By GENE CHAMBERLAIN | Associated Press
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears are intent on taking a different approach under new coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles.
Stating this and accomplishing it can be separate situations, as the Bears have discovered in the past.
“We’re gonna build through the draft,” Poles said Monday. “We’re gonna acquire young, fast and physical football players. We’re gonna be selective through free agency. And we’re gonna connect evaluation with valuation.”
The same was often said by the previous Ryan and Matt in charge of the Bears, coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace, who were fired after a 6-11 season.
However, when the new Bears coach and GM held their first news conference with reporters at Halas Hall, they made it clear they are more about process than promises. Both spoke at length about laying a foundation for success.
“It’s always about the why equals winning,” Eberflus said.
Eberflus served as Frank Reich’s defensive coordinator for four years in Indianapolis and seemed a curious hire considering the greatest Bears problems for decades have been on offense. Plus, they are trying to break in a new quarterback in Justin Fields.
Fields remains a point of emphasis.
“I remember watching Justin (in college) a lot,” Poles said. “I’m close with Ryan Day as well, the head coach of Ohio State. And like any player, support and development, getting back to the details, doing the fundamentals and taking the approach to reach that ceiling, and that’s hard and that’s detail. And I’m excited to see him grow.”
Fields has no problem playing for a head coach from the defensive side of the ball.
“I really just like the way he carries himself,” Fields said. “Just his demeanor, I feel like his presence — he’s confident when he talks, he knows what he wants to do, he has a plan set in stone, and I’m just ready to lead with him and just get ready for next year.”
To help in that regard Eberflus hired Packers quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy as offensive coordinator.
“He’s special because he’s tough, innovative, smart and he works well with team,” Eberflus said. “He’s a big team guy, so I’m excited about where he is. He’s been on my radar for a while.”
On the other side of the ball, Eberflus plans to bring in a 4-3 defensive scheme, but won’t be calling the plays himself. His defensive coordinator hire will be important.
“I do believe that to be the head football coach and be efficient at that, you are exactly the head football coach, so I can be involved in all aspects of the game,” Eberflus said. “So the defensive coordinator we hire will call the defensive plays. I will not do that.”
The defense they will install is drastically different from the 3-4 the Bears played over the past seven seasons. It reverts to a style they used for over a decade under coach Lovie Smith, the most recent time the team went to a Super Bowl 16 years ago.
“And we want to bring that same style here, to encompass what we’re doing,” Eberflus said. “In terms of hitting, taking the ball away, playing with maximum intensity and being smart about how we do it.”
The Colts finished top 10 during the past four years in takeaways under Eberflus, and were second this season. The Bears have struggled to get takeaways over the past three seasons.
Whatever they do strategically, they'll still need more talent. The team Eberflus and Poles take over has only one of the top five wide receivers under contract for 2022, and finished 30th in passing in 2021.
However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some of their offseason moves involved the offensive line first. The Bears allowed more sacks (59) than any NFL team.
In that regard, it helps having a GM from Kansas City's front office who once signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent, and played tackle at Boston College.
“I think it starts with the foundation of the offensive line and establishing that run game, which then leads to explosive plays,” Poles said. “We have to continue to work on that, get that to a level and I think you will see more points scored and more efficiency, more explosive plays, everything plays off that.
“So that’s going to be a focal point.”
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