With Matt Eberflus’ future up in air, Chicago Bears players leave Halas Hall on Monday

Montez Sweat: I’d love to see Flus back

Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus watches his team during their game against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

LAKE FOREST – Bears players filtered through the locker room Monday morning at Halas Hall. Locker room attendants passed out boxes for players do dump any of the equipment they didn’t want.

Cleats, jerseys, footballs and more filled cardboard boxes.

Monday was locker clean out day for the Bears, who did not qualify for the playoffs. In some regards, it’s akin to the last day of school. But the mood, only about 12 hours removed from a season-ending loss to Green Bay, was not so giddy.

Bears players came and went, some arriving from their end-of-season exit meetings with head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles.

“It was open and honest,” receiver DJ Moore said. “I gave good feedback. They gave me their honest opinion on how my year went and everything. That’ll stay between us until it comes out later on and y’all see what happens. We’ll see.”

The fact that Eberflus is conducting exit interviews seems to be a good sign for the coach, but it might not mean anything. The Atlanta Falcons fired coach Arthur Smith on Sunday night, and the Washington Commanders canned Ron Rivera first thing Monday morning. Already, NFL teams are making moves.

The Bears, so far, have been quiet.

Eberflus said Sunday night that he expected to have exit interviews through 4 p.m. Monday, and then he expects to have a conversation with Poles and team president Kevin Warren at some point this week.

“I’ll have those conversations with ownership here coming forward,” Eberflus said after Sunday’s loss. “It will be midweek in there somewhere, I’m sure, when we set the schedule. Again, our focus is tomorrow is for the exit meetings for the players.”

The Bears don’t necessarily have to rush, but a decision on Eberflus likely will happen in the next 24 to 48 hours.

The NFL changed some of the rules for the head coach interview process this year. Coaches currently employed by another team may not do an in-person interview until after the divisional round of the playoffs (as in next week’s games, not this weekend’s wild-card round). Virtual interviews can happen sooner, and those rules can’t stop teams from interviewing candidates who aren’t employed by an NFL team (such as Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh).

So if the Bears do make a change, they will want to get moving – but it also could happen Tuesday or Wednesday.

Eberflus helped the Bears turn around a season that began with an 0-4 start but rallied to finish at 7-10. He engineered a defensive turnaround that saw the Bears finish tied for first in the league with 22 interceptions (the 49ers also had 22).

A big part of that was the addition of defensive end Montez Sweat. On Monday, Sweat said he loves Eberflus.

“He’s innovative,” Sweat said Monday. “He listens to his players, and he trusts his gut, and he trusts his players. I’d love to see Flus back.”

He’s innovative. He listens to his players, and he trusts his gut and he trusts his players. I’d love to see Flus back.”

—  Montez Sweat, Bears defensive end

The defensive players seem to believe that the turnaround this season – 19 of the team’s 28 takeaways happened during the final two months – is a direct result of Eberflus staying the course. The Bears didn’t change anything they did, they just kept focusing on the fundamentals Eberflus preached.

“He never wavered, never changed,” linebacker Jack Sanborn said. “I think he maybe saw it before any of us saw it and really just didn’t change throughout the rough times or the good times. Because it was ugly at times. It was bad. We were playing bad ball. We weren’t executing. We weren’t playing good. And then it kind of changed. I think the guys in this locker room could feel that.”

Poles has been supportive of his head coach throughout. Poles hired Eberflus in late January 2022. Poles recently had taken the job as general manager, and the Bears’ search team already had conducted initial interviews with head coaching candidates. The organization already had narrowed its list to three candidates: Eberflus, Dan Quinn and Jim Caldwell.

Over the next two seasons, even when things were bad, Poles defended his head coach.

“Sometimes you have these [rough times], and you’ve got to fight through it and figure out how you can be a better football team,” Poles said in September after the poor start. “[I’ve] got a ton of faith in Flus as a leader. He’s done a great job, and then as a defensive play-caller as well, got a ton of faith there.”

The wild card in this situation is Warren, the team president who is in his first year on the job. If the team president believes it’s in the best interest of the team to make a change, then the team will make a change. Warren did not hire Poles or Eberflus. He was brought here to think big and to think differently.

Warren is expected to address members of the media this week, but it remains unclear when exactly that will happen.

For now, Bears fans must wait.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.