UPDATE: Matt Eberflus it is. He’ll be the new Bears Head Coach. The rest of the original post remains below.
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A complete house cleaning is underway at Halas Hall. Three football seasons have passed since Matt Nagy, and Ryan Pace won top honors for their efforts in leading the 2018 Chicago Bears to a 12-4 record and NFC North title, and the time has come for the franchise to find their replacements.
Despite this team’s issues, the head coach and general manager vacancies are highly sought-after. And with Super Bowl-winning Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian lending a helping hand, the Bears are in a position to make some impact hirings. Over the following days, weeks, or however long it takes, we’ll be diving into the top available candidates, including their history, what they offer schematically, how they fit culturally, where they can take this team, and more. Let’s do it.
Name, Current Team, and Position
Matt Eberflus, Indianapolis Colts Defensive Coordinator (2018-present)
• Dallas Cowboys Linebackers Coach (2011-17) and Passing Game Coordinator (2016-17)
• Cleveland Browns Linebackers Coach (2009-10)
• University of Missouri Defensive Coordinator (2001-08)
Let us take a moment to gush about Eberflus’ résumé. He has experience in the pro and college game, which is nice. Was a standout player who played for Nick Saban’s Toledo team in 1990, so he has that going for him. And most recently, his defense ranked ninth in scoring, had the second most takeaways, and was eighth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. Things have been clicking for Eberflus in Indy. Not bad for a guy who was only there in the first place because Josh McDaniels brought him in and left expeditiously.
Talk about one heckuva parting gift!
Existing Rumors and Bears Ties
Eberflus was one of the first names to pop up on the list of coaches the Bears were seeking an interview with after firing Nagy. Six days later, he and Ed Dodds were interviewing with the team on the same day. And just two days after that interview, Eberflus became a “finalist” for the head-coaching position with reports surfacing that Chicago is preparing for a second Eberflus interview on Monday. Just don’t expect an Eberflus-Dodds tag team. Dodds is pulling out of consideration for the general manager opening.
Hey, It Might Work…
You’ve gotta love this energy:
"We touch it, we catch it."
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 18, 2020
Even though hiring defensive-leaning assistants for head coaching jobs isn’t en vogue right now, it doesn’t mean the right hire for the Bears can’t be one. After all, Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin began coaching as defensive assistants. As did Brandon Staley, whose coaching star is generally seen as being on the rise. In other words, let’s not weed anyone out simply because of their coaching background.
It isn’t inconceivable that Eberflus could build out a coaching staff that gets the most out of quarterback Justin Fields. And if the Bears can do that while Eberflus puts together a top-10 defense, then that would be swell.
OK, Maybe He’s Not The One…
The most high-profile known associate Eberflus has a direct connection to who happens to a background in offense is Jason Garrett. Y I K E S. Garrett has been jettisoned from two jobs in the NFC East in the span of three years. Bringing him along and tasking him with developing Fields feels like a large ask. Moreover, it’s a task that many Bears fans wouldn’t want to see given to Garrett. To put it bluntly, Eberflus would have to wow me with other options before handing over the keys.
In The End …
Seeing Eberflus pop up as a finalist at this point of the process is a surprise. And because of Bill Polian’s ties to the Colts, some might see it as a guy leaning on his old organization to help a friend climb the ranks. However, let the record show that Eberflus’ name has been making the rounds as a possible head coach candidate for a few years now:
As #Colts keep surging, don’t overlook the impact of DC Matt Eberflus, who has set a culture — and has some teams doing homework on him as a possible head coaching candidate. @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/TLmgw5vJ3R
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 17, 2018
All right, so Eberflus is not some Johnny-come-lately. And as we discussed well before Polian was officially linked to the Bears, Eberflus’ profile is one that deserves consideration on its own merits. In late December, Eberflus impressed us by shutting down Mac Jones and out-dueling Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick in a late-season island game with all eyes on the Colts. Out-witting Belichick in primetime is one way to make an impression.
Eberflus might be an underwhelming name. And hiring a defensive coach might feel like a return to safe and conservative Bears football. In all honesty, Eberflus isn’t my favorite candidate. But he is one who is intriguing enough to merit a conversation regarding his candidacy.