OPINION: Stern: Bears' dysfunction reaching all-time high


It's no accident certain pro sports organizations have become poster children for dysfunctionality. On Wednesday, the Bears ascended to the NFL's vaunted top spot, when quarterback Justin Fields called out the coaching staff for the "robotic" style to his recent play. As if this wasn't enough for discussion, there were also unsubstantiated rumors of a raid at Halas Hall practice facility -- plus defensive coordinator Alan Williams surprisingly resigned. For an organization that's reached the playoffs twice since 2011 and struggled to remain relevant, Wednesday's chaos was the last straw in pretending to be relevant.

In year two under head coach Matt Eberflus and year three with Fields, the Bears were supposed to, minimally, show improvements. Coming off an ugly 3-14 campaign in 2022, the majority of fans didn't have playoff expectations. But at least they were going to win a couple more games. Chicago's first two games in 2023 can be described as the inverse of last year, when they got off to a 2-1 start and then nosedived until they crossed the finish line. Fields has already thrown three interceptions this year -- signs of worrisome regression.

None of this is easy to swallow, but the off-the-field baggage has brightened the spotlight and turned up the heat on another regime facing much scrutiny. General manager Ryan Poles and Eberflus are attached at the hip -- both were brought in last year. With fans' impatience starting to boil over, the two guys in charge appear on the brink of being shown the door, in favor of another reset. Only, Poles and Eberflus aren't their only issues. The truth is, problems radiate from the top down. The Halas family's recent track record hasn't been great.

Moving past the losing culture isn't easy. Sometimes, it takes true difference makers to turn everything around. Just ask the Browns, which've found new life under head coach Kevin Stefanski, and are no longer the NFL's laughing stock. Chicago doesn't have that leader right now. They appear to be blindly throwing darts at the board, hoping to somehow hit the bullseye.

Fields wasn't a bad choice to be the next man up at quarterback two years ago. He had promising potential at Ohio State, and was part of a really bad quarterback class that included Zach Wilson and Trey Lance -- which gives the Bears a partial free pass. Key word: partial. Chicago bypassed Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft in favor of Mitchell Trubisky, and they haven’t had any stability at the position since Jay Cutler lined up under center. In a quarterback-driven league, the Bears have failed to pick that right guy, and the consequences have contributed to their struggles.

Considering the Bears' revolving door of coaches -- they’ve cycled through four guys since Lovie Smith's departure in 2012 -- the lack of consistency is troubling. After Smith, Chicago hired Marc Trestman of the CFL, a burnt-out John Fox, and up-and-coming coordinator Matt Nagy, who fizzled following Coach of the Year honors in 2018. Then there's Eberflus, who was passed over by other teams in favor of an innovative offensive mind. Being unable to hire the right head coach has cost the Bears just as much as failing to choose the right quarterback. But you just have to wonder if there's more involved.

Did the top coaching candidates purposely steer clear of Chicago because of how fast Nagy lost support? Was there concern over a lack of organizational support, or other rumors regarding management's incompetence? The Bears' recent chain of events, which sent shockwaves through the league and gave off "Here we go again" vibes, are enough to make one think of other issues.

"It felt like I was kind of robotic out there and not playing like myself,” Fields explained to reporters earlier this week. When asked about what's led to his latest woes, the quarterback said, “You know, it could be coaching, I think."

Robotic. That's the perfect way to describe the half-assed state of the Bears and all their decisions. They've shown a blatant lack of internal accountability and professionalism. However, in contrast to other robots, this one seems to be on auto pilot, content with the cycle of disappointment. Rinse and repeat.

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