PALM BEACH, Fla. – Bears coach Matt Eberflus spoke to reporters Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. Here are five things we learned during his 30-minute session:
(1) Eberflus is in lockstep with general manager Ryan Poles in terms of focusing on both the present and future success of the Bears.
"I think you have to have that," Eberflus said. "When I was younger, maybe I looked through a straw, but I think that now you have to look that way. You've always got to have a microscope and a telescope. You have to be able to look and see down the road, but you also have to come back to your business."
One recent big-picture move was the trade of outside linebacker Khalil Mack to the Chargers. The deal netted the Bears a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 sixth-round choice and enabled them to gain a significant amount of salary cap space.
"Khalil has had a great career," Eberflus said. "He's going to continue to do well and a lot of good things in the future. But we just thought what was best for the organization going forward, looking at the whole piece of it, the contract, looking at everything going forward for us, for the club, it was the best move for us. We all signed off on it. It'll be good for us in the long run."
While conceding that it was difficult to part with Mack, Eberflus stressed that "you've got to look at the whole roster."
"Where are you going to add pieces?" he said. "What can you do with the shifting and the allocation of funds? And where is it going to go in the future? That's what the club looked at, and that's what we're excited about going forward."
(2) Eberflus expects quarterback Justin Fields to make major strides in his second season.
After the Bears traded up nine spots in last year's draft to land the Ohio State star at No. 11, Fields had an up-and-down rookie year. Appearing in 12 games with 10 starts, he threw for 1,870 yards with seven touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 73.2 passer rating. He also rushed for 420 yards and two TDs on 72 carries.
Fields showed flashes of his dynamic dual-threat ability, most notably on a spectacular 22-yard touchdown scramble against the 49ers and by engineering a 75-yard TD drive to give the Bears a late lead over the Steelers. But he also committed miscues that need to be corrected, such as taking too many sacks and failing to protect the ball at times.
"I said last time in public that the development of him for the second year should be a big jump," Eberflus said. "It should be. That's what we're looking for. We're looking for better technique, better fundamentals, better decision-making, better timing, everything.
"He's all on board on that. He's excited about where he is and he's been working his tail off. That's what we want, just that big jump from Year 1 to Year 2."
(3) Eberflus is eager to watch Fields work with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who spent five of the last six seasons as an offensive assistant with the Packers.
During Getsy's tenure, Green Bay boasted one of the NFL's most explosive offenses, led by four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and first-team All-Pro receiver Davante Adams.
"In terms of where he is as a coach, his track record speaks for itself," said Eberflus, who first met Getsy a couple years ago through mutual friends. "His development of receivers, quarterbacks, what he's done in college, he's a great piece to our staff."
With the Bears, Getsy will call plays in NFL regular-season games for the first time. Like Eberflus, it's something he did at the collegiate level.
"You have to have instincts," Eberflus said. "You have to go with your gut sometimes. But it's all based on information that you have through analytics and study and statistics before you get to the game, and then you rip your call … Before the game, you understand, 'hey, I want to call this and the sequence in which you call it.' So, we're having conversations about all those different types of items of being a play-caller right now. He's excited to get going. I know he's excited for the challenge."
(4) Eberflus agreed with what Poles said Monday about free-agent acquisition Lucas Patrick embodying the type of nasty attitude the Bears are seeking in all players, especially those in the trenches.
"I have a principle that I use and I've used it for a while for the lines," Eberflus said. "It's the M&M principle. It's about having a great motor and about being mean, and that's what you need on your lines. The defensive line needs that and the offensive line needs that. You've got to finish, and when you finish the right way at the line level and you play with that demeanor, that meanness, that's the kind of guys we want to acquire. That's what we're going to expect of our guys up front. We can't do that this time of year until we get the pads on, but that's what we're going to expect. We're going to demand that."
(5) One non-lineman who Eberflus feels personifies the M&M mentality is running back David Montgomery.
In three seasons with the Bears, the 2019 third-round pick from Iowa State has rushed for 2,808 yards and 21 touchdowns on 714 carries and caught 121 passes for 924 yards and three TDs.
"You talk about motor and mean, yeah, he is that guy," Eberflus said. "Serious. A pro. Worker. He's going to be exciting to work with, and he's going to fit right in. He's the kind of guy that just says, 'Hey, watch me go. I'm not going to say a whole bunch of things, but just watch me do my job.'"