How Have Previous 1st Year Bears Coaches Performed?

How Have Previous 1st Year Bears Coaches Performed?
By Mark Keast
Fact Checked by Ron Fritz

With the new NFL season upon us, there isn’t a lot of excitement about the Chicago Bears’ chances. They won just six games last season and it cost head coach Matt Nagy his job.

Some Illinois sports betting prognosticators have them winning just three this season. Will they make the playoffs? Likely not. But three wins is a stretch, too.

 A lot of that is going to come down to first-year head coach Matt Eberflus. 

The average win-loss record for first-year Bears head coaches since Mike Ditka is 7-9. Ditka and the five coaches after him had an average record of 52-49, but nearly every one (83%) made the playoffs at least once.

Trends of Chicago Bears Coaches Since 1983

Average W-L Record in 1st Year Average Record of Coaches with Bears % of Coaches To Take Bears To Playoffs
7-9*52-39*83.3%

*Rounded to the nearest whole number

Bears Show Preseason Improvement

Illinois NFL sports betting observers have pointed out how well the Bears played under Eberflus during the preseason, going 3-0. They hustled on plays, seemed engaged, played smart. That’s a tip of the hat to the coaching.

Last year under Nagy was pretty disastrous, at least on offense. The team went 6-11 in the NFC North — 24th in the league in total offense. Team defense was sixth in the NFL — 316.7 total yards allowed per game (the Bills were No. 1 at 272.8).

The Bears hired Eberflus as head coach in February, with the aim at having a staff to better develop starting quarterback Justin Fields, who threw for 1,870 yards and just seven TDs (31st in the league) with 10 interceptions (tied for ninth in the league) last season.

Eberflus was defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, a team that finished 16th in the league in defense with 343.2 yards allowed per game. 

Year 1 Not Great for Bears Coaches

Looking back at the Year 1 records of Bears coaches in the recent past, if you’re basing this upcoming year on past rookie seasons for Bears coaches, it doesn’t bode well for Eberflus. What can Bears fans and sports bettors expect?

Mike Ditka

Ditka went 3-6 in 1982, his first season, which was shortened by a labor dispute. In his first full season, though, in 1983, he went 8-8, and went on to a 106-62 career record with the Bears, including a Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots in 1986 (a 46-10 rout).

Dave Wannstedt

Wannstedt went 7-9 in 1993 and went 40-56 from 1993 to 1998 with the Bears, making two playoff appearances.

Dick Jauron

Dick Jauron was 6-10 in 1999, his first year, and went 35-45 from 1999 to 2003 with one playoff appearance.

Lovie Smith

Then there was Smith — 5-11 in 2004. Overall he went 81-63 with the Bears from 2004 to 2012, and reached the playoffs three times (losing Super Bowl XLI to Peyton Manning and the Colts in 2006). Smith was 3-3 in the post season.

John Fox

Fox was 6-10 in 2015 and was 14-34 in three seasons (2015-2017) with no playoff appearances. 

Matt Nagy

Nagy was the exception to all this — going 12-4 in 2018, his first season, and 34-31 overall, making the playoffs twice (losing two wild-card games), before last season’s flame out.

The moral of the story? Don’t expect any miracles this year, based on past Year 1 head coach performances. Beyond that? Let’s see how things play out with the offense this season. Oddsmakers and bettors using Illinois sports betting apps will certainly be watching.

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Contributors

Mark Keast has recently covered the sports betting industry in Canada for The Parleh, and is a long-time sportswriter and editor, most notably with the Toronto Sun.

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