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What’s next for new Chicago Bears coach Matt Eberflus and GM Ryan Poles? Find an offensive coordinator and energize Justin Fields.

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 1/28/2022 Dan Wiederer, Chicago Tribune
MIke Furrey was hired by the Chicago Bears in January 2018. Immediately before that, he was the head coach at Limestone College, a Division II school in Gaffney, S.C. He coached receivers at Marshall University from 2013 to ’15. © Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS MIke Furrey was hired by the Chicago Bears in January 2018. Immediately before that, he was the head coach at Limestone College, a Division II school in Gaffney, S.C. He coached receivers at Marshall University from 2013 to ’15.

The grand unveiling is coming soon. Sometime in the coming days at Halas Hall, the Chicago Bears will introduce general manager Ryan Poles, who then will welcome coach Matt Eberflus to the stage.

A new regime is taking shape in Lake Forest with Poles and Eberflus now united and facing the immediate task of putting together their respective staffs in the front office and coaching wing. Away we go.

The mood at Halas Hall on Friday promises to be upbeat with both new leaders rising to positions of power they never have held and eager to begin molding the Bears according to a shared vision. Still, there is so much to learn about Poles, who’s 36 years old and arrives in Chicago after 13 seasons working his way up through the Kansas City Chiefs organization. Likewise, Eberflus will have to articulate his vision for how he hopes to bring this team together and rescue it from the mediocrity that has persisted for far too long.

Here are five questions at the top of the list.

1. Who might the Bears target to become their new offensive coordinator?

As the curtain rises on the Poles-Eberflus era, arguably no question has greater significance. The Bears must work to put together a developmental plan for quarterback Justin Fields as soon as possible. And that means solidifying the infrastructure around Fields in a way that will energize the young quarterback and build his trust.

It is presumed Eberflus will have authority in assembling his coaching staff. But certainly, at some point during his in-person interview with Poles at Halas Hall, Eberflus shared his ideal plans for Fields and the offense.

So what will that entail? Well, it all starts with Eberflus identifying his top coordinator targets while also assembling a list of candidates to be the Bears quarterbacks coach. The NFL Network hinted Thursday that Philadelphia Eagles coordinator Kevin Patullo will be on Eberflus’ short list of possible coordinators. But who else is in the running? And what specifically will Eberflus and Poles be looking for in the person they tab to fill that role?

As far as position coaches go, will Eberflus want a clean slate? Or might he consider keeping incumbent quarterbacks coach John DeFillipo around to continue aiding Fields’ development? A move like that would offer Fields comfort and continuity and wouldn’t be unprecedented. In 2018, Matt Nagy chose to retain quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone from John Fox’s staff given the bond Ragone had built with Mitch Trubisky during their first season together in 2017.

2. How will Bears brass sell Matt Eberflus during their introduction?

When the team’s searches began almost three weeks ago, Chairman George McCaskey stressed that leadership would be the primary quality the Bears would be looking for.

Citing a passage from one of Bill Polian’s books, McCaskey said, “Great teams have coaches that the players respect. They don’t have to like him, they don’t have to love him. But they respect him.”

Juan Castillo landed with the Chicago Bears in January 2020. Between 2013 and 2018, Castillo held offensive line coach and running-game coordinator titles with the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills. © Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS Juan Castillo landed with the Chicago Bears in January 2020. Between 2013 and 2018, Castillo held offensive line coach and running-game coordinator titles with the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills.

So specifically how did the Bears identify leadership traits in Eberflus? What did they see in him that they believe will resonate in their locker room?

Eberflus’ command of the Indianapolis Colts defense has been notable. This season, the Colts led the AFC with 33 takeaways and finished in the top 10 in points allowed. Three players — Darius Leonard, DeForest Bucker and Kenny Moore — were named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster last month. Among his players, Eberflus has a reputation for having a contagious passion with an ability to see the game and translate it into his teaching.

