The Bears Should Play to their Traditional Strengths. And Other Points of View.

  • Adam Jahns at The Athletic quotes new defensive coordinator Allen Williams.
  • “When you look at the tape, you don’t have to be a football aficionado to go, ‘You know what, the way that dude plays, he likes ball.’ Roquan [Smith]likes ball. Roquan loves ball,” Williams said. “And when you have a guy that loves ball and you’re as smart as he is … I remember him coming out at the combine even as a defensive backs coach, his reputation preceded him. He was a guy, they said, ‘Hey, he’s quick-twitch, he’s fast, he’s instinctive, he’s a leader.’ So when you have a guy like that, that’s a guy that you want in the middle of the field and that’s a guy that you’re looking forward to getting to know, that you’re looking forward to coaching.”

    What stuck out to me here was the “that’s a guy that you want in the middle of the field” bit.

    There’s been some debate about whether you’d want smith as a middle linebacker or on the weak side. Lovie Smith’s defenses were designed to funnel runners to the weak side line backer to make the tackle.

    Smith could probably do well at either position. But it sounds like Williams might have the middle in mind for him.

  • Jahns also gives his opinion on the state of the Bears pass rush.
  • It doesn’t make sense for the Bears to part with Khalil Mack or Robert Quinn this offseason. First, their contracts make that difficult. Secondly, they’re still productive pass rushers when healthy. And finally, their replacements aren’t on the roster — and it’s possible they won’t be after free agency and the draft.


    If the Bears are really going to play a defense closely based upon the one that former Bears head coach Lovie Smith ran, then its notable that Smith’s defense depended critically upon getting pressure from the front four without the aid of the blitz. With both Mack and Quinn playing to their potential, they could have one of the best pass rushes in the league. It’s always true that you can’t have too many pass rushers. But I’d it’s possible, it’s going to be even more true here.

  • Jahns answers your questions:
  • In other words, I wouldn’t pencil any names in for a big deal. Plenty of teams operate this way, though. Former Bears GM Ryan Pace tried to stay out of what he once called the “treacherous waters” of free agency. All it takes is one more team to drive up the price on a player’s contract, including in the second and third waves of free agency. Pace often set price parameters. If negotiations went outside them, he would back off, but there were always exceptions — Mike Glennon, for example.

    The problem was that Pace often set those parameters way too high. Agents used to jump for joy when they found out that Pace was interested in a client because they knew he’d fallen in love with him and that space would over pay.

    It was perhaps the biggest factor in Pace’s downfall. He let his aggressive nature take over and it caused him to make mistakes that agents and other general managers took advantage of.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune gives his thought on the Bears new offensive line coach.
  • The team on Wednesday announced the hiring of offensive line coach Chris Morgan. He was the interim line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season and the top guy in Atlanta for a good stretch. He’s rooted in the outside-zone scheme and once worked in Washington alongside Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur and Mike McDaniel. The connection to new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is through LaFleur.

    This seems to support the notion that the Bears will be running a scheme similar to the on described by former Green Bay offensive coordinator and new Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett indicated that the scheme in Denver would start with the outside zone run and work play action passes in off of that. It sounds like a good plan to me.

  • Biggs again on roster building.
  • There’s plenty of time to get into how the Bears will stack up needs, but one thing that will be explored as free agency and the draft approach — if Eberflus is going to lean on his adapted version of the Cover-2 defense — is a real need for a three-technique defensive tackle.


    In 2006 when Lovie Smith took the Bears to their last Super Bowl I was appalled by the decline in the performance of the defense after defensive tackle Tommie Harris suffered a season ending knee injury. Neither he nor the defense every really recovered.

One Final Thought

Biggs continues with a really interesting quote from Poles about how wants to go about fixing the Bears offense.

“So when I mentioned the Bengals, they took a different approach. I was critical of it, but at the same time, it’s worked out pretty good, right? The main (point) is support the quarterback. If that means giving him weapons or giving him linemen, I’m an O-line guy so I believe it starts there. But I’m not going to be blind to the fact that if there isn’t the right players (at one position), then maybe we’ve got to go a different direction.”

That’s an interesting point. The Bengals went into the draft in April weighing the idea of getting the top receiver on the board in [wide receiver Jamar] Chase or the top offensive tackle in Penei Sewell to protect [quarterback Joe] Burrow. The Bengals offensive line was deficient in Burrow’s rookie season, so it would have been an easy decision to invest on the line. They went with Chase. Sewell went two picks later to the Detroit Lions, who are badly lacking skill-position talent on the outside.

