At 3-6, these Bears have something to rebuild on

The Bears are 3-6 for the fourth time in the last nine years. And the three previous seasons they were 3-6 were marked by a definite pall at Halas Hall, and not just in the media room.

In fact, each of those seasons ended with the head coach getting fired — 2014 (Marc Trestman), 2017 (John Fox) and 2021 (Matt Nagy), when not even Justin Fields’ big second half in a near-upset of the Steelers that dropped the Bears to 3-6 could prevent that death-march feel of dread for the final two months of the season.

But not this year. The Bears are 3-6 again, but the mood was noticeably light in the Bears’ locker room this week — almost a bit of a buzz, in fact. That’s perhaps a testament to the power of a growing quarterback and an offense that has scored 33, 29 and 32 points the last three weeks. It’s one of those NFL truths the Bears don’t often experience: The team that feels good about its quarterback feels good about itself.

“For sure,” said guard Cody Whitehair, who is 3-6 for the third time in his seven seasons with the Bears. “We’re growing as a team. We’re growing as an offense. We’re really doing some nice things. We’re starting to click. We’re putting up some points. You can see the direction this team is going. We’re very close.

“The biggest thing for us now is we just got to find a way to finish games. That’ll happen. We’re doing a really good job at practice, and Coach is doing a good job of putting us in situations and now we just got to go out and execute.”

When Whitehair says, “That’ll happen,” it’s not just hope or blind faith. Just two years ago, the Bears’ offense scored 138 points in a four-game span — 30, 34, 33 and 41 — but nobody thought the Bears had finally figured it out.

Those games at the end of the 2021 season were against four of the worst scoring defenses in the NFL — the Lions (32nd), Texans (27th), Vikings (29th) and Jaguars (31st). This year, the scoring outburst has come against the Patriots (tied for seventh in points allowed), Cowboys (second) and Dolphins (22nd).

This offense is a long way from “arrival.” But with Fields’ improvement, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s impact and the addition of wide receiver Chase Claypool, this offense is more promising than at any point of the Nagy/Mitch Trubisky eras. Who knows where it goes from here, but the progress is real.

“You see it. You feel it,” Whitehair said. “You see us working certain drills in practice, where the confidence level and the execution is getting better in situations where we can perform well.”

There’s no telling how this thing will turn out — we’ve been fooled before — but the Bears at least are finally doing the rebuild right. They’re taking some lumps, losing some games — not always the worst thing in a rebuild — but don’t have any established players standing in the way of developing ones. That’s how it’s done. And they have a quarterback who is getting better — and an offensive coordinator who’s getting better — against playoff-contending teams instead of patsies.

Matt Eberflus is trying to win every game, but he’s also got the big picture in mind.

“There’s going to be a time where we got this going and it’s the other way around, and we’re going to have to deal with the things,” Eberflus said. “Right now, we’re dealing with adversity, and that’s part of being a man, part of being a pro, part of being an organization.

“Those guys do a really good job of that. That’s been our message along: Stay with the process; get better; learn from performance. Good, bad or different, we are going to learn, and we are going to get better.”

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