Bears general manager Ryan Poles made his first monumental decision Thursday.
Almost three weeks after the Bears fired Matt Nagy, and less than a week after the organization named Poles the GM, the Bears have found their next head coach.
The Bears have named Matt Eberflus the 17th head coach in team history, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The team made the move official Thursday night.
Eberflus, 51, is the current Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator and has been since 2018. His Colts defenses have been among the best in the NFL in recent years.
“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 released 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.”
The 2020 Colts defense was particularly stout, ranking in the top 10 in yards per game and takeaways. In four seasons under Eberflus, the Colts’ defense has finished in the top 10 in takeaways every season. Before joining the Colts, Eberflus was the linebackers coach with the Dallas Cowboys for seven years.
Eberflus will be a rookie head coach, but he’s regarded as one of the best-equipped coordinators to succeed in the job. He has been a popular interview in recent head coach hiring cycles. He recently interviewed for the open Jacksonville Jaguars job.
The Bears’ five-person hiring panel – which included chairman George McCaskey, team president Ted Phillips, outside advisor Bill Polian, director of player engagement LaMar Campbell and senior vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion Tanesha Wade – identified Eberflus as a potential fit after interviewing at least 10 candidates. After the Bears hired Poles on Tuesday, he conducted an interview with Eberflus on Wednesday.
Former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and current Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn also conducted second interviews with Poles this week. It appears, based on the wording of the team’s official statements, that the hiring panel stayed out of Poles’ way during the second interviews. There’s reason to question whether that was truly the case when former general manager Ryan Pace, then a rookie GM, hired coach John Fox in 2015.
“I couldn’t be more excited to have Matt become the next head coach of the Chicago Bears,” Poles said. “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.”
Eberflus’ hiring represents a new era for the Bears – one that includes both a first-time GM and a first-time head coach. The other coaches who earned second interviews had previous NFL head coaching experience. Eberflus does not.
He does, however, have an extensive network of coaches he has worked with. He actually played for Nick Saban during Saban’s only year coaching Toledo in 1990. Since then, Eberflus has coached with the likes of Rich Bissaccia, Jason Garrett, Rod Marinelli and Rob Ryan, among others.
As an assistant, Eberflus has worked exclusively on defense, raising questions about what his vision is for second-year quarterback Justin Fields. Eberflus’ coordinator hires will play a vital role in what this looks like moving forward, particularly with Fields. Unlocking Fields’ potential will be the No. 1 most important challenge of his tenure.
Bears leadership is putting its team into the hands of two people who have never served in their current roles before. The roster has a solid foundation to build on. Now it will be their jobs to make that happen.
Coaching history: Eberflus grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and played college football in the Mid-American Conference at Toledo. He played under three coaches in four seasons: Dan Simrell, Saban and Gary Pinkel. Eberflus stayed at Toledo as a student assistant in 1992 and turned that into his first full-time coaching job. He remained on staff at Toledo under Pinkel through the 2000 season.
Eberflus followed Pinkel to Missouri in 2001 as the defensive coordinator. He remained with the Tigers until jumping to the NFL in 2009 as a linebackers coach for the Cleveland Browns. After two years in Cleveland, Eberflus moved to the same position with the Dallas Cowboys. He held that job through 2017 and added passing game coordinator to his title for the final two years in Dallas.
In 2018, Eberflus agreed to become the Colts’ defensive coordinator under head coach Josh McDaniels. After agreeing to take the job, McDaniels had a change of heart and decided to stay in New England. Eberflus stayed on board under new head coach Frank Reich and has been in the position since.