LAKE FOREST — Chicago Bears leadership met with reporters on Wednesday for the team’s end-of-season press conference at Halas Hall.
General manager Ryan Poles, coach Matt Eberflus and president Kevin Warren answered over an hour’s worth of questions.
Here are some of the top takeaways from the press conferences:
Why did the Bears move on from Luke Getsy?
The Bears fired offensive coordinator Luke Getsy on Wednesday morning. Given the offense’s inconsistencies all season long, it was a move that needed to be made.
Eberflus provided some clarification during his opening statement on why Getsy, along with quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko, wide receiver coach Tyke Tolbert, running backs coach Omar Young and assistant tight ends coach Tim Zetts were relieved of their duties.
“We talked about how do we make our football team better, and as you guys saw this morning, we made the changes, we made some adjustments to the offensive staff and we felt that when you looked at the growth and development and the improvement, it wasn’t where it needed to be,” Eberflus said. “That’s why those changes were made and we’re looking forward to looking at and talking to and hiring a new offensive coordinator that’s going to improve our team and that’s going to do a great job improving and being aggressive and doing the things that it takes to win football games and we’re looking forward to that for sure.”
Eberflus mentioned that he conferred with Poles, Warren, and George McCaskey before he ultimately made the decision to move on from Getsy. Eberflus highlighted that the development and growth of the passing game needed to be better and that was one of the factors to change a majority of the offensive coaching staff. Offensive line coach Chris Morgan and tight ends coach Jim Dray were the only coaches retained from that side of the ball.
As for the next offensive coordinator, some important traits will need to be met in order to land what Eberflus believes is a highly coveted position.
“Obviously you want to have somebody that’s a great teacher,” Eberflus said. “I think that’s important because you know he has to coach the coaches to coach the position. And I think that’s the No. 1 trait of any great coach. You have to be able to have the innovation to really look at the players that you have and be able to help enhance and put those guys in position to succeed and to get explosives and to move the ball down the field, so that right there, I think is the most important thing, the teacher part of it and then the innovation part of it and the creativity I think is going to be the biggest part.”
Poles also mentioned that “If you don’t have the ability to adapt and adjust to the talent that you have at that position, it makes it really hard. So that’s going to be a part of our process.”
What is the status of Justin Fields?
As expected, Justin Fields was one of the main topics of conversation on Wednesday afternoon.
Poles brought up the Bears’ quarterback at the end of his opening statement.
“We are in information-gathering mode right now,” Poles said. “We are going to turn over every stone to make sure that we are going to make a sound decision for our organization. I did think Justin got better. I think he can lead this team. But at the same time there’s a unique situation where I have to look and our staff has to look at everything. And that’s exactly what we’re gonna do.”
Eberflus also mentioned his quarterback in his opening statement.
“We love where Justin is right now,” Eberflus said. “He’s done a good job growing in the interceptions, keeping those down, the sack totals, he’s doing a good job with that, having his eyes down the field, he’s done a wonderful job with that, of being able to deliver some strikes down there and he’ll continue to grow as we grow as a football team.”
If the Bears decide to keep Fields, he will be on his third offensive coordinator in four seasons. A difficult situation for any quarterback to be in, but Eberflus didn’t see that as being an issue.
“Yeah, Justin’s very smart, very intelligent,” Eberflus said. “He’s able to adapt and adjust, so I don’t see that being a problem at all.”
Poles was asked about what areas he wants to see Fields still grow in and the Bears’ general manager identified two-minute offense, since that’s a critical point where games are won.
As of now, Poles has not made any decision on picking up Fields’ fifth-year option, and when it comes to a timeline as to what Poles may do with the No. 1 overall pick, he said that he envisions taking “this all the way to April.”
Again, Poles will have to “blown away” by a rookie quarterback if he goes that route, and that’s not just what the player can do on the field but also the prospect’s character and how he is off the field.
While Warren was a part of the St. Louis Rams organization, he saw a team that initially struggled. In veteran coach Dick Vermeil’s first season with the Rams, the team finished 5-11 and then 4-12 the following season. In Vermeil’s third season, the team improved to 13-3 and went on win the Super Bowl.
Warren highlighted that part of his career when he was the Vice President of Player Programs & Football Legal Counsel for the Rams as one of the reasons for how the last 48 hours have played out in Chicago.
“And I remember many of those days having conversations with John Shaw, our president, Jay Zygmunt, our executive vice president, coach (Dick) Vermeil, is that the questions that I would ask them of making sure the worst thing you can do on an organization that is making progress is to turn around too quickly,” Warren said. “And you have to evaluate honestly. And so I just feel here, with the people that we have in this building, the changes that we’ve started to make today, the people that we will hire, the core group of players that we have, the draft capital that we have, the salary cap situation that we’re in, the free agents, just look what was accomplished.”
The Bears went through some rough stretches this season. The team started on a four-game losing streak. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned, and running backs coach David Walker was fired.
Plenty of things on the field and off the field went in the wrong direction for the organization, but during those “storms,” Poles saw the key qualities in Eberflus flourish.
“I really think that the head coach needs to be able to captain the ship when the seas are stormy or when the seas have storms, and really keep everything settled,” Poles said. “When you go through hard times and he can keep everyone together, to me, that’s like the critical piece. In a big market like this, you have to be strong. I mean, if he’s jumping off the boat and everyone else starts jumping off the boat, it’s a hot mess. So the stability was a big piece of it. The detail that he coaches with.
Taking some of the mistakes from the game, bringing them to practice and making sure that we’re doing things the right way, I saw a lot of progress in that. There’s a reason why we went from three to seven wins. There are. The player aspect of it is important but also the detail and bringing the team together, sticking through those hard times allowed us to push through and you saw a lot of those wins happening towards the back end of the season. If it’s not for him, I really don’t think that’s the case. I think it starts to crumble; everyone starts to do their own thing. So to me, that was a critical piece in this.”
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