May 16, 2022


Analysis

Hub Akrush: With Ryan Poles, Matt Eberflus on board, did George McCaskey get it right?

The Bears hired Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus on Thursday as the franchise's new head coach.

Maybe it’s just me, but Matt Eberflus – get it right, people, it’s pronounced Eee’-ber-floos – has a Bears ring to it.

And it’s more than just the sound of his name. His predominant specialty over the course of a 29-year coaching career was working with linebackers, a position the Bears have owned for decades.

His past two teams, the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys,were built on outstanding offensive lines, running the football and playing great defense.

Two of his greatest influences have been Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli, two of the most influential defensive coaches of the past few decades, and he has been a student of the Tampa 2 defense, Kiffin’s and Lovie Smith’s scheme of choice the last time the Bears were relevant.

None of that assures his success, nor is he married to playing any particular schemes on either side of the ball once he arrives; it just makes him a comfortable fit.

If the arrival of Matt Nagy trumpeted ringing out the old and welcoming the new high-flying offensive schemes of the day, the Eberflus hire says the Bears want to return to their roots.

The fit with rookie general manager Ryan Poles, who at 36 is one of the youngest top executives in the game, is interesting and eclectic.

As director of college scouting in Kansas City from 2016-18, and then as assistant or director of player personnel from 2019 until a few days ago, if Poles’ – an offensive lineman himself in his playing days – focus has been anywhere, it’s been on building the most explosive offense in the NFL. Even if, at times, it came at the expense of a top defense.

Obviously, it is now incumbent upon Eberflus and Poles to be the best they can on both sides of the ball, and they certainly bring a wide range of skills to the table.

Nagy proved to be a strong leader. The hallmark of his Bears teams was his defense, although he failed in part because he focused too much on his obsession with his offense, which he couldn’t get right even though it was supposed to be his strength.

Just because Eberflus comes from the other side of the ball doesn’t mean he can’t oversee an outstanding offense.

He is here because of Poles’ and George McCaskey’s belief in his ability to lead and win with his whole team, not just one side of the ball or the other.

Nagy succeeded on defense because he hired outstanding assistant coaches, including Vic Fangio and Chuck Pagano, and even the early returns on Sean Desai were very promising.

Which leads to the $64,000 question: Who does Eberflus have in mind for his offensive staff, and, most importantly, his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks and offensive line coaches?

Is there an offensive comp to a Fangio or Pagano waiting out there?

No, but could the next best thing be Jason Garrett, Eberflus’ boss in Dallas?

I’m not saying he’s my choice, but the fit is obvious. Dak Prescott presented the same challenges, if not more, as Justin Fields, and how did Garrett do with him?

If you want a prediction on how this works out, I can’t help you. We’ll just have to wait and see.

What we do know now, however, is with the process complete, you have to be at least somewhat optimistic with the results of the search by McCaskey and company.

Had it ended as many thought it would with Morocco Brown and Jim Caldwell – not an unattractive pair by any means – it still wouldn’t have felt good and would have looked more like a rubber stamp by McCaskey and Bill Polian on people they knew and were comfortable with.

By being as exhaustive as they were and then ending up with the young, high-ceiling Poles and the middle-aged, ready-for-his-turn Eberflus and being first or second across the finish line, you can’t dispute they got their guys and gave them a nice head start on assembling their staff.

It feels like they at least got this part of it right.

Hub Arkush is a Shaw Media correspondent.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.