“I would have started up front,” Poles said. “The beautiful thing is we can learn from these teams to say there are more ways to do it than doing just what I said. Just learn. And it should get teams like the Bears excited that if we do things the right way we can make those steps and be a championship-caliber team.”

Poles isn’t giving away his strategy ahead to free agency and the draft but he’s sharing his vision for turning around a moribund offense. If the right players aren’t there on the line, or a clearly superior one is available at another position, he will have to pivot. But talk to Poles about the Bengals and their fast ascent to a grand stage and the conversation turns back to the offensive line. That’s worth remembering.

It certainly is.

The Bengals undoubtedly did the right thing here. Chase is a star, the type of number one receiver that everyone wants. But would he be the same type of player with the Bears? I’m not so sure.

It isn’t just the fact that former head coach Matt Nagy’s offense so evidently didn’t work last year. For 40 years the Bears have won with defense while struggling to generate points on offense, particularly in the passing game. At what point do you accept that’s who you are and that is the way that you are going to have to win?

The Lions are in the middle of a long rebuild. And I guarantee you that head coach Dan Campbell wanted to start that slow climb that is ahead of him by building a running game first. I would contend that in that respect, Sewell wasn’t a bad pick for them.

When I look at the Bears and not just where their current strengths lie, but where their strengths have traditionally lied, I’m not too sure going the same route would have been a bad thing for them either.

What Will a Luke Getsy Offense Look Like? And Other Points of View.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times addresses the fact that new Bears head coach Matt Eberflus must be more than a good defensive coach.

    But it’s Eberflus’ impact as a head coach that figures to determine his success — unlike Matt Nagy, who only needed to build an offense and could not do it. It’s clear Eberflus makes a good first impression. The Bears need someone who can sustain the initial impact.

    “[Eberflus’s] coaching style is very intentional about every move,” [Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “There’s a clear standard, there’s a clear process and there’s a clear vision for what it’s going to take.

    I’ll disagree with Potash on one thing. Nagy needed to have more of an impact as a head coach, too. Nagy’s greatest failure was the fact that he never built an offense that worked. But that’s at least in large part because his impact as a head coach was never great enough to get more out of his players. That includes the defense where a lot of mental mistakes were made last year.

    Let’s hope Eberflus does better.

  • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic talks with Akron head coach Joe Moorehead, who coached former Packers quarterback coach and new Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy in college and hired him as an assistant afterwards. Moorehead predicts the kind of scheme that the Bears will run.
  • “Whether it’s some of the things you see with (Aaron) Rodgers, like inside-zone read and throwing something quick to the flat, or throwing some of the things down the field that are RPO-based and some of the same route structures that we’ve done, Luke is a smart, smart guy and he’s carried all of the great ideas and concepts that he’s learned over the years,” Moorhead said.

    Getsy will bring those philosophies to Halas Hall, where he’ll work with Fields.

    Here’s why Moorhead sees it as a perfect fit — he describes his system as an “RPO-based run game that takes advantage of a quarterback’s running skill set, combining that with a West Coast system that takes a ton of shots down the field.”

    That sounds about right. But I liked the way that former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett described the system that he will run as the new Broncos head coach. Via Lance Sanderson at

    “I think the starting point is outside zone. Outside zone on offense is what you want to do, and you want to base that off of play-pass. You want to make the defense cover the entire field. You want to take shots down the field. “

    Whatever Getsy does, it needs to start with the running game to set up the play action pass with good, believable run fakes. This is the heart of most good NFL offenses and the Bears did a poor job of it.

    You always got the impression that the Bears under Nagy were trying to use a downhill running game to set up play action but that they didn’t really know how to coach it. They certainly never executed it well. Hopefully that’s about to change.

  • Fishbain continues on how Eberflus sees his role with the defense.
  • The defensive coordinator, whoever it is, will be calling plays for the Bears.

    “I do believe that to be the head football coach and be efficient at that, you are exactly the head football coach,” Eberflus said. “So I can be involved in all aspects of the game. So the defensive coordinator we hire will call the defensive plays. I will not do that.”

    That’s probably a good idea for Eberflus, as it will allow him to oversee everything. And as someone who will have to handle calling timeouts and challenging plays for the first time in his coaching career, it’s one fewer thing to worry about. It adds some significance to the coordinator hire and might make the job more appealing, too.

