Matt Eberflus emphatically rebuked talk of the Chicago Bears shutting down quarterback Justin Fields for the season's final two weeks.
"Absolutely not," the coach responded Monday when broached about the possibility of putting the young QB on ice with two games left.
The Bears currently sit at the No. 2 draft slot, just a half-game behind the Houston Texans for the No. 1 overall pick. Chicago could conceivably leap into the top spot by losing out to Detroit and Minnesota, with Houston finishing the season against the Jaguars and cratering Colts.
Then there is the injury aspect that the Bears would have to worry about. Fields has already dealt with a separated shoulder and left last week's blowout loss after getting his foot stepped on. Fields is healthy enough to play, but ensuring nothing catastrophic takes place in the season's final two weeks that could disrupt his development in 2023 should take priority.
Even with the reasons to sit Fields, Eberflus insisted that to grow and develop, learning on the job is a bigger benefit than tanking or playing it safe.
"We've got to get better," Eberflus said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. "We want to improve. We want to see where we are. These last two games matter. They're division opponents to us, very important to our football team to see the competition, to see guys compete against our division.
"I think it's important for each man, it's important for each unit and it's important for our whole football team."
The Bears have lost eight consecutive games, so you could understand Eberflus not wanting to wrap up his first season on a 10-week skid.
The Bears have shown flashes of potential behind Fields' dynamic play. But a disintegrating defense following trades and injuries coupled with a talent-poor offense have Chicago waiting for the offseason to enact phase two of the rebuild.
For Eberflus, his young team learning how to close out games would be an invaluable experience in the final two weeks.
"We have to learn how to finish," he said. "We're at the game two days ago, but you saw it, right? It was fourth quarter, eight minutes to go, it was 21-13, right? We've got the ball, and we've gotta learn how to finish. We have to finish there...
"They're getting close to really understanding how to finish the game, and you finish with game-defining execution. That's what you finish with. In those moments that the plays, when they matter in the fourth quarter, we execute. And, to me, these next two games are just about that -- being able to execute in those game-defining moments, those plays that matter, and getting it done. To me, that's important going forward to the future."
On paper, the Bears have nothing left to play for and would be better off shutting Fields down to preserve his health and maximize their draft potential. However, NFL coaches come at it from a much different angle -- especially so early in a tenure. Unlike other sports, football coaches only have 17 chances per season to instill their vision. Eberflus plans to use every one of them to develop his club and young quarterback.