How long can the Bears possibly claim, despite it being overwhelmingly obvious what a mess they are, that things are going well at Halas Hall?
They were at it again Wednesday, led by Matt Eberflus.
The coach with the worst record in franchise history, who has had two assistants leave because of their misconduct, fumbled again as he tried to reframe the Bears’ latest embarrassment as a step in the right direction.
Eberflus championed his team’s “awesome” culture after firing running backs coach David Walker, who left six weeks after defensive coordinator Alan Williams was forced to resign.
Also sprinkled throughout the Bears’ 2-6 start: the exile of wide receiver Chase Claypool, a public clash of philosophies between quarterback Justin Fields and the staff, late-game collapses and total blowouts.
And just as in his handling of those episodes, Eberflus gave little reason for confidence in him as he tried to sidestep the Walker fiasco and even point to it as an indicator of how strong the Bears’ culture is.
“The culture in our building is outstanding,” he said. “The guys work hard every single day… We’re working diligently to get this thing turned. We’re 2-2 in our last four. One game was real close. We had a chance at that one. We really feel we’re turning the corner there.”
Apparently, going 2-2 in a four-game stretch is the new benchmark for success here — especially if one of those losses was “real close.” Never mind his most recent defeat was a completely noncompetitive nightmare in a 30-13 loss to the Chargers on national TV.
And as for Walker, Eberflus challenged the premise of a question about what he’d have to do to earn back his players’ trust after a second member of his staff had to go.
“The trust is stronger because we take action… It’s called having accountability,” he said.
He reached so hard for positives that it came across as though he was portraying this as a good day for the Bears.
“No, it’s not,” he said. “We’re all disappointed. It’s never good when this has to happen. Certainly a disappointment.
“But I do know this, adversity does make you stronger in your personal life, in your team life. It’s just how you come through it. It’s how you respond to it.”
That’s true, but if that adversity is followed merely by more adversity, as has been the case for the Bears, that train doesn’t get them anywhere. Matt Nagy talked a lot about how well his teams battled through losing streaks — until he simply had too many of those stories and the losing streaks steered him right out of the job.
Eberflus didn’t seem to grasp that every question about Walker, who is fairly anonymous, was actually about him. This happened on his watch. He had to be asked twice about his accountability before acknowledging, “the responsibility is there because I’m the head football coach.”
So this reflects poorly on him as someone who came in as a CEO-style coach.
“I would say that it is where it is right now,” he replied.
That’s a long way of saying yes.
Eberflus also didn’t realize the “2-2 in our last four” line, which he went to twice, fell flat as his team swirled through yet another controversy with a game at the Saints coming up Sunday. How does going 2-2 offset the mountain of defeats that preceded it and problems persistently popping up?
“Because we’re in the present right here, right now, right?” Eberflus said. “So that’s where we are. We’re focusing on New Orleans.”
At the present, though, he’s 5-20 as head coach and things have gone so badly for the Bears this season that the looming concern is what fresh circus awaits them next.
What exactly is going right?
General manager Ryan Poles tried to answer that in his defense of Eberflus on Wednesday, but it was just a reinterpretation of what the Bears have always said: This is going great behind the scenes even though it never does on Sundays.
“I get the question,” Poles said when asked why he still thinks Eberflus is the right coach. “I see his approach through adversity [and] it is stable, man. And I know in the outside world it doesn’t look like that. And I know it looks like we’re far away. But this dude comes in every day and just keeps chipping away.
“The way he holds everything down here is incredible for how loud it is, how tough it is… I see a grown man that has leadership skills to get this thing out of the hole and into where it needs to be.”
But the season is loud and tough and in a hole for a reason. That’s a problem of the Bears’ own making.
Poles and Eberflus used last season to clean up the mess they inherited and reboot the organization, but this one was supposed to be a step forward. Justin Fields and others talked openly about vying for a playoff spot.
It took less than a month for that to be exposed as wishful thinking, and coaching was a big piece of the pie chart. Four games in, it was difficult to discern any progress from offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and Fields. Eberflus misplayed the ending in an implosion against the Broncos. The Bears didn’t arrive at 2-6 by bad luck.
And when things have gone wrong, Eberflus hasn’t had good explanations. There’s been an absence of clarity and authority through every snag he’s hit, leaving everyone to wonder how he’ll handle the next one. And with the Bears this season, there’s always been a next one.