GREEN BAY — There’s no questioning how Chicago Bears coach Matt Eberflus kept things calm during a rocky start to this season, keeping the daily focus on the task at hand amid turbulence that easily could have tanked the season.
After a 17-9 season-ending loss to the rival Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field, Eberflus’ steadying influence is something the Bears have to consider in the coming hours and days. But a lot will go into their decision, and we’ll start 10 thoughts with Eberflus’ future.
1. It would have been nice for Matt Eberflus and everyone involved if the Bears could have upset the Packers.
Instead they lost for the 10th consecutive time and the 14th in the last 15 meetings. As well as the Bears matched up against the Detroit Lions — they physically handled the NFC North champs in the trenches during both meetings — this was a bad matchup this season.
The Packers controlled this game up front. The Bears didn’t have an answer for Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary and Co., and consequently they couldn’t protect Justin Fields or run the ball. Jordan Love got the ball out quickly, completing 27 of 32 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns and negating the recent success of the Bears pass rush. Aaron Jones (22 carries, 111 yards) became the first running back to reach triple digits against the Bears defense this season.
The victory propelled the Packers (9-8) into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the NFC and sends them to Dallas for a wild-card game Sunday. What the schedule holds for Eberflus remains to be seen. He said he would conduct exit interviews with every player on the roster from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday. He and general manager Ryan Poles sat in Eberflus’ office and went through that process last season and found it useful.
“(Monday) is strictly this,” Eberflus said. “We get feedback on every aspect of the program, all the systems we have in place relative to the performance staff, the weight staff, the trainers, the cafeteria, the food, the schedule. That’s been invaluable to us. The travel, how we travel on the road and everything. That is pretty exhaustive.
“We get great feedback from the players. That’s how we’re going to improve the Chicago Bears going forward, getting feedback from the players. Those are the ones that matter. The players are our product and we’ve got to do a great job and do everything we can to help them perform their very best.”
Where Eberflus fits into the picture beyond that remains to be seen. The team is required by league rule to hold an end-of-season media session within one week of the final game. The Bears knowingly skirted that rule a few years back when then-coach Matt Nagy was seeking a defensive coordinator, but I’d expect something to be scheduled at Halas Hall later this week. I wouldn’t read into it either way in terms of Eberflus’ future that we don’t yet have a day, time or list of who will be present.
A 7-10 finish this season is a four-game improvement from a year ago, when the roster was stripped down and the salary cap reset. Considering where the Bears were at the end of the first month — 0-4 and reeling — it was a respectable run to finish the slate.
They didn’t face the most challenging schedule along the way. They avoided big slumps after the poor start. They had three really bad losses in which they melted down in the fourth quarter, and those are pitfalls that young teams can encounter.
I know it was popular to knock the idea of learning how to win a year ago as the team spiraled to the No. 1 pick (with help at the end from Lovie Smith and the Houston Texans). That No. 1 pick served the Bears well, no question. They’ve had to learn how to win a bit this season, and sometimes there are some tough lessons along the way.
Here is what I believe:
I believe Eberflus has a four-year contract. I don’t know that for a fact, but I’m confident that is the case. I asked him at his introductory news conference what the length of his contract was, and he declined to say. Some on social media were critical of the question at the time. I’ve poked around on this lately and have been led to believe it’s four years. It’s relevant when you look to the future. That means he likely has two years remaining on his contract. Since the mid-1950s, the only Bears coach not to get a third year was Marc Trestman, who was fired after the 2014 season.
I believe general manager Ryan Poles has been impressed by a lot of things Eberflus has done this season.
“You can go back to the original press conference and things that I was looking for,” Poles said Sunday during a pregame interview with play-by-play man Jeff Joniak on WMVP-AM 1000. “One is leadership and the mental toughness and the steady hand to really captain the ship when the seas are rough, and they got rough at certain times. Certainly last year, early this year, there was some sudden change and he was steady at the wheel.
“He fought to get back above water and get things to where they were. His ability to adapt and adjust, really take input from the players to get this thing on the right path was incredible where I think a lot of people would have been in really bad shape and crumbled to the pressure. He got better with the pressure and so did our football team.”
I believe President/CEO Kevin Warren will play a role in the decision-making process.
I believe if Eberflus makes it to a third season with the Bears, he would do so with two new coordinators. My hunch is Eberflus would call defensive plays next season if he’s back. The offense really struggled at times this season, and I doubt the blame is placed only on quarterback Justin Fields. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy could be in a difficult spot. So a question the Bears will have for Eberflus is what kind of vision does he have for his staff in 2024. Does it impress them?
