LAKE FOREST – New Bears general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus met with the media Monday for the first time since they were hired last week.
A new era of Bears football is on the horizon. Poles and Eberflus will be the ones leading the Bears forward. The Bears hired Poles from the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was the executive director of player personnel. Eberflus came from the Indianapolis Colts, where he was the defensive coordinator.
The pair had not spoken publicly since coming to Chicago. Here are five things we learned from them and team chairman George McCaskey at team headquarters in Lake Forest.
1. The 5-person panel unanimously wanted Poles as GM
The Bears’ five-person search panel unanimously endorsed Ryan Poles for general manager, according to team chairman George McCaskey. The panel interviewed 13 candidates, and Poles stood out above the others.
“I was impressed with Ryan’s intelligence and confidence, his direct manner and his plan to bring the Bears back,” McCaskey said.
Yes, Poles is only 36 years old. But he has 13 years of NFL front office experience. He played the game himself at Boston College and briefly with the Bears during training camp in 2008. Poles told a story of being in Bourbonnais for training camp and having to hurry to the basement during the night while tornado sirens blared. He waited out a storm with Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Devin Hester and the rest of the legends of that era.
Since his playing days ended, Poles had worked his way up in the personnel department for the Chiefs. The Bears trusted Poles to make the head coaching hire himself from their list of candidates. Eberflus was on Poles’ short list of potential head coaches before Poles knew how much the Bears liked him.
During Poles’ interview with the search panel, which included longtime Colts GM Bill Polian, Poles flipped things around and started picking Polian’s brain. After getting the job, Poles later called Polian for advice when making his coaching decision.
“If you’re open-minded, why would you not tap into that resource?” Poles said. “And that will continue.”
2. McCaskey really did drive Poles back from the airport, and Poles loved it
A short video clip went viral last week of McCaskey, wearing a Bears letterman jacket, picking up Poles from the airport. McCaskey confirmed that he did indeed drive Poles back to Halas Hall. He parked on the White Sox level of the parking garage at O’Hare International Airport. McCaskey said he did it because he wanted to have one-on-one time with Poles, which the car ride certainly provided.
“I wanted to show him that we care,” McCaskey said. “I wanted he and I to have the opportunity to speak one-on-one. And I wanted him to have the opportunity to see Halas Hall if he wanted, which he did.”
Poles loved the move. He said it showed him exactly what McCaskey is all about and what the Bears are all about.
“George, I do have to single you out for a second,” Poles said during his introduction. “From the time I met you, I quickly realized you were a special man. Dedicated, passionate and hungry to get this right. I still can’t get over the fact that you met me at baggage claim and gave me a ride to the facility to get to know me at a deeper level. As you know now, I value people and relationships and that told me everything I needed to know about you and this franchise.”
3. Reserve judgement on Eberflus’ coach speak, for now
Eberflus is a football coach who talks like a football coach.
There was plenty of coach speak and maybe some cliches, including an explanation of his H.I.T.S. principle (Hustle, Intensity, Taking the ball away and taking care of the ball, Situational smarts). It might feel gimmicky, like a college or high school motivational tool. It’s hard to see Eberflus walking into a room with All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack and explaining H.I.T.S. to the $141 million linebacker.
Eberflus also warned his players Monday.
“Get your track shoes on, because we’re running,” Eberflus said.
Different people respond to different types of motivation. Plenty of Eberflus’ former players have had glowing things to say about him. If his style didn’t resonate on some level, his defenses wouldn’t have been so good the past four years in Indianapolis.
Plenty of coaches have had success doing similar things. Bill Belichick has never won over anyone during his news conferences. Eberflus didn’t need to, either.
4. Justin Fields’ future is in Luke Getsy’s hands
Eberflus has spent his entire career focusing on the defensive side of football. He brings little to the table in terms of quarterback development.
That’s where new Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy comes in. The former Packers quarterbacks coach will be in charge of the offense and, by default, in charge of quarterback Justin Fields.
“I’m big into metrics and grades and into measuring how people operate in terms of their efficiency and things that come with it,” Eberflus said. “And then you look at certain things and you start calling around and asking people, that’s where Luke is special. He’s special because he’s tough, innovative, smart and he works well with team, he’s a big team guy, so I’m excited about where he is. He’s been on my radar for a while.”
Eberflus said at this point he and Poles are looking at every player on the roster with a fresh eye. That includes Fields. They, along with Getsy, will soon come up with a plan of attack for Fields.
Fields, who spoke briefly with the media Monday, said he doesn’t mind having a defensive head coach.
“It’s important for coaches to run plays that their players are good at running,” Fields said. “They already have a base idea of what my strengths are, but me being able to communicate with them and tell them what my strengths are, we can get on the same page.”
5. The Bears will transition to a 4-3 defense
Eberflus has helped transition two defenses into his 4-3 scheme, and he will do it again with the Bears. He envisions a 4-3 base defense that will continue to use 3-4 concepts in certain situations. He had a ton of success doing that in Indianapolis, so it comes as no surprise that he is bringing his defensive scheme with him. The Bears have run a 3-4 defense under defensive coordinators Vic Fangio, Chuck Pagano and Sean Desai. This represents a shift for the team and organization.
“We’re going to look at the talent and the skill level of the players we have and we’re going to coach and develop those guys, and we’ll fit our scheme around those players,” Eberflus said. “But the foundational pieces won’t change, in terms of how we play.”
Inside linebacker Roquan Smith will absolutely be a huge part of that. Eberflus’ didn’t lay out a detailed plan for every position, but he did acknowledge that Smith is a player that excites him.
Eberflus also clarified that he will pass off defensive play calling duties to his defensive coordinator. His job on game days will be focused on the big picture.