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Bears Meet George McCaskey's Goal

Analysis: George McCaskey got himself two leaders like he wanted even if he didn't get another coach who is supposed to be an offensive genius.

Matt Eberflus will excite no one who thought Jim Harbaugh had to be the next Bears coach.

He won't satisfy those who thought Justin Fields needed job finalist Jim Caldwell as head coach in order to develop as an NFL quarterback, even though Caldwell has never developed a pro quarterback and had a history of ignoring the running game while his defenses disintegrated.

He won't satisfy those who wanted an experienced head coach like Dan Quinn, even if that experience included one of the great choke jobs in football history. That was losing the Super Bowl to Tom Brady, not blowing a 17-point lead in 2020 to Nick Foles and the Bears in a 30-26 loss, although both were bad.

Eberflus will not offend. He is the safe choice, one who has a proven record of getting his message communicated and followed as a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. There's every reason he can do it to an entire team.

Bears board chairman George McCaskey entered the hunt for a coach and GM saying something general about this pursuit.

"We'll be looking for leaders, both in the general manager and the head coach," McCaskey said.

Eberflus is not a quarterback whisperer like Matt Nagy was supposed to be. However, Eberflus is a leader. Think Mike Vrabel. Think Sean McDermott. 

Head coaches do not need to be offensive geniuses, as long as they can find people to work for them who are.

Eberflus has led the Colts defense to a solid position, using a 4-3 approach with plenty of zone pass coverage along the lines of the Lovie Smith Bears defenses from 2004-2012. One of his great influences is Rod Marinelli, Smith's old defensive coordinator and sidekick from Tampa Bay and Chicago both.

The Bears will look different now on defense than they have from 2015-2021 when they return to their roots, so to speak. Bears hall of famer Bill George often gets credit—deserved or undeserved—for standing up from his position in the middle of the defensive line in the 1950s to create the 4-3 scheme.

In this respect, Eberflus will lead them back to their roots and they have many of the pieces required to run this defense, but also lack some. 

The Colts finished top 10 in takeaways the last four years under Eberflus. The Bears have had one interception from their cornerbacks each of the last two seasons, and it's a good bet that won't happen again using the cover-2 and cover-3 approach the Colts deploy.

On offense, there will be questions whether Eberflus can lead the way. 

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However, he has been around the NFL long enough to have connections to good offensive minds. A total of 13 years as a coordinator or linebackers coach lets one network, and seven of them working for Jerry Jones teaches even more.

Can defense still win? The biggest win for Bears fans over Green Bay since the 2018 division-clincher was the 49ers' victory Sunday over the Packers 13-10. That was defensive football at its best.  A team needed only 16 points on average to win the first eight playoff games played this postseason. 

Whether teams win because of defense doesn't matter as much as if they can depend on their defense when it counts, and Eberflus' defenses have delivered when it matters most at game's end.  

Eberflus will try to develop a young athletic passer now after he was on a team in Dallas seven years and saw this happen close up with Dak Prescott. 

Who he hires to do it here will mean everything.

Eberflus is the candidate new Bears GM Ryan Poles wanted, and in getting him he might have shown he has the leadership McCaskey sought.

Poles could have come in meekly and bowed down to the selection committee, taking whoever Bill Polian hoisted on the team as coach. In this case, Caldwell would have been that person. This kind of thing happened before, with Ryan Pace and John Fox.

Polian most certainly had some kind of debt he felt he had to repay by setting Caldwell up for a hire. That was his guy back in the day and he didn't get fair shake with the Colts. 

That's history. This is about the future.

Instead, Poles got to be the one interviewing the three finalists. We won't know yet if he had the opportunity to trash-can these picks and find one of his own but apparently he didn't need to because Eberflus was one of his top choices to be a coach. This much is known.

So the Bears will get a coach they know their GM wanted and not necessarily one Polian thought should be hired. It takes real leadership to come in on Day 1, take over a search already in progress and get the guy you want as coach.

So it's apparent McCaskey got two candidates who give early indications they are the leaders he sought.

From that end, the great Bears GM and coaching hunt of 2022 looks like it has succeeded, by George.

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