t the most talented, but should have been so much better. And Getsy got a chance to run more of his offense with Tyson Bagent and it didn’t go well. Credit to Getsy only for adjusting the offense in 2022 on the mini bye, but he lost a lot of games with bad scheme, gameplan, and playcalling, and Eberflus is the one who brought him in.
Two coaches resigned/fired midseason
Alan Williams mysteriously resigned midseason, and nobody knows why. RB coach David Walker was fired due to workplace inappropriateness. While it’s not fully on Matt Eberflus, he brought those guys in, and clearly didn’t fully vet them.
14 game losing streak, 10-24 overall, 2-10 in division
The record speaks for itself. 14 losses in a row is inexcusable even if 10 of them were during a tanking season (whispers the Bears only were tanking the last game or 2 of 2022, a lot of losses beforehand were on coaching malpractice with a bad roster). Too much playing conservative during that stretch, not blitzing, playing not to lose instead of to win with 4th downs, killed the Bears.
Dominated by Green Bay in 3/4 matchups, winless against them
Matt LaFleur coached circles around Matt Eberflus in every matchup so far, except the 2022 home game, where Justin Fields played great but the Bears constantly didn’t put the ball in his hands to put the game out of reach. That failed as the Packers came back and won. So all 4 matchups with Green Bay have been disastrous.
7-10 this season in a weak NFC, last in division with 5th easiest schedule in the league
The Bears should have snuck into the playoffs this season with that easy of a schedule, but they couldn’t get out of their own way with mistakes offensively (guys running routes to the same spots, blown blocking assignments), defensively (playing too off the ball, missing tackles) and with penalties (something they did good in 2022 but bad in 2023).
Not enough positive player development
Aside from Johnson and the other cornerbacks, and Gervon Dexter and Darnell Wright/Braxton Jones and Cole Kmet and Jack Sanborn, we haven’t seen nearly enough development from homegrown players, from Fields to Mooney to Roschon to Scott to Robinson to Pickens to Brisker. The staff doesn’t deserve credit for Teven Jenkins’ development since they tried to get rid of him.
Defense taking 1.5 seasons to be any good
This might be a little unfair, but the defense was bad the first half of 2022 even with Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn, and then the 16 games in between were awful, even after Ryan Poles invested heavily in that side. It shouldn’t take a defensive guru that long to get his defense to be playing at least respectable ball.
Making Roquan Smith look bad
I understand Smith might’ve not been the best fit going from 3-4 two gap ILB to 4-3 one gap MLB, but if the scheme was making him look bad outside the Texans game he dominated, maybe the scheme isn’t that good.
3 historically blown games
98% win probability home against Denver, up 28-7 going into the fourth. 98% win probability at Detroit, up 26-14 with 4 minutes left. And 91% win probability at Cleveland, up 17-7 in the fourth. Eberflus and Getsy played every one of these games not to lose with prevent defense and conservative offense, and it costed them every single time, but they never learned. That alone should get him fired along with Getsy.
Propensity to settle for field goals
At least 4 times, Fields completed a deep pass to get the Bears into opponent territory, before Getsy called either 3 runs, or 2 runs and a screen, and kicked a field goal (or ran a toss to a WR on 4th down). The Bears lost 3 of those games. Eberflus and Getsy being ok with 3 points was a trend that never stopped.
Lack of accountability
Eberflus often blamed execution instead of gamplan, always making it seem like he and the coaches did everything right and it was on the players. That’s not what good coaches do.
Eberflus should not be the Bears coach in 2024. He is going into a lame duck year if the Bears don’t make the playoffs, or at least improve on their 7-10 record. There are so many great coaching candidates the Bears are missing out on; proven winners including Bill Belichick, Mike Vrabel, Pete Carroll, and Jim Harbaughm, and rising coordinators like Ben Johnson, Bobby Slowik, and Mike Macdonald, all of whom would be better for either Justin Fields’ development or Caleb Williams’. Plus, the Bears should’ve brought in a better coach to either try and take Fields to the next level, or align with a rookie QB, which they failed to do with Fields and Trubisky. All in all, Eberflus is lucky to be back, and needs to nail the OC hire to have any shot of staying in 2025.