Eberflus always has wanted his defenses to be fast and aggressive with players having a freedom to operate off instincts. He is also big on accountability and makes a point to regularly call out players who aren’t hustling.

John DeFilippo joined the Bears after he was fired as the Jacksonvillle Jaguars offensive coordinator in 2019. It's his fourth NFL team in four seasons and sixth team in the last seven. DeFilippo caught the Bears’ attention in 2017 as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach. He helped Carson Wentz emerge as an MVP candidate before Wentz suffered a knee injury. Backup Nick Foles then thrived in Wentz’s place, and the Eagles won the Super Bowl. DeFilippo was promoted to passing game coordinator in 2021 after Dave Ragone left for the Atlanta Falcons. © Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS John DeFilippo joined the Bears after he was fired as the Jacksonvillle Jaguars offensive coordinator in 2019. It's his fourth NFL team in four seasons and sixth team in the last seven. DeFilippo caught the Bears’ attention in 2017 as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach. He helped Carson Wentz emerge as an MVP candidate before Wentz suffered a knee injury. Backup Nick Foles then thrived in Wentz’s place, and the Eagles won the Super Bowl. DeFilippo was promoted to passing game coordinator in 2021 after Dave Ragone left for the Atlanta Falcons.

In fact, Eberflus might spend part of Friday highlighting his “HITS” philosophy, which reminds his players to always prioritize hustle, intensity, takeaways and situational smarts.


Video: Bears fans react to new head coach news (ABC 7 Chicago)

Still, many on the outside expected the Bears to hire a new coach with an offensive background to accelerate Fields’ growth. So McCaskey and Poles will have to explain how Eberflus’ potential as a head coach trumped the needs on the other side of the ball.

3. When did the Bears’ interest in Ryan Poles as a GM candidate begin?

For what it’s worth, Eberflus’ first interview with the Bears occurred Jan. 17. That same day, word began circulating that the organization had put in a request with the Chiefs to speak with Poles about the GM job. Coincidence?

To that point, the Bears had formally requested to meet with 12 other GM candidates and had spoken with seven of them. Then Poles seemed to pop up on their radar, and things took off.

So what sparked the initial interest? And what elevated the attraction in Poles? It will be interesting to learn more about how and why this union came together.

Poles, for what it’s worth, interviewed for the New York Giants’ GM vacancy on Jan. 13 and talked with the Minnesota Vikings about the same position five days later. Both organizations named him a finalist for their respective jobs. The Bears, though, met with Poles on Friday, then pushed to have him in for his second interview Tuesday.

Given that timeline, it’s worth mentioning the Bears began scheduling Eberflus’ second interview on Jan. 18, three days before meeting with Poles for the first time. So how did all the dots eventually get connected?

Bill Lazor has had two two-year stints as an NFL coordinator. He was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017-18 and the quarterbacks coach in Cincinnati in 2016 after working as the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator in 2014-15. He also has worked as quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Football Team. © Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS Bill Lazor has had two two-year stints as an NFL coordinator. He was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017-18 and the quarterbacks coach in Cincinnati in 2016 after working as the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator in 2014-15. He also has worked as quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Football Team.

4. Was Poles’ coaching search truly thorough and comprehensive?

The board members include: George H. McCaskey, Virginia McCaskey, Ted Phillips, Brian J. McCaskey, Ed McCaskey Jr., Patrick McCaskey, Andrew McKenna and Pat Ryan. © Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS The board members include: George H. McCaskey, Virginia McCaskey, Ted Phillips, Brian J. McCaskey, Ed McCaskey Jr., Patrick McCaskey, Andrew McKenna and Pat Ryan.

Of the nine teams with head-coaching vacancies this month, the Bears became the second organization to fill their opening, hiring Eberflus on Thursday morning just a few hours after the Denver Broncos reached a deal to hire Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

Ted Phillips, a Notre Dame and Northwestern Kellogg graduate, has held his current position since February 1999 but has been with the Chicago Bears since 1983. © Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS Ted Phillips, a Notre Dame and Northwestern Kellogg graduate, has held his current position since February 1999 but has been with the Chicago Bears since 1983.

