When the Bears hired Matt Nagy, they took a chance on a head coach with limited offensive coordinator experience.
They'll take another chance now on another coordinator as their 17th head coach but Matt Eberflus does have more experience heading up a defense than Nagy had being in charge of an offense.
The Bears announced Eberflus has been hired as head coach by GM Ryan Poles. Eberlus served as defensive coordinator in Indianapolis the past four seasons under coach Frank Reich.
Eberflus has been in the NFL since 2009 and spent 13 seasons as an assistant at various levels. His Colts defenses have placed in the top 10 at takeaways each of the last four seasons.
“I would like to thank Ryan and the McCaskey family for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead the Chicago Bears, one of the most storied franchises in all of sports in one of the greatest cities in the world,” Eberflus said in a statement issued by the team. “I am truly humbled and honored to be named your head coach and together we will do everything in our power to bring a Super Bowl championship back to Chicago.”
Poles has had a relationship Eberflus, who is represented by the same agent, former Bears player Trace Armstrong. It couldn't have hurt in the selection process, and and can't hurt the unity necessary at Halas Hall to build a winner, either.
“I couldn’t be more excited to have Matt become the next head coach of the Chicago Bears,” Poles said in a statement released by the team. “His experience, passion, character and attention to detail made him the right man for both the job and the culture we intend to establish here at Halas Hall.
"Throughout the search, Matt impressed me when detailing his vision and plan for our team. We look forward to getting to work and assembling a top-notch staff and roster that will help us consistently compete for championships.”
It does create the rather comical situation of the Bears having a GM named Ryan and a head coach named Matt right after they fired a GM named Ryan and a coach named Matt. Ryan Pace and Nagy were fired on Jan. 9 and the search for replacements went on until this week.
How Eberflus would handle the Bears offense and development of quarterback Justin Fields is the key question facing the team now that the coach has been selected.
Eberflus has been around the NFL long enough to have connections on both sides of the ball, but obviously hasn't presided over so grand a project.
Before becoming Colts defensive coordinator, Eberflus in 2009 entered the league and spent two years as Browns linebackers coach. Then he moved on to Dallas, where he became a fixture as a linebackers coach from 2011 through 2017 under three defensive coordinators who used different styles of play—Rob Ryan, Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli.
Kiffin and Marinelli used 4-3 defenses and Ryan a 3-4, so Eberflus has had exposure to both base alignments. When he went to Indianapolis he immediately switched the Colts to a 4-3, so it can be expected he'll do the same in Chicago.
This will take some getting used to for the Bears because they haven't used this as a base package since 2014. Different types of defensive linemen will be necessary. The Bears have used defensive ends in the 3-4 who are 300 pounds or more and they'll need to be more the size of Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn now.
Both Quinn and Mack have played 4-3 end earlier in their careers and should be able to make the transition. Backup Trevis Gipson played like a classic end in a 4-3 with his hand on the ground at Tulsa and didn't learn to be an outside linebacker in the 3-4 until arriving in Chicago. So that should make for an easy transition.
The Bears will also need more and better off-ball linebackers to team with Roquan Smith.
Eberflus has a strong zone emphasis, like the Bears had when Lovie Smith was coach. He leans on cover-2 and cover-3. The Marinelli influence is at work there, as Marinelli was also a defensive coordinator on Smith's staff in Chicago.
Eberflus' defenses have done more than take away the ball. They have all been strong against the run. The Colts have been eighth, seventh, second and 10th over the last four years against the run. They finished eighth, 17th, eighth and seventh in total yardage allowed and twice have been top 10 in scoring defense.
However, the Colts have been middle of the pack as pass defenders, finishing 16th in 2018, then 23rd, 20th and 19th.
The Bears didn't just experience Eberflus' defense at Soldier Field in 2020, they felt it. They were held to a field goal until very late in the game and had only 28 rushing yards in a 19-11 defeat.
Eberflus is 51 and was a longtime defensive assistant in college football before finally moving up from Missouri to the NFL. He started out in 1992 at his alma mater, Toledo, and became a linebackers coach there. He had been a three-year starting linebacker for Toledo. Eberflus remained at the school until 2000 when he took over as Missouri defensive coordinator.