It began with a house cleaning and ended with a dedication. There is a fine line between the white flag and the red flag.

The 2022 Bears season could go down as one of the worst seasons in franchise history – a necessary first step in a much-needed rebuild. Or maybe just another misstep by an NFL franchise that has been bad for most of the 30 seasons since the end of the Mike Ditka era.

We won’t know how good or bad this season was until 2023, when the Bears either take a step toward playoff contention or continue to spin their wheels with a familiar combination of failure — performance, injuries, quarterback stagnation. Or mitigating regression – that leaves them closer to square one than post-season.

But as it stands today after completing a 3-14 season with a 29-13 loss to the Vikings on Sunday at Soldier Field, the path to the polls has the Bears at least in a position to think they’re headed in the right direction. Huh. The rest is up to him.

“You look at the results, of course, but you also look at the broader perspective of what you’re doing. It’s laying the foundation,” said coach Matt Eberflus. “We also have the development of young core players… the rookie class – we have played a lot of guys. second year players like justin [Fields and Darnell] Mooney … Cole Kemet is one of those young types of players.

And don’t forget the No. 1 pick overall – or whatever reward that brings.

“Free agency and the draft is no different,” Eberflus said. “It’s up to the coaches to develop those guys and fit them into the plans so we can win winning football.”

The Poles have several holes to fill and question marks at nearly every key position going into the 2023 season — from head coach to offensive and defensive coordinator to No. 1 receiver to quarterback. He has a lot to prove, probably the most to prove.

Poles hasn’t been perfect in his rookie season. They did not trade Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith until midseason. He didn’t give Justin Fields enough arms to properly evaluate Fields’ passing ability. Rookie Wallace Jones looks overdrafted. The Poles traded the 32nd pick in the draft for Chase Claypool. The offensive line considered a specialty of Poles was abysmal – not much better than what Ryan Pace had done in his seven seasons.

But the Poles didn’t define anything. There was no trade-up-for-Trubiskey moment that would bother him. He didn’t do anything that indicated he would fail. He hasn’t proved anything, but hasn’t disqualified himself either.

And that goes for Eberflus too. Like Poles, Eberflus hasn’t set off any red flags indicating he can’t do it. On the contrary, he has been very good at the head-coaching part of the job. There were very few examples of poor game-management in the number of close games the Bears lost this season. Their defense was disappointing, even considering the departures and starts of all rookies. HITS is more real than a myth, but still – like any other coaching philosophy – it needs good players to work.

Eberflus played to win all season – except perhaps at the end. But as the losses mounted they strained the Bears’ foundation. And like most foundations, it was mostly underground and hard to see. This team doesn’t have the remnants of a defense for Lovie Smith. Jay Cutler is not in it. Its not the best defense in football. This is not a playoff team with Mitch Trubisky. Who knows where it will end, but there’s no other way but up. The Bears have never been 3-14, but they’ve been worse.

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