With Chicago Bears jobs hanging in the balance over the final 5 weeks, coach Matt Eberflus is focused on ‘leadership’

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The NFL Black Monday countdown was at five weeks when Chicago Bears coach Matt Eberflus welcomed his players back to Halas Hall after their bye week.

Five weeks for Eberflus to convince team leadership his 4-8 Bears have made enough progress that he shouldn’t be a part of the annual league tradition of firings the day after the regular season ends.

Perhaps only Chairman George McCaskey, President Kevin Warren and general manager Ryan Poles know if Eberflus, now 7-22 as the Bears coach, can do anything to sway the decision over the winnable final slate of games against the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers.

When the topic came up a few times with reporters Monday, Eberflus — who has been around enough football teams over 32 seasons to be familiar with this ticking clock — stuck to his talking points about focusing on his daily work.

He didn’t bite on a question about whether he thinks his job is safe, given past team support. Poles, after all, publicly offered support Nov. 1 when he called Eberflus “a grown man that has leadership skills to get this thing out of the hole and into where it needs to be.”

“What you can focus on is leadership, and the first rule of leadership is leading yourself,” Eberflus replied. “Come to work every day. Put the plans together — offense, defense, special teams. Lead the football team. Help the leadership council.

“Because true leadership comes from within. That’s really what you focus on, and that’s put your best foot forward every single day.”

Bears players are, of course, aware of the fates that hang in the balance — not just Eberflus’ but those of the entire coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, and quarterback Justin Fields. Those decisions are likely intertwined, with the Bears undoubtedly taking into consideration their 2024 quarterback-coach pairing.

With such decisions looming, Eberflus said he tries to strike a balance between being positive but also real with players and coaches, so they know where they need to improve.

“That is the business we’re in,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “No matter what, it’s always there. But at the end of the day, we’re here to win games and we’re here to be the best football players we can be. That is our job. That is what we’re here for.

“Our team is understanding that these are important games and we know … we’ve got to win them. And we’re excited about that. We have the right people in here, the right leaders who understand that and to keep the main thing the main thing.”

The main thing this week is a rematch with the Lions, who came back from 12 points down Nov. 19 to win 31-26. The Bears preached finishing after that deflation, and they did it — albeit in ugly fashion — in a 12-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 27.

“You can’t really mark it as full change until you do it consistently,” tight end Cole Kmet said.

So that’s a mission this week: show the consistency that has not been a hallmark of this Bears regime. They haven’t won back-to-back games since the end of the 2021 season under previous coach Matt Nagy.

Despite that, Eberflus, Edwards and Kmet asserted that progress is being made and is showing up on film.

“You see all the plays that are being made,” Edwards said of a defense that has seven interceptions in the last two games. “You see the effort that’s there, and that’s one thing that’s not looked on as much is just the tenacity that we’re playing with. That’s hard to do every single play, where someone’s giving it their all. You see that on film with our team.

“It is the league in terms of ‘You are what your record shows.’ But I don’t think we necessarily believe that. We know we’re a good football team and have got to go out there and finish. We’ve got to make those plays at the end of the game to seal those victories.”

And if they do, would that be enough to keep the Bears out of the Black Monday news cycle? They have five weeks to try.

“The season didn’t start the way everybody wanted, for sure,” Eberflus said of an 0-4 start. “But over the last eight weeks, we’ve put some good things out there. We’re certainly excited about doing that this week. Our focus, as anytime in the NFL, is where your feet are.”

Tyrique Stevenson expected back

Eberflus said it looks like rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson could return this week after missing the Vikings game with a foot injury. He said the Bears might consider rotating Stevenson and fellow rookie Terell Smith, who filled in when Stevenson was out.

“Smitty did play well and we want to get our young guys more and more playing time,” Eberflus said. “If they’re effective and produce, we certainly will play them.”’


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