It’s been a while since I’ve written First & Long, and I apologize. Sometimes life (or poor health) gets in the way of your favorite hobbies. At other times, it’s the Facebook meatheads who crawl into your DMs to verbally assault you for being pro-Justin Fields. I do need to develop a little thicker skin, too.
Let’s talk about the current state of the Bears. Roughly 90% of the fan base and beat writers see the final four games as a tryout for Fields and others. Nothing is further from the truth. The Bears aren’t making a change at quarterback next season, but if they do, they aren’t going to do it with a rookie. Ryan Poles asked Matt Eberflus to tank last season and he’s not going to force his head coach into a second rebuild. That’d be brutally unfair. Fields has also become a team leader. If the Bears do trade him, they’ll need to find a veteran replacement, keep Tyson Bagent as backup, and find a developmental QB in the draft.
#Bears QB Justin Fields
First 17 starts:
227-for-391 for 2,848 yards, 12 TDs, 15 INTs, 75.1 passer rating
129 carries for 750 yards and 3 TDs
278-for-437 for 3,004 yards, 25 TDs, 11 INTs, 92.3 passer rating
171 carries for 1,237 yards and 8 TDshttps://t.co/MDqSrrwtM7
— Patrick Finley (@patrickfinley) December 15, 2023
Yes, that means Eberflus isn’t going anywhere, something I voiced with bombastic volume in my last column a few weeks ago. The second-year coach has done everything he has been asked to and has turned his defense into one of the NFL’s best. You may not like him, but his players do, and that’s the bottom line. At least most of the Jim Harbaugh rumors have stopped. Nothing is more annoying than that crap.
The Bears could move on from Fields, but it would take a complete organizational upheaval. The McCaskeys love Kevin Warren and Ryan Poles, and those two love Eberflus. If Chicago wants to start over with a rookie quarterback then the three of them would need to be fired. Anybody who wants that to happen is either afraid of success or loves a perpetual rebuild. Then again, Chicago has more armchair quarterbacks and GMs in its fan base than all of the NFL franchises combined. Most forget that Poles and Eberflus started with an aging, underperforming roster, were handicapped by bloated salaries, had no first-round pick, and very visibly tanked in 2022.
Chicago started this season with myriad injuries, a patchwork offensive line, and no consistency at running back. They’re 5-4 after a 0-4 start and have won three of their last four games. The defense, led by Montez Sweat, Jaquan Brisker, Jaylon Johnson, Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, and Jack Sanborn is dominant at times. Rookie Gervon Dexter looks like a draft day steal, and Kyler Gordon is coming into his own, too.
If you need one reason to believe the Bears intend to stay the course, it’s the extension Poles gave to Sweat. There is no way that guy would have signed on for a complete overhaul. Stop with the tomfoolery and other shenanigans. The Bears may or may not make the playoffs, but the front office will build on the team’s recent success, and that includes Fields and Eberflus. So give it up, happy holidays, and stay out of my DMs.
By the way, writing for Bears Insider is indeed a hobby. That’s why I refuse to post clickbait articles that state anything contrary to what I believe. There are plenty of sites that make up news citing many unnamed sources that fight for your attention.
But it’s the personal attacks that caused me to question whether continuing here is in my best interests. Here’s your answer: I’ve been at Cubs Insider for seven years, this is my third year here, and I’m not leaving either post anytime soon.
Bears News & Notes
- Tankathon projects the Bears will select Williams and WR Malik Nabers of LSU based on current NFL standings.
- The Bears have Mitchell Trubisky to thank for Carolina’s stranglehold on the No.1 pick, which belongs to Chicago thanks to last year’s trade that also netted D.J. Moore.
- Fields has a 149.0 quarterback rating on throws targeting Moore this year, so it makes perfect sense to trade the third-year signal-caller.
- Kyle Brandt of NFL Network’s GMFB believes the Bears will run it back with Fields next season.
- Ex-Bears TE Greg Olsen tried to simplify Chicago’s decision to trade or extend Fields, but he’s factually incorrect. The Bears can offer a guaranteed year to Fields after this season, but the team theoretically has three years of control or more if it franchise tags him after year five. Fields has visibly grown in his pocket presence. Further, his rushing ability now compliments his passing skills instead of dominating them.
- Brisker has become the team leader on defense in his second season. That says a lot given the pedigree of some of their veteran players.
- The safety also pleaded with the NFL to do a better job at protecting Fields from late and helmet-to-helmet hits.
