How the Bears’ Matt Eberflus plans to avoid Thursday night’s first-year coach trap


LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Matt Eberflus has been in the NFL for a long time. The Bears rookie head coach spent years gathering information and tactics for when he got his chance at the helm of an NFL franchise.

This includes how to prepare a team for a short week. A feat that most rookie head coaches have failed miserably at.

Since 2015, freshman head coaches have been an abysmal 11-31 on Thursday Night Football. However, three of those wins came against another first-year coach. If you throw them, the score is 8-31.

This is bad news for the Bears. But the ever-ready Eberflus has a plan to set the Bears up to get back into the win column against the Washington Commanders at Soldier Field.

“I’ve been around for a while and I would say the best way to do that is to make sure the players are fresh,” Eberflus said on Monday. “Make sure they’re fresh. Do lots of tours. We will, so we’ll have a tour today. We’ll have a tour the next day. [Tuesday], then we will have training on the last day, the day before the game. It will be a quick red zone type practice with helmets. And then it’s a lot of mental work. It’s a lot of reviewing, mental work. It’s a lot of film studies with players and coaches. Single players.

“So you have to be mentally prepared. Because you’re already almost in the 48-hour preparation. It’s quite tight. And then you do a lot of things on the day of the match. We have meetings and guided tours on the day game because it’s a night game. It’s at 7:15 a.m. You’re just trying to prepare the guys as best you can in that time frame.

The last freshman coach to win Thursday night was Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, who beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11 of the 2019 season.

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After Sunday’s 29-22 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at US Bank Stadium, the Bears sit 2-3 and face a quick exit from the playoff hunt if they can’t beat the Commanders 1-4 Thursday evening.

The Bears showed a lot of heart and mental toughness against the Vikings. They overcame a 21-3 deficit to take a 22-21 lead early in the fourth quarter. The comeback fell through, but quarterback Justin Fields’ play, the offensive line and the way the defense came off the mat give the Bears confidence they’re on the right track.

For the Bears to steady the ship in Week 6, Eberflus will have to find a way to buck a difficult trend for head coaches for the first time on Thursday night.

That might not be such a big ask for the Bears head coach, though. He has been preparing for these moments for almost 30 years.

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