I believe the Bears better be very confident in their ability to attract a top candidate at Halas Hall IF they choose to fire Eberflus. There could be a bunch of openings, and some teams find a way to regularly be in the hiring and firing cycle.
I never would have thought Eberflus would find a way to stick around when the Bears were 2-6 after the first two months. He has a chance. He kept the team together. He kept it playing hard. He oversaw the development of young players on both sides of the ball.
But if the Bears are going to reboot at quarterback — and one way or another, I expect them to draft one in the first round — do they want a new head coach? I expect we’ll have an update on Eberflus’ status soon.
“Expectation is a future word,” Eberflus said when asked if he believes he will return. “For me, I’ve got to be right here, right now. I have those meetings (Monday) and I’ll have meetings after that, later in the week — I don’t know exactly when that is yet — with ownership and everybody else. And we’ll figure it out from there.
“The foundation has been set, the standards are set how we operate. I do know that. And I do know the locker room. I do know that for sure. And we’re standing on solid ground. Hard work, passion for the game and enthusiasm for the game, and we’re just going to keep working together to build this thing.”
I didn’t put big weight into the season-ending game. Had the Bears won, would you really feel that differently about Eberflus? A loss would have dropped the Packers to 8-9. Would have been nice to beat the rivals. Would have been nice to keep them out of the playoffs. Would have been nice to get one more win at the end of the season. But the idea that a ton was at stake with this one game was overblown.
There’s an entire year to evaluate — two full years really — and we’ll see which direction it goes.
2. Major moves by the Bears will involve input from the folks in the organization you would expect to be involved.
That includes Chairman George McCaskey, quite possibly other family members at the ownership level, President/CEO Kevin Warren and GM Ryan Poles. If the Bears are smart, they’re going to want to empower Poles here.
That’s one thing McCaskey has consistently said since he was elevated to the chairman role after the 2010 season. He has hired football people and allowed them to do their jobs. That always has matched up with what those football folks have said. McCaskey hasn’t meddled and he has been a sounding board. He will want answers from time to time — all owners should — but he believes in letting the folks he has hired do their thing.
Warren is new to the equation. He has spent an awful long time in the NFL working for the St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, but he never has been one to make football hires. He does have a proven track record as a winner in business — just look at some of the deals he completed with the Big Ten — and his NFL experience and connections make him qualified to be in this new situation. No question about that.
Poles has the Bears in a fascinating position. They own the No. 1 draft pick from the trade last March and their own pick will be No. 9. The team’s salary-cap situation has been turned around. There are some young players on the roster who look like legitimate building blocks.
Not every move Poles has made has worked, and nobody is going to hit on everything. As I wrote on Saturday, one element of the Montez Sweat trade that really goes underappreciated is that took some real huevos a little more than three weeks after admitting the Chase Claypool move had blown up on him. Poles didn’t allow one bad process to taint how he handled a separate process.
He has the respect of those around the building, and you get the feeling he has done a nice job connecting with people in all corners of the organization. That hasn’t always been the case at Halas Hall.
We may have no clue how the sausage is made this week in Lake Forest. When the dust settles, I’d be stunned if they didn’t announce that everyone arrived at the same conclusion. Funny how it’s almost always unanimous, right?
Poles has probably impressed both McCaskey and Warren. I’d guess they have many questions for him — including where the process of scouting C.J. Stroud took him and his staff last spring — but in the end they probably will lean on Poles to chart a path into 2024.
3. The hot-button topic of the future for Justin Fields and the Bears will rage into the offseason.
There’s little civil discourse involved if the conversation is taking place on social media, that’s for sure.
There will be more ways to analyze the situation than I can imagine between now and the draft. Here’s one thing that stuck with me when I spoke to a player personnel director from another team last week.
“If Minnesota re-signs Kirk Cousins this offseason — who knows what the Vikings wind up doing — but if Cousins returns there, the Bears have the fourth-best quarterback in the division,” the player personnel man said.
I don’t think you can argue against it. The Bears — when they have matched up against him — have played pretty well against the Lions’ Jared Goff. But his numbers over the last two seasons are a heck of a lot better than Fields’. The scary thing is the franchise that had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers probably has the best quarterback in the division again in Jordan Love.
