5) Head coach
This is a tough one. I've had my car warming up to drive Matt Eberflus to the airport all season, but there's no denying that the Bears have played much better in recent weeks, and it's tough to fire a head coach that finishes the season on a high note.
Most outside observers would probably opt to keep Eberflus due to the Bears' progress this season, but those are the same people that mindlessly move teams up and down each week in the college football and basketball polls based simply on who won and lost each week.
Ryan Poles faces a more nuanced decision than simply saying "more wins good" or "missing playoffs bad." The roster is both good and young, and as long as Poles doesn't completely blow the draft, it will be even better and younger next year. Does he think Eberflus can be the guy to lead this team to the playoffs and beyond?
The Bears have traditionally been pretty conservative in firing coaches. If they weren't, Eberflus would have been gone after dropping to 3-8 following an egregious loss to the Lions in Week 11. That blown lead and heartbreaking loss were no anomaly. Sadly, they've been the norm during Eberflus' tenure, even as the Bears have won more in recent weeks. Even last week's win over the Cardinals was underwhelming. I know beggars can't be choosers, but I texted my cousin (a fellow Bears fan) after Fields found Marcedes Lewis to put the Bears up 21-0 and said, "Let's win 50-0."
Eberflus didn't have the same idea, and what should have been a rout ended up being a game in the second half. The Bears once again got conservative on both sides of the ball, and this has been a hallmark of Eberflus' coaching style. You need to put bad teams away, and the Bears just don't do that with any regularity.
There's no denying that the defense has made great strides since Eberflus took over for Alan Williams. Is that enough to keep a head coach, though, or does that mean that he's just a very good defensive coordinator?
The first need on my list was a replacement for Luke Getsy, and if you told me that Eberflus will stay but Getsy will be replaced, I would talk myself into it. I remain skeptical, though, that Eberflus' style will ever translate into the kind of success that Bears fans have long yearned for, even if an ascendant roster is enough to carry the team to the playoffs next year.
Eberflus has a chance to make a statement by beating the Falcons, and especially the Packers, in the season's final two weeks. More important than if the Bears can win those two games, though, is how they win. Are they going to get another lead and hang on for dear life, or will they finally put their foot on the gas and emphatically spoil the seasons of two teams still fighting for the playoffs? I don't think Eberflus has it in him, but I'm open to being proven wrong. We'll see what Ryan Poles thinks at the end of the season.
As a Bears fan, it hurts to end another season with a losing record, but the future is bright in Halas Hall. There's no way to overstate the importance of the 2024 offseason. It could be the inflection point for this franchise, a time we can look back on as the reason the Bears finally won a Super Bowl. Or it could be the time when all of this team's potential was undermined due to bad decisions in the draft and free agency. You're on the clock, Ryan Poles. Don't mess this up.