Bears' head coach, Matt Eberflus, has survived a 3-14 season. Eberflus has generally gotten a pass because of the Bears extreme lack of talent. Over the years, the Bears have seen a number of head coaches that have seen some brief positive results before flaming out. Most notably, Mike Ditka.
Eberflus generally held things together pretty as his team was stripped of parts for salary cap space. We will know much more about him after next season. In the meantime, let's review the Ghosts of Bears Head Coaches Past.
The Bears have a long history of hiring the wrong head coach.
When legendary Bears coach/owner George Halas made his first head coaching hire, he whiffed. Halas reportedly had told George Allen in 1964 and 1965 he would succeed Halas as the Bears head coach.
After the Bears went 9-5 in 1965 Halas was named Coach of the Year. Halas then decided to stay on as head coach. George Allen went on to the LA Rams and then Washington Redskins where he had a Hall of Fame career.
Allen went 49–17–4 with the Rams and 67–30–1 with the Redskins.
Jim Dooley was hired as the Bears head coach in 1968 and went 20–36 in four seasons as the Bears head coach. And it got worse.
Enter the Abe
My personal favorite of failed Bears’ coaches is the Sultan of Ineptitude, Abe Gibron. Abe was at the Bears helm for three forgettable seasons, going 11–30–1. As has been the case with the Bears for oh so many years, the Bears’ offense stunk. Particularly the passing game. This was also the era that saw Bobby Douglas as the Bears QB.
Watching Gibron and Douglas confer on the sideline was one of the least confidence-inspiring things I’ve seen in a long history of being a Bears fan.
The ascent to mediocrity
Jack Pardee took the reins as Bears head coach from 1975–77 and went 20–22 for those three seasons. Pardee was named Coach of the Year in 1976. In Pardee’s final season with the Bears, the team went 9–5.
Pardee then left the Bears out of frustration.
Then came a familiar name but not person
Neil Armstrong was next in line. No, not the astronaut. Under Armstrong’s leadership, the Bears never got off the ground, going 30–34.
The Bears did actually have one decent season under Armstrong, going 10–6 in 1979. Armstrong was named Coach of the Year that season. After that, the morass of mediocrity again reared its ugly head and Armstong was gone after the 1981 season which saw the Bears go 6–10.
Next, the Golden Age
The last head coach George Halas hired was Mike Ditka. The Bears won their only Super Bowl came under Ditka’s tenure, and they were dominant during the 80s. Ultimately even those teams were underachieving. Those teams should have won multiple super bowls, but that didn’t prove to be the case.
After the Bears eventually disintegrated under Ditka came the Dave Wannstedt regime. That lasted six years, resulting in a record of 40–56. Wanny did manage to snag a Coach of the Year award in 1994 after going 9–7.
Followed by more mediocrity
Dick Jauron was next up as Bears’ head coach. Jauron lasted five seasons, going 35–45. And of course, Jauron scored a Coach of the Year award. The Bears went 13–3 in 2001, leading to Jauron winning the award. Then the gravitational pull of mediocrity kicked in and Bears were pulled into its orbit.
And then nine years of the Lovie boat
Actually, for part of Lovie Smith’s time as the Bears' head choice, the Bears were above average. The Bears had five winning seasons with Smith, plus another season where they went 8–8.
Smith also took the Bears to a Super Bowl, and like so many other failed Bears head coaches, won a Coach of the Year award.
Smith was fired after going 10–6 in 2012. That sounds shocking in light of recent Bears’ history. Smith later had a brief run as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, going 8–24 in two seasons. Lovie most recently was head coach of the Houston Texans and did the Bears a huge favor by leading the Texans to an improbable win in the last game of their season. The win resulted in the Bears receiving the number one overall draft choice.
By virtue of that accomplishment, Lovie is easily the best ex-Bears head coach of all time.
Next, the Dark Ages
Marc Trestman was next up on the Bears’ conveyer belt of ineptitude. Trestman lasted two seasons, going 13–19.
After a decent start, things really deteriorated in 2014 with the Bears going 5–11. Some of the losses were particularly heinous. In addition, Trestman’s exit was particularly ugly.
John Foxx was hired next to try to restore some stability to the team. Fox was to offensive football what Barry Goldwater was to politics, extremely conservative. Three years of Fox netted the Bears a record of 14–34.
So, under Fox, the Bears were no longer mediocre, they were bad. Maybe the bears should have hired Hayden Fox of ‘Coach” fame.
And last, and sadly, not least, came Matt Nagy
Nagy was a personable guy who was an alleged offensive guru. His guruishness lasted briefly and then disappeared. On his best day, Matt, was like a young Gary Coleman, taking extreme measures to try to be cute.
But like child stars who grew up, the cuteness soon wore off.
The Bears went 34–31 in four seasons with Nagy leading the way. Nagy, like so many Bears coaches before him, won a Coach of the Year award. His came after a 12–4 season in 2018.
So, what do we learn from this?
First being the Coach of the Year in the NFL is seriously overrated. Secondly, the Bears' long relationship with mediocrity indicates a problem beyond the head coach.
In recent months the Bears have taken steps to ensure it's not the same old same old. The Bears look to be appreciably better next year, and the recent changes and proposed future changes make the Bears' future brighter than it has been in a long time.
But then again, that's a pretty low bar.