How Bears' Justin Fields, QB uncertainty impacts search for offensive coordinator

How Bears' Justin Fields, QB uncertainty impacts search for offensive coordinator originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears' decisions Wednesday -- to fire offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and several members of his staff but retain head coach Matt Eberflus -- set them on a path.

Their next two decisions will determine where that path leads.

The Bears enter the offseason with a massive decision to make at quarterback. Justin Fields grew during his third season, but the Bears also own the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft via the Carolina Panthers.

How the Bears elect to move forward at quarterback is the second essential decision they'll make this offseason. The first is finding a coordinator who can get Fields to elevate his game further or put the quarterback the Bears select at No. 1 overall on the path to stardom.

These two decisions will be forever intertwined as the Bears enter a franchise-altering offseason.

General manager Ryan Poles said Wednesday that the Bears are in "the information gathering" stage of the quarterback process, but he doesn't believe the Bears' uncertainty at quarterback will lead to a lesser pool of coordinator candidates.

On the contrary, he sees the myriad of avenues the Bears could travel at quarterback as the best way to find the offensive coordinator the Bears need.

"No, I love it because you have to, what are you going to do for these four different types of quarterbacks?" Poles said Wednesday. "I want to hear that and it's really important to see the versatility and the adaptability in their teaching and the way they implement a plan, scheme, adjust. I think it actually makes it pretty dynamic in terms of the interview process."

“So I think that’s a great question," Eberflus said about finding a coordinator for either option. "The offensive coordinator and really any good coach knows how to adjust and adapt to the play caller or signal or the quarterback. Because you have injury, right? You have changes and you see it during the course of the year, how many backups played this year. You got to adjust your scheme to fit the quarterback, you now, and the skillset that you have available to you be it at quarterback, receiver or tight end and the adaptability to be able to do that during the course of a season is huge. So that would be the thing.”

The "four different types of quarterbacks" Poles referenced will be dissected by everyone on the internet from Wednesday until the Bears make their final decision. The Bears' general manager later attempted to backtrack on that remark, but it's clear he has several potential quarterbacks in mind as the Bears begin their exploration.

As it pertains to Fields, the Bears are confident that the 24-year-old quarterback can handle learning a third offensive system in four seasons, should they stick with him.

"Justin’s very smart, very intelligent. He’s able to adapt and adjust, so I don’t see that being a problem at all," Eberflus said Wednesday.

"I’ve got a lot of faith in the process we’re going to get kicked off in terms of finding the right fit," Poles said when asked if resetting at OC changes his evaluation of Fields' future. "And we talked about it a little bit, but the ability to be adaptable to the talent that you have is critical. I think Matt hit it, and we saw it across the league. There were some teams that actually got better with a lot of changes. If you don’t have the ability to adapt and adjust to the talent that you have at that position, it makes it really hard. So that’s going to be a part of our process."

The Bears believe their options at quarterback and the ability to work for the Bears will give them a premium pool of candidates. Eberflus said he'd already heard from a few interested candidates. The search will get underway immediately.

When Eberflus hired Getsy, he did so because he said he evaluated all the NFL offenses, and the one ran in Green Bay was the most difficult to deal with.

As he prepares to replace Getsy after two years of lackluster offense, Eberflus has no particular scheme or style in mind.

"I think we have an open mind," Eberflus said. "You have an open mind and listen to these candidates and do a really good job of pulling that information and gathering it and also making good decisions on who we hire. There’s a lot of different ways to do it and I’m excited about getting that going.

"It depends on who’s available for the skill, who’s available for that game, I think you have to be multiple that way and who you’re playing," Eberflus continued later. "Is the team really good at stopping the run, and you’re going to have to find other ways to move the ball down the field? I think that’s what we’re talking about, the multiplicity of being able to bend and adjust, not only before the game but also in game."

Getsy's inability to adjust in-game, his poor fit with Fields, and the Bears' lack of a cohesive offensive identity is why he was shown the door Wednesday.

Poles could have cleared the deck Wednesday, seeing the No. 1 pick as an opportunity to create an organizational structure in which everyone -- GM, coach, OC, and quarter -- is aligned and on the same page heading forward.

Instead, Poles elected to keep Eberflus, trusting him to make the correct decisions to shepherd the Bears' quarterback, whomever it may be, to stardom.

“It starts with the leadership piece," Poles said when asked why he trusts Eberflus to potentially develop a young quarterback. "It starts with his knowledge of the game and then the ability to hire coaches to make sure we have a really good process, and we bring in the right types of people that can put those plans together to help our guys take the next step. And if it’s a young quarterback, then that’s what it is. If it’s to continue to elevate Justin, that’s gonna be a big part, too."

Poles said he isn't concerned that the perception that Eberflus could be entering a "win-now" season would impact the quality of candidates for the position.

"I think they're gonna look at the roster and see there is a lot of young, talented players on the roster that they really want to work with," Poles said. "It's gonna elevate that platform and elevate our team to be a championship-caliber team. And when you win championships, there is a lot of really cool things that happen with everybody. So I think they're gonna see that as a good opportunity."

The Bears have been through this cycle before. They kept John Fox for one season too long and drafted Mitch Trubisky before Fox's lame-duck season. The Bears then handed Trubisky to Matt Nagy and asked him to develop a quarterback he didn't draft. The cycle repeated itself when the Bears drafted Fields as Nagy entered a scalding-hot-seat season and handed him to Eberflus after Nagy was fired following that season.

It feels like history is repeating itself, but Poles was adamant that things will be different this time.

"When you look at the interview process, just bringing in the right people, like I said, that can adapt and adjust and put players in the best position to be successful," Poles said. "And then again getting the players right in terms of the skill and the leadership and the person, their character, getting that right. If you get those right, I'm not worried about the history of different things. It's a different situation. To me this roster is built on really solid grounds. It's a little bit different of a situation in my mind."

In order for that to be the case, the Bears have to get their next two decisions correct.

If they fail either, the foundation won't matter.

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