Fields had some electric games this season, some wow games, not just wow plays. He threw four touchdown passes in a Week 4 loss to the Denver Broncos and followed it up with four more five days later in a Week 5 victory at Washington. He played really well in the Dec. 10 win over the Lions. He dissected the Atlanta Falcons in Week 17 at Soldier Field in a 37-17 blowout.
But Fields totaled five touchdown passes over his final eight games. The Bears went without an offensive touchdown in two of their final six games, and in the loss at Cleveland the lone offensive scoring drive went only 1 yard.
Blame is to be shared and it could spread. As I wrote above, if Matt Eberflus returns, I think he would do so with a new offensive coordinator. It’s possible to say both the coordinator and the quarterback have not been good enough.
The idea was for the Bears to surround Fields with more talent this season and see how he performed. He got a top-10 wide receiver in DJ Moore (96 receptions, 1,364 yards, eight TDs) and the passing offense improved from 32nd to 26th.
Love, who finished the season with 4,159 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, was slinging the ball Sunday to Dontayvion Wicks, Bo Melton, Jayden Reed and Malik Heath — three rookies and one player considered to be in his first season.
Fields showed some improvement throughout the season. He started protecting the football better when he returned from the right thumb injury that cost him four games. He started managing the pocket a little better and made a couple of nice plays Sunday.
He gunned an 18-yard shot over the middle to Equanimeous St. Brown on the opening possession. He connected with tight end Cole Kmet for a 27-yard gain after escaping the pocket to his left and making a sharp throw downfield. But in the end Fields was 11 of 16 for 148 yards. He was sacked five times. Fill-in center Dan Feeney struggled and left guard Teven Jenkins had a poor showing.
Fields was in a similar spot a year ago when the Bears also had the No. 1 draft pick, so it’s not like he’s entering uncharted waters.
“We had the same topics and stuff last year,” he said. “It’s not like we didn’t have the No. 1 pick last year. It’s going to be the same thing. I control what I can control. I’m going to get healthy this offseason, spend time with my family and get better.
“We went through the same thing last year. We had the No. 1 pick, everybody was asking, ‘What if? What if? What if?’ And nothing happened. I’m not saying that nothing might happen (this offseason) ‘cause, shoot, we all don’t know. But I’m not going to let the potential or ‘what if’ stress me from enjoying life and going through my everyday life.”
I give Fields credit. He has been pretty balanced through the last three seasons while in some tough and some no-win situations. I think things got better for him in the building after the early-season discussion about “robotic” play and coaching. I think that improved communication, and whatever blowback there was, he didn’t allow it to change how he projected his message every week.
“That decision (on the future) is not in my hands,” Fields said. “All I can control is what I did do. I gave it my all. Whether it’s here or not, I have no regrets. Shout out to you guys for making my job a little bit harder.
“To the city of Chicago, love y’all. Appreciate the fans and the support from all the Bears, you know, and in case this is my last rodeo with y’all, appreciate y’all for everything.”
4. A pretty vocal contingent believes the Bears need to go through another offseason of building around Justin Fields.
With the draft capital the team has, there could be some shiny new parts, no doubt.
There’s no narrative in Houston that the Texans need to build around quarterback C.J. Stroud to give him a chance to succeed. On Saturday, Stroud became the fifth rookie in league history to pass for 4,000 yards, something he accomplished in 15 games as a concussion sidelined him for two weeks. The Texans went from being positively awful a year ago to winning the AFC South, and Stroud did his part with a cast of players who didn’t get much attention before the season.
WR Nico Collins: Former third-round pick totaled 70 catches for 927 yards in his first two seasons.
TE Dalton Schultz: Had one big season for the Dallas Cowboys in 2021, when he caught 78 passes for 808 yards and eight touchdowns.
WR Tank Dell: Rookie third-round pick measured 5-foot-8, 165 pounds at the NFL scouting combine. He has been on injured reserve since Week 12.
WR Robert Woods: With his third team in three seasons and in his 11th year overall, Woods is a shadow of the possession receiver he once was for the Los Angeles Rams.
WR Noah Brown: The former seventh-round pick entered his sixth year having produced one season with more than 16 catches and 184 yards.
Bears fans would have accused Ryan Poles of malpractice had he surrounded Fields in 2023 with a group of skill-position players that resembled this. The group Jordan Love worked with all season was similar and younger. For the 16th time since 2000, the Bears did not have a 3,000-yard passer. Rex Grossman (2006), Jay Cutler (2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015) and Mitch Trubisky (2019, 2020) are their only 3,000-yard passers since Erik Kramer’s days in the 1990s.
