CHICAGO — Citing his experience, passion, character and attention to detail, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles named Matt Eberflus the 17th head coach in franchise history Thursday evening.
Eberflus, 51, was the Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator the last four seasons. He takes on his first head-coaching job after 13 years as an NFL coordinator and assistant coach and 17 years as a college assistant.
Poles hired Eberflus from a group of finalists that included Dan Quinn and Jim Caldwell.
“Throughout the search, Matt impressed me when detailing his vision and plan for our team,” Poles said in a statement. “We look forward to getting to work and assembling a top-notch staff and roster that will help us consistently compete for championships.”
Eberflus first interviewed with the Bears on Jan. 17 and had a second interview with Poles on Wednesday. He was one of at least 10 candidates who interviewed for the coaching vacancy.
People are also reading…
He replaces Matt Nagy, who along with GM Ryan Pace was fired Jan. 10 after a 6-11 finish in 2021 and 34-31 record in four seasons in his first stint as an NFL head coach.
The date of the introductory news conferences for Poles and Eberflus have not been announced.
“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. “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 Colts hired Eberflus in 2018 with the idea he would be the defensive coordinator for Josh McDaniels, whom they planned to hire. McDaniels backed out of the job to remain the New England Patriots offensive coordinator, but the Colts retained Eberflus to be a part of Frank Reich’s staff instead.
Eberflus elevated a defense that in 2017 ranked 30th in the NFL in points and yards allowed.
He finished third in 2018 in the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year voting after the Colts, a 10-6 playoff team, finished 10th in points allowed and 11th in yards allowed per game. They were a top-10 defense again in 2020.
And this season, Eberflus oversaw a Colts defense that led the AFC in takeaways (33) while finishing in the top 10 in points allowed (21.5 ppg). Three Colts defensive players were named to the initial Pro Bowl roster this season: defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, linebacker Darius Leonard and cornerback Kenny Moore II.
Colts GM Chris Ballard called Eberflus “an outstanding leader and a man of strong conviction” in his statement to Colts.com.
“There is a standard that must be met by the players he coaches, and he does a fantastic job targeting their strengths while putting them in the best position to succeed,” Ballard said. “Upon his arrival to Indianapolis, he made immediate gains with our defense and consistently had our unit ranked toward the top of the league. We knew it was only a matter of time before he became a head coach, and he is extremely deserving of this opportunity. Chicago will love Matt’s intensity, dedication, and his desire to win.”
Eberflus interviewed with the Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers and New York Jets last year and also interviewed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this season. Reich called him a “great candidate to be a head coach” after he didn’t get a new job last offseason.
“I think the world of Matt as a coach, as a person, as a defensive coordinator,” Reich said. “I’ve just seen ‘Flus’ continue to grow and develop in that role as well, really connecting with players, making a conscious effort every week to put our players in the best position possible.”
Moore tweeted Thursday that he was happy for “Coach Flus,” noting “the lessons he brings to the game as well as the correlation to life. He’ll be amazing.”
Other coaches and players Eberflus worked with, including former Bears and Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who is now with the Las Vegas Raiders, spoke of his leadership, communication and teaching skills. They also talked of the effort he requires from his players.
Reich told Colts.com last year that “Flus has a clear set of standards, expectations for how we’re going to play defense by each position, what that looks like, what that means, what it takes to get there.”
ESPN detailed two of his coaching principles in a June profile. One is the HITS principle, which stands for hustle, intensity, taking the ball away and situationally smart. The other is a loaf system, used to call out players who don’t hustle, a tactic employed by former Bears coach Lovie Smith.
Before his tenure with the Colts, Eberflus spent seven years coaching linebackers for the Dallas Cowboys after a two-year stint in the same role with the Cleveland Browns. He also added defensive pass-game coordinator to his title in his final two years in Dallas.
He started his coaching career in 1992 at Toledo as a student assistant before rising to coach outside linebackers and defensive backs. In 2001, he joined Missouri, where his titles included defensive coordinator, defensive backs and safeties coach and associate head coach over eight seasons.
Eberflus, a native of Toledo, Ohio, was a first-team All-Mid-American Conference linebacker at Toledo in 1990 and 1991.
“There’s no question he can reach every corner of the locker room,” retired Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee told the Chicago Tribune earlier this week. “As a player, you want someone that is going to give you answers, is going to motivate you every single day, and that’s who he is. He’s going to give you the answers to get better consistently and he’s going to hold standards. He’s going to be relentless about how hard you’re going to work. Most football players relate to that.”
Eberflus now must turn his attention to filling out his coaching staff. That includes the important hire of an offensive coordinator to develop quarterback Justin Fields and revive a unit that ranked in the bottom third of the league for much of Nagy’s tenure.
NFL Network floated the name of Philadelphia Eagles passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo as a name to watch.
The hire of Eberflus wraps up an eventful 18-day stretch since the Bears fired Pace and Nagy.
The Bears hired Poles on Tuesday after an extensive search that included interviews with at least 12 other GM candidates. Poles, 36, was the Kansas City Chiefs executive director of player personnel and spent 13 years with the organization.
Poles then interviewed Caldwell on Tuesday and Eberflus and Quinn on Wednesday. Quinn and Caldwell have head-coaching experience.
Quinn reportedly informed the Cowboys and other teams he would return to his role as defensive coordinator in Dallas.