Ellis: Bears crises are in the eye of the beholder


(670 The Score) Whoever decided that winning cures all must have not spent much time in Chicago. It’s hard to place it exactly, but despite the Bears having the same 2-1 record as the Jaguars, Ravens and Bills, something sure feels different here. The league hasn't even considered flexing the Bears' game against the Giants on Sunday to primetime.

I guess I don't know what a "normal" NFL season would look like, but I’m pretty sure it isn't this? On one hand, the Bears overachieving early on with historically bad quarterback production is probably one of the more frustrating and complicated places a team can be in. On the other, the Bears are back. In all likelihood, the growing debate about every win isn’t going to matter long before it ever really has a chance to get good, but it’s wild to feel like some sort of choice between second-year quarterback Justin Fields and better-than-expected results is already in play. And sure, I agree with you: It’s almost certainly not. But just because it’s “only something people are saying on Twitter,” does that make it any less real?

One of the most encouraging parts of the season so far has been how much Bears players have seemed to buy into what first-year coach Matt Eberflus is doing. There was plenty of chatter about how the culture was changing during training camp, but each training camp is the most exciting training camp of everyone’s career. How the players have talked about practicing this season has, to me at least, been notably different than in the Matt Nagy years. After Chicago's rainy win against San Francisco, safety Eddie Jackson spoke for a while about how prepared and comfortable the team was in the comically poor conditions. Offensive tackle Larry Borom and guard Lucas Patrick both credited specific teaching points they heard all week as a big reason why they rushed for 281 yards in a win against the Texans on Sunday. And of course it’s the winning talking, but it’s also apparent that the Bears have gotten exactly what they wanted and expected from their head coach so far.

That overall success is what makes the Fields wrinkle so interesting. At this point, it’s probably understating it to say that the Bears are bringing him along slowly. And technically, that’s working! Eberflus is always going to preach capital-t team first, especially publicly. He's a coach who made it to the NFL armed with acronyms and commemorative T-shirts. It’s hard to blame the coaching staff for trying to win football games, but it’s equally hard to accept an "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" attitude for an offense that’s averaged 78.3 net passing yards per game so far. Every adage every Bears fan makes about the value of patience before confessing that they’re running out of patience is absolutely valid – jumping off the bandwagon after three games is silly.

Still, I don’t blame Bears fans at all for getting nervy about the approach that the coaches are taking to Fields’ development right now. Trying to win games is quite obviously the motivating factor of their day-to-day work, but there’s a bit of naivety to the argument that it’s also Eberflus’ only responsibility.

If winning in spite of terrible quarterback play was sustainable, the Bears would have so many more rings. Most people aren’t asking offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to call four verticals (Y’s open!) 25 times a game – though if you are, you are seen – but Fields having 45 passing attempts through three games doesn’t seem like a whole lot of due diligence. The good news is that assuming the Bears aren’t about to have truly the most depressing season in a generation, Fields is going to start throwing the ball more, either by choice or necessity. But after an entire summer of coaches talking about the dynamism he brings to the offense, seeing him start the season in such a limited capacity is jarring. Full-blown panic right now would be jumping the gun, but it doesn’t really feel like anyone’s actually there yet? Also: It’s a long season until it’s not – this time next month the Bears will be almost halfway through their schedule. What’s even the point of cheering for an NFL team if you’re not going to be at least a little overly anxious along the way?

Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.

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