- Brisker became the first Bear to record 17 tackles in a game since 1970 in Sunday’s 28-13 win over the Lions.
- Eberflus once registered 21 tackles while playing linebacker for the University of Toledo in a game against Northern Illinois in 1991.
- Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury.
- Team chairman George McCaskey has the chops to make it as a standup comedian should he ever need a side hustle.
There’s a Flag…On the Play
Why do Bears fans love Caleb Williams so much while ripping Fields for the same things? If they say it’s because Chicago gets a salary odometer reset it simply means they are only happy when the Bears are perpetually rebuilding.
“Justin Fields holds onto the ball too long and fumbles. We should draft Caleb Williams!” pic.twitter.com/Kqsg7R7Xme
— illwill (@79illwill) December 14, 2023
- Cleveland is currently the AFC’s fifth seed with a 78% chance of making the playoffs.
- The Browns signed old man Joe Flacco to a contract that is heavily incentivized by wins.
- Flacco’s contract means that Deshaun Watson is all but done with Cleveland.
- Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah uses his Ghanaian heritage to inspire others to find their identities.
- The Browns will target WR Stefon Diggs during the upcoming offseason.
- Team owner Jimmy Haslam is being investigated over Berkshire Hathaway bribery claims.
Darnell Wright is a freaking beast!
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 12, 2023
- Detroit (9-4): The Lions can clinch a playoff berth on Sunday with a win over the Broncos and a little help from the Bengals or Buccaneers. Detroit hasn’t made the postseason since 2017.
- Minnesota (7-6): The Vikings are starting QB Nick Mullens on Saturday. Joshua Dobbs is not an option, and Jaren Hall will eventually climb to the top of the depth chart. Kirk Cousins is out for the season and a pending free agent. I could see Cousins (or Aaron Rodgers) playing for the Bears next season if Poles trades Fields. If.
- Green Bay (6-7): The Packers playoff chances took a big hit Sunday night, but they’re still in the hunt.
- Chicago (5-8): The Bears can make the playoffs if they run the table, but will still need quite a bit of help.
Around the NFL
Australian rugby legend Matty Johns says the NFL needs to ban the hip-drop tackle.
Marvin Harrison Jr. is the new consensus No. 1 draft pick ($) over at ESPN.
Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Harrison Jr. second overall.
The Panthers and Raiders are the only teams with coaching vacancies heading into the offseason. That number will increase, and there are a dozen or more potential head coaching candidates. Bleacher Report listed its top seven.
Make that three. The Chargers fired Brandon Staley after a miserable Thursday night performance against the Raiders.
Keep your eyes on Pro Football Focus. They’ve started compiling five-round mock drafts for all 32 NFL teams. They’ve yet to project what the Bears will do, but they predict Harrison Jr. will fall to the Patriots, who select third overall.
Sweat has recorded 3.5 sacks in five games with the Bears, increasing his season total to 10.0, the first time he’s reached double digits since entering the NFL with Washington in 2019. The defense has recorded 11 sacks in his five games after being limited to 10 sacks in eight contests without him. In addition, the Bears have generated 11 takeaways in their last three games after mustering nine in their first 10 contests.
— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) December 16, 2023
Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust
- Williams and Drake Maye are among several blue-chip draft prospects who are sitting out college bowl games to avoid injury. Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen has declared for the draft and won’t play in the ReliaQuest Bowl against LSU.
- The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to have 10+ wins and no more than one loss and then proceed to lose back-to-back games by 20+ points each.
- Sunday’s Vikings-Raiders game (3-0 final score) is the lowest-scoring game played indoors (or with the roof closed) in NFL history.
From the Podium
- “Taking care of the football, in terms of interceptions, that’s been good as of late. A perfect game for a quarterback is zero turnovers. That gives us a chance to win the game. Just continuing to do that.” – Eberflus
- “I think just learning from past mistakes. That’s the biggest thing, where last year at some points I would just escape the pocket or just run for no reason. So I’m just trying to move in the pocket, feel out the pocket, and throw the ball downfield.” – Fields
- “I see [Fields as] the same guy every day. Ripping notes, saying the little things when needed, calling the offense up both good and bad, hanging out with the guys. Y’all probably want to hear that he’s probably doing something different or changed or something, but no. He’s a special player, but he’s [an] even better person. I think people are starting to see how much this locker room has his back, how much we up front have his back. We don’t like it when he gets those extra hits. We try to run up there and get there, we’re just not as fast as he is. Not everybody runs a 4.3, or 4.4 like he does. He’s a great kid, great player, great man.” – Lucas Patrick