Bears News: Eberflus on team improvements, what he's looking for in new coordinators

Bears News: Eberflus on team improvements, what he's looking for in new coordinators


by - Correspondent -

CHICAGO - After the first four games of this season, it seemed like a sure bet that head coach Matt Eberflus would not be the coach once the season ended. However, things turned around, and with the Bears winning five of their last seven games and being one of the best defenses in the league in the second half of the season, Eberflus made enough of an improvement to stay.

His impact was felt the most, however, as the defensive playcaller.

“Defensively, the last eight games, first in the league in scoring defense. That was really good to see the guys come together that way. We were fifth in the league in rush defense the last eight. The quarterback, the QBR, we were first in the league. So, really proud of that and then also the interceptions,” Eberflus said. “The interceptions and the ball-hawking that our defense displayed was really good. What’s the most important stat is the turnover margin - how did we go 5-3 in the last eight? It was really the turnover margin, it was plus 12. That’s second in the NFL during that time. So, those are all winning ways.”

When quarterback Justin Fields dislocated his thumb and was forced to miss five games, it seemed like they may have sealed his fate on his future with the Bears. However, returning from his injury, he clearly played better on the ground and through the air.

In particular, he made the greatest strides with his ball security and decision-making.

“The rush offense continued to really shine, was fourth in the league the last eight games, so the last back half of the season. Then, the interceptions were down the last half of the season,” Eberflus said. “That was really good to see; that’s something we emphasized with Justin (Fields). That and the sack total, he did a really good job of doing that.”

His improvement in the second half of the season is part of what is fueling the current debate of whether or not Chicago should keep Fields. He has one year left on his rookie contract. But with the Bears sitting with the No. 1 overall pick once again, they could use that on a quarterback if they wanted to.

Eberflus certainly appears to be satisfied with Fields’ improvement this season.

“We love where Justin is right now. He’s done a good job growing in the interceptions, keeping those down, the sack totals,” Eberflus said. “He’s doing a good job with that, having his eyes down the field, has done a wonderful job with that, being able to deliver some strikes down there and he’ll continue to grow as we grow this football team.”

One factor Fields did not have playing in his favor the past two years was offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who has now been fired. However, if Fields were to stay with the Bears, he would be working with a third different offensive coordinator during his short time period with Chicago. That is not something Eberflus is worried about as he says Fields is able to “adapt and adjust,” but does want to have a coordinator who knows how to be a teacher for the other offensive coaches, as well as the players.

“Obviously, you want to have somebody that’s a great teacher. I think that’s important because he has to coach the coaches to coach the position, and I think that’s the number one trait of any great coach,” Eberflus said. “You have to be able to have the innovation to really look at the players you have and be able to help enhance and put those guys in position to succeed and to get explosives and move the ball down the field. So, that right there I think is the most important thing, the teacher part of it, then the innovation part of it and the creativity I think is going to be the biggest part.”

The head coach cannot be both the head coach and defensive coordinator on a permanent basis, so the defensive coordinator position is also open in Chicago. However, Eberflus did acknowledge that he is considering maintaining control over the defensive playcalling going into next season.

Given how that went this season, it might not be a bad idea.

“Really looking just to enhance the staff, and it’s got to be a good fit. But, you’re looking for an all-star staff on both slides and dynamic guys that can take from the classroom to the drill work and then really put that on the field, and that position is going to be tying that together,” Eberflus said. “Of course, working with me to do that as well. But, it’s important that we find the right person that has great character, that’s a great motivator and can be in front of the room when I’m not in there, when I’m with the offense.”

Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles were both vague about when a decision might be made regarding Fields. However, they could look to make a decision by the end of February, so other NFL teams have a lot of time to make trade offers for the No. 1 overall pick if that is the direction they choose.

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