The point is Stroud’s performance behind an offensive line that has had some moving parts raised the level of the entire offense. The Texans will be a contender in the AFC South moving forward because they have a star quarterback who should only get better.
Stroud averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, third-best in the league, and did it with a mediocre running game that produced 91 or fewer rushing yards in nine games. Fields could be poised for more improvement with better coaching and more players around him. Can Poles be the guy who passed on Stroud and the next Stroud, whoever that is?
5. I do see a path to Justin Fields being on the roster in 2024.
It’s way too premature to say what the chances are. I don’t think the Bears — GM Ryan Poles and whoever is coaching the team and running the offense — will conclude that Fields should be the starter next season and that the team should go all-in on building around him. He hasn’t shown enough.
There is a scenario in which the Bears could keep Fields and draft a quarterback in Round 1. I don’t know how much of a chance and I think it would be difficult to pull off for a few reasons I will tick off in the next section.
The hypothetical in play is the Bears trading down from No. 1, presumably because they’re not convinced USC’s Caleb Williams is their guy, and grabbing another quarterback with a high first-round pick. Ryan Poles would have some extra draft capital, some likely in future years, and still would have his own pick at No. 9.
Fields remains on top of the depth chart. The Bears have a rookie behind him. And away they go into the offseason program. We’ll see countless versions of this concocted over the next few months. With whom do the Bears trade down? What do they get in return? Which quarterbacks are in play for them after a trade down?
Personally, this does not seem like the most likely scenario, but when Poles talks, I think we’re going to hear him emphasize a methodical process that will bring in a ton of information to sort through. If the Bears are looking into everything, this is something they will have to weigh.
6. There has been some discourse about the Bears possibly keeping Justin Fields and drafting a quarterback in the first round, perhaps after trading down from No. 1.
It would put the Bears in a position in which they could collect a windfall via the trade and still select a quarterback, let’s say in the top five or so picks for the sake of discussion.
I’ve been opposed to this being a legitimate option for a while. But maybe Ryan Poles and the Bears will want to explore it. Let me explain some challenges and arguments against it.
If Poles were to use a high first-round pick on a quarterback — drafting one in the top five or even top 10 — it would signal the team is uncertain Fields is the solution for the future.
The way NFL practices are designed, the No. 2 quarterback doesn’t get enough reps. So if the Bears were to draft a quarterback and theoretically set him up for a “redshirt” season, there aren’t enough reps to develop the quarterback of the future. Fields would be in a situation in which he would need to play well and win in 2024, and the Bears likely would have to take reps away from him to help bring along the rookie. The Bears could say they’ve put extensive planning and thought into a process to do it, but the bottom line is reps would be shaved from each player. From a practical standpoint, this would be an issue.
One reason for drafting a quarterback — it’s far from the biggest but it is a factor — is the idea that the franchise can reset the clock with a rookie and move on from Fields. They would swap a quarterback on Year 4 of a four-year contract (with a fifth-year option) for a quarterback on Year 1 of a contract of the same length. In this scenario — keeping Fields and drafting a quarterback — they would be wasting a year of the window for the rookie quarterback by “redshirting” him.
The comparison to the Packers, who had Aaron Rodgers in place when they drafted Jordan Love in the first round in 2020, is an apples-to-oranges discussion. Rodgers was a 36-year-old, two-time MVP and a shoo-in for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the Packers selected Love. Rodgers went on to win two more MVP awards. Fields, who turns 25 in March, isn’t in that stratosphere. Plus, the Packers drafted Love at No. 26 after he fell in the draft. They weren’t necessarily driven to select a quarterback but felt he was too good to pass up considering Rodgers’ age.
My hunch is Fields and his camp would push for a trade if the Bears were to draft a quarterback.
Finally, the Bears must know that using a high pick on a quarterback and keeping Fields would create a bit of a circus at Halas Hall. National media would be there on a regular basis, and if chatter about the QB situation is polarizing now, it would reach new heights with QB1 and QB1a on the roster. Maybe that wouldn’t deter the Bears, but it would be an element they would have to acknowledge.
As I have mentioned, there is more than enough time for every angle to be examined in great detail. The Bears will be in no rush to reach a conclusion as the pre-draft process is just cranking up.