The Broncos’ coaching search, led by general manager George Paton, lasted 18 days from start to finish. The Bears’ coaching search, by comparison, wrapped up less than 48 hours after their new GM was hired.

Yes, the Bears had spent a week and a half interviewing at least 10 known candidates for head coach in the initial phase of their search. But that was before they had a GM in place. That, naturally, raises a series of legitimate questions. For starters, was Poles truly given full autonomy to decide who his coaching finalists would be? If so, how did he settle on his list of Eberflus, Dan Quinn and Jim Caldwell? And why did he meet with only three head-coaching candidates — and in such rapid fashion after he was hired? (The interview with Caldwell, for what it’s worth, took place Tuesday night just hours after Poles agreed to become the new GM.)

George McCaskey was named the fourth Chairman in Chicago Bears history in May 2011, following his grandfather, George Halas, his father, Edward W. McCaskey, and his brother Michael McCaskey. © Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS George McCaskey was named the fourth Chairman in Chicago Bears history in May 2011, following his grandfather, George Halas, his father, Edward W. McCaskey, and his brother Michael McCaskey.

What was the extent of any legwork Poles had done in talking with possible head-coaching targets before he was hired?

For as much as the Bears promised a thorough and detailed search and backed those vows up by interviewing nearly two dozen candidates over Zoom in the 14 days after firing Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, there have been curiosities circulating around the league as to how quickly the searches finished up. Poles, for example, was the only GM candidate to interview with the Bears in-person. Two other candidates who were presumed to be finalists, Monti Ossenfort and Eliot Wolf, never got their chances to pitch themselves in person.

Virginia McCaskey, the 97-year-old daughter of George Halas, took over as majority owner of the Chicago Bears in 1983. © Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS Virginia McCaskey, the 97-year-old daughter of George Halas, took over as majority owner of the Chicago Bears in 1983.

Then, as mentioned above, the three in-person interviews Poles did with coaching candidates were crammed into a window of less than 30 hours. Presumably, the Bears have explanations for the mechanics of everything. Friday will provide their opportunity to shed more light on their methods and timelines.

5. What exactly happened with Dan Quinn?

The clues to this mystery might take significant time to piece together. But it was certainly notable Thursday when Quinn informed the Dallas Cowboys that he would be staying put in 2022, even after interviewing for head coaching openings with the Bears, Vikings, Giants, Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins. (Quinn also turned down an interview request with the Jacksonville Jaguars.)

Cliff Stein (right) has been with the Chicago Bears since 2002 and received the senior vice president title in 2016. © Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS Cliff Stein (right) has been with the Chicago Bears since 2002 and received the senior vice president title in 2016.

As of Wednesday night, in the hours after Quinn completed his in-person interview with Poles at Halas Hall, chatter within league circles indicated he might have an inside track to become the new coach. Yet Thursday morning news broke that the Bears had hired Eberflus.

So was the elevating Quinn buzz untrustworthy? Or did something prompt Quinn to reconsider?

Jennifer Gibson has been with the Chicago Bears after previously working with various Olympic and professional sports teams, including the New Orleans Saints. © Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS Jennifer Gibson has been with the Chicago Bears after previously working with various Olympic and professional sports teams, including the New Orleans Saints.

It’s certainly noteworthy that Quinn was open to interviewing for so many head-coaching positions but ultimately wound up sticking in Dallas. Down the road, it will be fascinating to see what details emerge of his back-and-forth with the Bears.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields throws a pass during the first quarter against the Vikings on Dec. 20, 2021, at Soldier Field.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields throws a pass during the first quarter against the Vikings on Dec. 20, 2021, at Soldier Field.
© Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS
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