The Chicago Bears don’t have a playoff berth at stake when they play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Bears (7-9) officially were eliminated in Week 17.
But there’s plenty to keep the Bears motivated in the season finale — and not just playing spoiler to the Packers playoff hopes.
When time runs out Sunday, the Bears will be on the clock to make major decisions in a crucial offseason.
Here’s a look at the decisions ahead.
General manager Ryan Poles
Not all of Poles’ moves since joining the Bears in January 2022 have worked out, but the way he has gone about building the roster is looking better and better.
His trade of the 2023 No. 1 draft pick to the Carolina Panthers last offseason netted him not only the No. 1 draft pick this year, but also top wide receiver DJ Moore, promising rookies in right tackle Darnell Wright and cornerback Tyrique Stevenson and a 2025 second-round pick.
His acquisition of defensive end Montez Sweat from the Washington Commanders and subsequent four-year, $98 million contract extension has lifted the entire defense to a new level. And there have been plenty of other moves that have looked good this season, including the 2023 free-agent signings of linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, guard Nate Davis and defensive tackle Andrew Billings.
Given that the roster has shown marked improvement in more than doubling its win total from 2022 and considering Poles’ working relationship with President Kevin Warren, his position with the Bears would seem to be safe, but official confirmation likely will come next week.
More on the Warren-Poles relationship and how Warren said of Poles over the summer: ‘I found my work partner’
A look at the how the trade of the 2023 No. 1 overall pick paid off in Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts
A look at how the Sweat trade has paid off for the Bears defense
Coach Matt Eberflus
In early October, questions arose about whether the Bears even would let Eberflus finish out the season. The Bears started 0-4, the fourth loss featuring a crushing 21-point comeback by the Denver Broncos.
In the middle of it all, defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned amid strange circumstances which sources told the Tribune was conduct-related. The Bears had an abrupt breakup with wide receiver Chase Claypool, whom they traded to the Miami Dolphins. And Eberflus’ handling of it all left something to be desired.
That rough start hasn’t been forgotten, but the vibe around Halas Hall is considerably different in Week 18, with the Bears winning four of their last five games and five of their last seven. The turnaround has largely been fueled by a defense that has come into its own with Eberflus calling the plays and the addition of Sweat.
Will those factors play into Eberflus returning?
Here’s a look at how sources around the league view the decision on Eberflus and his coaching staff, which is complicated by the Bears’ simultaneous decision at quarterback
Biggs’ mailbag also tackles the possibility of Eberflus’ return, with league chatter suggesting the Bears could be considering retaining Eberflus.
Quarterback Justin Fields
The conversation around Fields’ future has been ongoing, in large part because the Bears have been eyeing the No. 1 pick via the now 2-14 Panthers for months.
The Bears must decide whether they believe Fields is the quarterback who can lead them to the Super Bowl or if they want to bet on a quarterback prospect with the top pick instead.
Fields was just building momentum with his game before he dislocated his right thumb Oct. 15 against the Minnesota Vikings and the Bears started former Division II star Tyson Bagent for four weeks. Since Fields has returned, he has made clear progress, building up to one of his best performances of the season against the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 31.
How do the Bears’ evaluate Fields’ season — and his future?
Compilation of chatter around the league about how the Bears will make their evaluation of Fields
A look at the complicated timeline Fields has navigated in his first three years, and how he believes he will become the quarterback he wants to be
A look at Fields’ career starts through the Dec. 17 loss to the Cleveland Browns, ranked from 1-35
The No. 1 draft pick
While the decision about what to do with the No. 1 pick is tough, it’s also an enviable position to be in.
The Bears can have their pick of quarterbacks in the draft — including USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye — or they can stick with Fields and trade the top pick for a haul similar to or better than what they received for the No. 1 pick last year.
What evaluators around the league are saying about the Bears and the No. 1 pick
Here’s A closer look at quarterback prospects Caleb Williams and Drake Maye
Bears have drafted 32 QBs in the Super Bowl-era — and only 1 has made 100 regular-season starts
Bears have selected only 2 No. 1 draft picks in team history — and both were disappointing