The Chicago Bears blew another double-digit fourth-quarter lead to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, losing in agonizing fashion after Darnell Mooney dropped the potential game-winning Hail Mary. The Bears are now all but eliminated from the NFC playoff race, but there's reason for Bears fans to be optimistic.
It might seem strange to stress the positives after yet another game that slipped away, but the future is undeniably bright for the Monsters of the Midway. The trade for and extension of Montez Sweat is looking better every day, and the defense as a whole has somehow transformed into one of the best units in the league.
ESPN's Bill Barnwell, who, for my money, is one of the best and most insightful NFL writers out there, believes that should the Bears fire Matt Eberflus, potential suitors will be knocking down the door at Halas Hall for a chance to coach this team. Barnwell wrote an article published Sunday in which he ranked 10 potential head coaching openings around the NFL by which would be the most desirable to potential candidates, and at the top of the list was, you guessed it, the Chicago Bears.
Barnwell cited the impending windfall of draft capital the Bears stand to gain thanks to last year's trade with the Carolina Panthers, plus the quality young pieces dotted throughout the organization that still has room to grow.
Bill Barnwell is right: the Chicago Bears are a team and a franchise on the rise.
It can be difficult to see the forest for the trees when your team's record is 5-9. The Bears harbored legitimate playoff aspirations before the season began, and those will not be met. The team's recent two-game winning streak was its only such streak in the past two seasons, and it was enough to drive Bears fans into a frenzy. That's what losing will do to a fanbase.
Barnwell can envision a not-so-distant future where the Bears take a big leap forward, and interestingly, he doesn't pick a side in the keep Justin Fields/draft Caleb Williams debate, saying that either way offers an enticing option to the next head coach.
In fact, the only real negative Barnwell cited in his piece was that the Bears' potential new head coach will be under tremendous pressure early because of the importance of Ryan Poles' looming draft decision. By contrast, the Panthers job, which Barnwell ranked dead last on his list, likely affords a new coach the time and leverage to work out a more lucrative deal because of Carolina's recent troubles and short leashes with head coaching hires gone wrong.
The Bears have never fired a head coach midseason, and with the team's recently improved play, Matt Eberflus won't change that precedent, so a decision on his future won't be made until the offseason. Has he done enough to keep his job, though?
The fact that the Bears job is viewed as such a valuable commodity doesn't work in Eberflus' favor. Sunday's loss brought his career record to 8-23, and it's easy to argue that with a better tactician, the Bears could easily be 8-6 and sitting pretty in a weak NFC playoff race.
Eberflus' tendency to get conservative and play not to lose when the Bears get a lead has cost the team over and over again. That style doesn't work in today's NFL, period. Say Eberflus keeps his job and the Bears continue to improve next year, making the playoffs for the first time since 2020. Find me a Bears fan that believes he won't do the exact same thing he did against the Browns, Lions, and Broncos and I'll treat you to a deep dish pizza from the restaurant of your choice.
There's a very real chance that the Bears could be the frontrunner for the hottest head coaching candidates this offseason. Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is the big name at the moment. Would he be interested in staying in the NFC North and coaching up an offense made up of Justin Fields, D.J. Moore, and Marvin Harrison, Jr.? Something tells me he would. How about Caleb Williams, D.J. Moore, and Malik Nabers? I'm going to have to say yes.
Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik is another name to watch after the immediate success he's had with rookie C.J. Stroud, the #2 overall pick that shares many characteristics with Justin Fields. That hire would make a lot of sense for both parties, even if other teams are beating down Slowik's door, and according to Barnwell, the Bears could have the inside track.
Of course, we can't mention a potential Bears head coaching search without mentioning the milk-drinking, khaki-wearing elephant in the room, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has been linked to the Bears for years, but the time has never been right to make the move back to the NFL. Could the opportunity to coach another of his alma maters with a young, talent-rich roster be enough to change his mind? You never know.
There aren't going to be many Bears fans with smiling faces after the loss to the Browns, and that's OK. Losing hurts, but there's a real chance that this much losing could be a thing of the past very soon. This franchise is headed in the right direction, and it's validating to see someone like Bill Barnwell recognize that. The Bears face critical decisions at head coach and quarterback in the coming months. It's good to know they won't be lacking for quality candidates.