7. The Bears have to be ecstatic they made it through the season in exceptionally good health.
They had to do some shuffling on the offensive line at the start of the season and dealt with some injuries in the secondary, but defensive end Yannick Ngakoue was the only starter to land on injured reserve with a season-ending injury. Ngakoue suffered a fractured left ankle in Week 14, so he was healthy for the majority of the season.
Left guard Teven Jenkins, free safety Eddie Jackson and running back Khalil Herbert missed five games, quarterback Justin Fields was out for four and right guard Nate Davis sat out four because of injury, but the Bears avoided having players suffer the type of issues that shut them down for the season.
Fantasy Predictors created something called a BUS for every team. It’s a Banged Up Score, which evaluates the health of every team’s position group. It ranked the Bears No. 2 in the league behind the Los Angeles Rams.
Looking around the NFC North, the Packers are No. 6, the Detroit Lions are No. 14 and the Minnesota Vikings are No. 27, with the loss of quarterback Kirk Cousins to a torn Achilles tendon and wide receiver Justin Jefferson for nearly half the season with a hamstring injury.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus has been mindful of the health of his roster, tweaking the practice schedule during the stretch run. He monitored data provided by the sports science staff that showed how much running players had done and how much recovery time would be optimal. That’s helpful for soft-tissue injuries.
Football is a violent game and injuries happen. The Bears have been fortunate in that area, no doubt one factor in their success in the second half of the season.
8. With the Bears finishing in fourth place in the NFC North, their list of 2024 opponents is locked in.
Along with traditional home/road games against divisional foes, they will play the following teams:
Los Angeles Rams
New England Patriots
San Francisco 49ers
It’s possible one of the home games could send the Bears elsewhere. It will be the NFC’s season to be the “home” team for international games. When there was buzz last offseason that they could be the “visitor” for a game in Germany against the Kansas City Chiefs, the vibe I got was it was more likely the Bears would play internationally in 2024.
If this happens — and the NFL has not made an announcement — I couldn’t begin to venture a guess as to where they would be headed. The league is set to play in the United Kingdom, Munich and São Paulo, Brazil, next season.
The NFL generally doesn’t want to move games between divisional rivals to neutral sites. The Bears have played in London twice and were the “visitor” both times.
9. The Bears have 16 players who will be free agents.
That’s a significant reduction from the end of last season, when a whopping 30 players were coming out of contract. Fifteen will be unrestricted free agents with the only outlier cornerback Josh Blackwell, who will be an exclusive rights free agent.
The unrestricted free agents by position (started eight or more games in bold):
QB: Nathan Peterman
RB: D’Onta Foreman
WR: Darnell Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown, Trent Taylor
TE: Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan
OL: Lucas Patrick, Dan Feeney
DT: Justin Jones
DE: Yannick Ngakoue, Rasheem Green
LB: Dylan Cole
CB: Jaylon Johnson
ST: LS Patrick Scales
Johnson is the big name, and barring something unexpected — and who thought there would be a trade request right before the deadline in October? — I believe the Bears will extend him or keep him in place with the franchise or transition tag.
A small handful of other players could have an opportunity to re-sign with the team. That process will take some time to play out. I wouldn’t expect much action before the start of the new league year — March 13 — nears. Naturally, how many return will depend in part on what the team does with the coaching staff.
10. The Bears had 30 players spend time on the practice squad this season.
They had 33 in 2022, 34 in 2021 and 33 in 2020, and the latter two seasons included moves because of COVID-19. The NFL voted to expand the developmental squad to 12 players in 2020 and bumped that number to 16 for the last three seasons to make it easier for teams to navigate the pandemic, with the number pushed to 17 for teams with an international player.
Twelve players who spent time on the practice squad appeared in a game: linebackers Micah Baskerville and DeMarquis Gates, tight end Stephen Carlson, defensive backs Greg Stroman, A.J. Thomas, Christian Matthew and Joejuan Williams, defensive end Daniel Hardy, quarterback Nathan Peterman, wide receiver Collin Johnson and offensive linemen Aviante Collins and Doug Kramer. The Bears didn’t have to lean on any of them for extensive playing time, though, in part because of the good health I detailed above. Thirteen practice squad players saw game time in 2022, 21.in 2021 and 10 in 2020.
Here’s the total number of practice squad players from the last nine seasons:
10a. The NFL is assembling blended coaching staffs for the Senior Bowl again this year, so the Bears, with the No. 1 pick, won’t have their staff coaching in the all-star game. The team likely will nominate a few assistants to participate in the event. Given that offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was a head coach last year, it is unlikely the Bears will have a head coach or coordinator, but they could have an assistant or two in Mobile, Ala.
