Final Five Games Could Go A Long Way Toward Determining Fields' And Eberflus' Futures With Bears

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields speaks during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Minneapolis. The Bears won 12-10. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields speaks during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Minneapolis. The Bears won 12-10. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
View All (2)

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Justin Fields isn't sweating it.

The Chicago Bears' quarterback knows a big decision looms about his future and is also sure of something else.

“If I’m here next year, if I’m not, football doesn’t define who I am as a person,” he said Wednesday. “My happiness will still be in the same place, will still be in God. And really just football wise, life stuff in general, I think my faith in God, my hope in God is just so much more than anything that can be thrown at me on this earth.”

The final five games could go a long way toward determining whether the Bears stick with Fields and, for that matter, coach Matt Eberflus. If this stretch coming out of a bye is a final audition, it starts with a visit from the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions (9-3) on Sunday.

Fields comes in with 1,587 yards passing with 12 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 92.3 passer rating that ranks 14th in the NFL. He has also run for 400 yards and a score.

Fields struggled in the early going, then missed four games because of a dislocated right thumb just as he was starting to show growth as a passer. The season hasn't exactly gone the way he hoped, and the Bears have some things to figure out.

For one, they have to decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option for 2025. Chicago could also be in position to draft Caleb Williams or Drake Maye with their own first-round pick or the one it got from Carolina in the trade for DJ Moore last spring.

Then, there's Eberflus.

At 7-22 in two seasons, he has the worst record of any Bears coach. But there has been progress.

The Bears have played .500 ball since an 0-4 start this year and might be 6-3 in their past nine games if not for two big collapses against Denver in Week 3 and Detroit three weeks ago.

“Certainly you want to be optimistic, but you also have got to see who you are and where we can improve to go ahead and close those games out that we didn’t get done," Eberflus said Wednesday. "And that’s every week in the NFL, right?”

The season has been the most chaotic one in recent memory for the Bears.

Fields called the coaching into question when he indicated the staff was feeding him too much information — comments he later tried to soften — in September. The same day, defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned. Running backs coach David Walker got fired leading up to the Week 9 loss at New Orleans, with general manager Ryan Poles indicating it was for behavior.

Despite all that, the Bears have shown improvement. The defense — Eberflus' specialty — has made some big strides, going from 29th overall to 11th since a Week 5 win at Washington.

But when it comes to the future of Eberflus and Poles, for that matter, that remains an open question. It probably will be until chairman George McCaskey and president Kevin Warren provide some clarity.

“Yeah, you know the season didn’t start the way everybody wanted, for sure," Eberflus said. "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 is, as anytime in the NFL, where your feet are. We’ve got to be focused on this game and this game only, to put your best foot forward out there, and that’s what we’re doing this week.”

Chicago's remaining schedule isn't all that difficult. Only two of the five games are against teams currently boasting winning records, starting with Detroit and a trip to Cleveland (7-5).

The Bears then host struggling Arizona (3-10) and Atlanta (6-6) before closing the season at Green Bay (6-6). There are realistic opportunities to pick up wins, maybe even in consecutive games. Chicago hasn’t done that since beating Seattle and the New York Giants in Weeks 16 and 17 of the 2021 season.

“Obviously, you have to have extreme patience during this time and you got to see growth,” Eberflus said. “You have to see that in small increments at times. You have to learn from every performance and I think that’s part of growing. We’ve continued to do that as we’ve put this football team together and that’s all we’re trying to do this week.”

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl