Chicago Bears coach Matt Eberflus is restoring a sense of confidence inside Halas Hall. He’s been a refreshing change from Matt Nagy, whose weekly quest for answers slowly eroded any trust he built in 2018 when he made an improbable playoff run. Eberflus is the anti-Nagy; his 30 years of experience shows every time he answers a question, and his approach to team-building is more in-line with traditional winners.
One change Eberflus appears on track to make in 2022 is how the Bears approach team captains. Nagy made a mockery of the process in 2021 with a revolving door of weekly leaders. Outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, who lasted just a few weeks on the roster, even served as one in Week 16 against the Seattle Seahawks. Offensive lineman Germain Ifedi and punter Pat O’Donnell were the others that week. Enough said.
That won’t be the case in 2022. Instead, Eberflus will allow the Bears’ captains to rise above the rest of the roster. It will be organic and obvious.
“It’s about doing the things that you need to do and execution on the football field first,” Eberflus said earlier this month. “A lot of those guys are rising to the top. I let it happen organically, just by observing it. But the cream will rise to the top. It always does.”
Bears captains will earn it under Matt Eberflus
It feels safe to assume quarterback Justin Fields will be one of those guys. He’s already assumed a leadership role in OTAs, and he’s the franchise’s most important player. He’s the starting quarterback. He’s the future of football in Chicago. If he isn’t a captain, something’s wrong.
On defense, linebacker Roquan Smith is a logical choice. Following the departures of Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, Smith is the most established defender on the team. The fact he’s homegrown doesn’t hurt, either.
Special teams will have a captain, too. Kicker Cairo Santos’ ability to break the Robbie Gould curse should make him a strong candidate. DeAndre Houston-Carson makes sense as well.
Eberflus wants more than just one captain on offense, defense and special teams. He hinted at wanting a captain from every position group. And while that may be wishful thinking, the intent is clear: captains will matter again in Chicago.
“My 30th year as a coach and I’ve seen it every single year,” Eberflus added. “You hold guys to the standard. What will happen is, ‘Oh, there’s one, there’s one, there’s one and there’s one.’ You want one at every position group. You really do. Or two. We’re working to get that and we’ll see where it goes. But again, it’s an ongoing day-to-day evaluation.”
Eberflus has yet to log a game as an NFL head coach, but his 30 years of coaching have him qualified for every aspect of the job. Bears players, especially the leaders, will be better because of it.
Bryan is the founder and managing editor of Bears Talk. His previous stops include Bears coverage for NBC Sports Chicago and USA Today.