10b. There is a little buzz around the league that assistant general manager Ian Cunningham will be in play for a GM job in the hiring cycle that will fire up Monday. Cunningham interviewed for GM jobs in Arizona and Tennessee last year and declined an offer from the Cardinals. One nugget in the rumor mill is Cunningham and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh could be a match with the Los Angeles Chargers. If Cunningham lands a GM job, the Bears would receive a compensatory third-round draft pick in 2024 and 2025.
10c. The CFP national championship game Monday night will have intrigue for draft purposes with Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. a potential first-round pick and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy a possibility to turn pro.
Penix, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, has put up massive numbers for the Huskies the last two seasons, passing for 9,289 yards and 66 touchdowns while playing with one of the best wide receiver groups in the nation this season. There will be medical questions about Penix, who will turn 24 shortly after the draft. He suffered torn ACLs in 2018 and 2020 at Indiana, and his 2019 and 2021 seasons with the Hoosiers were shortened by shoulder issues. But he has been a big-armed playmaker since transferring to Washington.
Penix’s throwing motion is a little unorthodox and some teams are flat-out turned off by left-handed quarterbacks. One longtime scout told me he learned from an even older scout not to focus on the throwing motion.
“Watch how the ball looks when it arrives, not how it looks when it’s released,” he said.
Penix has been dropping dimes all season, and he couldn’t have a bigger stage to perform one more time against the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense. Remember, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud elevated his draft stock in the playoff last season before the Houston Texans chose him No. 2 in the draft.
McCarthy, who turns 21 on Jan. 20 and has been compared to Andrew Luck by Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh, has one more shot, too, to give evaluators something to consider if he indeed opts for the NFL. There are questions about his slender frame — he’s listed at 6-foot-3, 202 pounds — but he’s athletic, moves well, has a quick release and has been very accurate. Michigan favors a run-heavy offense, and scouts have been hoping to see him drop back and throw more.
The Bears probably feel like they can get the most complete scouting report possible on McCarthy. Jeff Shiver joined the Bears as a scout in 1987, the same year the team drafted Harbaugh in the first round. As I hear it, there might not be a scout in the country who has a better relationship with Harbaugh. On top of that, the Bears hired Sean Magee as chief of staff for Matt Eberflus in May 2022. Magee came from Michigan, where he was an associate athletic director for football.
There are other intriguing prospects in the game. Huskies wide receiver Rome Udunze could be a top-10 pick. Washington wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk, offensive tackle Troy Fautanu and defensive end Bralen Trice and Michigan defensive tackle Kris Jenkins and defensive back Rod Moore also are worth keeping an eye on.
10d. Jaylon Johnson missed the game with a shoulder injury. The good news is the cornerback told me he does not believe surgery will be required. Earlier in his career, he had surgeries on both shoulders.
10e. Strong safety Jaquan Brisker summed things up in a decent fashion using five sentences.
“It feels like we’re moving in the right direction,” Brisker said. “Lot of things going right, going positive. From 3-14 to 7-10. If we want to be honest, we probably should have four more wins and be in the playoffs. That’s a lot of woulda, coulda, but that’s how we feel.”
10f. Kicker Cairo Santos went 3-for-3 on field goals, connecting from 50, 39 and 35 yards. He finished 35 of 38 (92.1%) for the season, earning a $500,000 bonus because he finished above 90%. The first kick Sunday hit the left upright before going through.
“I thought it was going to sneak in,” Santos said. “Once I saw the initial ball flight I was like, ‘No.’ And then it kept knuckling back inside and I thought it was going to sneak in. It kissed the upright and I was pumped up after that one.”
10g. Here’s an oddball statistic. The Bears had six players finish the season with at least 100 rushing yards: Justin Fields, Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Darrynton Evans and Tyson Bagent. The last time they did that was 1988 with Neal Anderson, Thomas Sanders, Brad Muster, Matt Suhey, Jim Harbaugh and Jim McMahon.
10h. Keep an eye out for Bears equipment manager Tony Medlin on the sideline during Super Bowl LVIII. He will be in charge of the game balls. It’s something the league has asked Medlin to do annually since Super Bowl XXXIII (Jan. 31, 1999) with the exception of Super Bowl XLI, when he had more pressing duties for the Bears during a rain-soaked game in Miami Gardens, Fla.
10i. Thank you for reading this season.