KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hours before his team would lose its 13th straight, this one to the Kansas City Chiefs by a 41-10 score, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles silently scrolled through his phone while seated on a bench on the visitors sideline at GEHA Field. This was one of the few moments of quiet the 38-year-old general manager was able to steal after spending the last week navigating a minefield of adversity.
For Poles, Arrowhead Stadium was the site of some of the greatest moments of his NFL career. In 13 seasons with the Chiefs organization, Poles was part of seven AFC West championships, two AFC championship games and one Super Bowl title.
The contrast between his Chiefs glory days and Poles' current reality is as dramatic as the scenes from Arrowhead's locker rooms Sunday afternoon. While Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift left the stadium together amid the backdrop of the Chiefs celebrating, the Bears were left trying to digest how things have spiraled so quickly, and whether there's any relief in sight.
From Bears quarterback Justin Fields citing coaching as one of the reasons he felt too "robotic" while losing the first two games of the season, and then walking it back, to the sudden resignation of defensive coordinator Alan Williams, it wasn't the type of week a team would script while preparing for the defending Super Bowl champions. And that doesn't take into account a break-in late Wednesday at Soldier Field and theft of $100,000 worth of equipment.
"I'd like to think not, but there was a lot going on," tight end Cole Kmet said when asked whether the distractions of the week played a role in the outcome of Sunday's game. "We did our best, as players, to kind of block that out.
"I did think we actually had a good week of practice, but not good enough. It showed up today on the football field."
The Bears haven't been good enough for 335 days -- that's how long it's been since their last win. The exasperation permeated the visitors locker room, as players kept their heads down and their answers short.
"That locker room was tight, and it's gonna have to be tight now," coach Matt Eberflus said. "There's going to be a lot of outside noise. We have to do a great job of staying together."
FIELDS SAID ALL the right things after the loss. There would be no need to clarify. "I think we all need to be better. I need to be better," he said.
The quarterback tried to keep optimism alive by using the 2022 Detroit Lions as an example -- a team that started 1-6 before going on a 7-2 stretch and just missing the playoffs.
"All we need is one to get this thing going," Fields said.
Finding that one win to spark Chicago's turnaround could prove difficult. The Bears are early 3-point underdogs at home to a Denver Broncos team that lost by 50 points in Week 3.
It also might be difficult for the Bears' offense to get on track with the same issues continuing to surface. Fields hoped to play more freely against the Chiefs but instead struggled, completing 11 of 22 passes for 99 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
"There's no one more determined than Fields," Eberflus said. "Justin is working his tail off. And again, we're finding the flow for him. And we just have to keep doing it. And we have to find how to let him do his thing and explode ..."
Fields posted a career-low 1.5 QBR from inside the pocket on Sunday. A major issue for the quarterback continues to be completing passes when not pressured. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Fields was off-target on 25% of his passes when he didn't feel any pressure. Since entering the league in 2021, the Bears quarterback has the highest off-target rate of any quarterback when not under pressure (with a minimum of 150 pass attempts).
It wasn't supposed to be like this in Fields' third year. He entered the season among the top 10 MVP candidates at Caesars Sportsbook after finishing 63 yards shy of the single-season rushing record for quarterbacks last season.
And the Bears generated more wagers to win the NFC North than any other team did for winning its division.
But at 0-3, all bets are off about where this team is headed.
EBERFLUS WAS ASKED just one question on Wednesday about defending two-time MVP Patrick Mahomes. There were more pressing issues for the second-year coach.
Eberflus was asked about Williams, who missed the Week 2 loss for what the team called "personal reasons." Eberflus' answer to three different questions was that he had no update.
Four hours later, the Bears announced Williams had resigned. A statement from the 53-year-old coach said he wanted to focus on his health and his family.
Williams had been away from the team for six days prior to his resignation. Poles said he could not offer many details on the timeline of Williams' absence.
Several players said they found out about Williams' resignation at the same time the Bears released a one-sentence statement announcing the news. Eberflus said he went around to each position room after practice to address Williams' resignation. He let players know the rest of the defensive staff would remain intact and that he would continue to call defensive plays.
Speaking Friday for the first time since Williams' resignation, Eberflus was asked about his relationship with the coach he had been working alongside since 2018.
"I have feelings for him," Eberflus said. "But again, he has resigned, and it's for health and family [reasons], and we'll see where it goes from there."
On Sunday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Williams' resignation was due in part to inappropriate workplace conduct. A digital forensic search was conducted as part of Williams' resignation, according to sources, who added the process was part of the team's standard operating procedure.
Before Williams' resignation became the biggest news of the day, Fields took the podium around 10:45 a.m. CT and said he did not feel that he was "playing like myself" in a 27-17 Week 2 loss to the Buccaneers. He categorized his play as "robotic" due to overthinking in games. When asked what was causing him to overthink, he said: "You know, could be coaching I think."
That comment ignited a firestorm on the internet, to the point Fields later tried to clarify what he meant, and how he would never blame someone else. A source told ESPN the quarterback immediately addressed his comments with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko.
"[Fields] learned that in today's world, you don't get to explain yourself," a source said. "You get two sentences, and that's the headline."
While the situations involving Williams and Fields garnered national headlines, they weren't the only issues Chicago was forced to deal with. On any other day, starting left tackle Braxton Jones (neck) going to injured reserve would be the most newsworthy item. Last Wednesday, it was well down the list.
Poles called an impromptu news conference Thursday to address the situations around his team. He said no one views Fields as a "finger-pointer" and that "no one is flinching at any situations -- not our owner, not our president, our head coach, not myself, none of our players."
While all that was happening, it was discovered that $100,000 worth of lawn maintenance equipment was stolen from Soldier Field. The burglary took place Wednesday night, hours after a chaotic day at Halas Hall, and was discovered Thursday morning.
At practice Thursday, Fields pointed at the media as he approached Getsy and the two hugged for the cameras. The Bears had hoped the moment would allow the team to move past the drama that had swirled the franchise all week.
But there was no hugging Sunday. Just another loss.
"Honestly, all I can do is just sit on the bus and deep down think about what I can do -- what can I do better," defensive end DeMarcus Walker said. "I don't have another choice. We don't have another choice.
"I'm tired of losing."