    It isn’t just that. It’s an indication that Eberflus wants to be a real head coach, someone who takes charge of both the offense and the defense and spends time with both. You can’t do that if you are so deep in game planning on the defensive side of the ball that you are planning to call every play.

    A true head coach is involved in keeping both sides on track. You can’t do that for the offense and special teams if you are preparing to call plays before the game and calling them during it.

  • Fishbain further quotes Eberflus on the Bears defensive scheme change:
  • Eberflus did not deflect when asked about the defensive scheme, noting it will be the third time he’s involved in switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3.

    “Will we have elements and pieces of a 3-4? Sure, we’ll have that,” he said. “We’re going to adjust and move and be flexible. 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. But the foundational pieces won’t change in terms of how we play.”

    This is, I think, much less of a big deal than it used to be. As Eberflus suggests will be true of the Bears, most teams are multiple to some degree now. But even more than that, the Bears have spent so much time in their nickel defense that they have played a four man line more than half the time. It’s not like Khalil Mack has never put his hand in the dirt before.

  • Adam Johns at The Athletic quotes quarterback Justin Fields on what he thinks it will be like having a defensive head coach:
  • “I feel like there are some positives to that,” Fields said. “Being on the offense, you kind of know what the defense is doing, but you don’t know what fully they’re doing. You know they’re running a certain type of coverage, but when you have a defensive head coach, he’s able to explain to you what their jobs are, what their certain assignments are in a certain coverage, so I think that’s one plus on having a defensive head coach.

    Hmmm…. How can you know the coverage but not know what the players are doing when they execute it?

    It’s probably hard to teach a rookie quarterback everything he needs to know and I’m sure there was a lot of distillation of the concepts. But I can’t help feeling that this statement provides some insight into what went wrong with Matt Nagy when it came to getting his players, especially his quarterback, to execute the offense correctly and consistently.

  • Fishbain quotes new general manager Ryan Poles on the use of analytics in the front office:
  • Poles had an emphatic “absolutely” in response to a question about how analytics would be involved in football operations, and he said he’s impressed with those who already do that at Halas Hall.

    “It’s challenging what our eyes see, and I think that’s a beautiful thing about all the data we have now is we can challenge what we see and then make the proper decision based off of that,” he said.

    Maybe. There are a lot of statistics out there and a lot of ways to use them. Most people I know pick the ones that support their biases going in.

    In the end, I think it’s about trusting your eyes. Statistics can help direct the to where they need to go. But seeing is always believing.

    We’ll see what kind of vision Poles and his people have soon enough.

One Final Thought

Fishbain and Jahns write about Poles’s how experiences will affect his performance as general manager. This passage stood out:

“One of the places we were good at selecting players was offensive line, and Poles was really good in what he saw and how he spoke about what he saw on offensive linemen and defensive linemen, and I figured that out quickly,” [Former Chiefs general manager Scott] Pioli said. “He knew what he was talking about and he knew how to say what he was seeing. Some guys would say, ‘I just see it.’ Well, no, tell me. He’s smart, so he spoke about what he saw and could paint a picture of a player.”

I teach for a living and the best students always tell me that its not enough to think that they know the material. They says that they need to “explain it back to themselves” and when they can’t do it, they know that they haven’t really learned it. This sounds like a form of that. I consider it to be a good sign.

Say What You Want About George McCaskey But He Does One Thing Exactly Right. And Other Points of View.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune talks about the process of evaluating players when new Bears general manager Ryan Poles was with the Chiefs.
  • The Chiefs would reach the end of a season and begin evaluating the roster in preparation for free agency. Then they would open a big room to the entire scouting staff. Here’s how it would start: This is our roster. Our needs are this, this and this. Let’s go to work.

    “We would literally sit there and crank tape, 14 days,” Poles said. “You could speak your mind. (Director of player personnel Chris) Ballard (now the Indianapolis Colts GM) coined it ‘a room of candor.’ Say what you want to say. Have pushback. If you don’t see it, say it. And we’re going to find truth. The big thing is having respect for each other where it doesn’t get out of hand. But I found that you can get the truth pretty quick.

    “I’ve been in situations where you just read your report and it’s more creative writing (that) can get a player to move up. This you can’t hide. The player is the player. If you say he can catch really well and we’re watching three games and he’s dropping like every ball, you might have missed something.”

    Former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo used to say that there are two kinds of people in NFL personnel departments. Those who sit down with others to watch tape to resolve differences in opinion and those who don’t.

    I’m glad the Bears hired one of the former.

  • As I continued to read the Biggs article, there were other aspects of the Poles hire, as well as that of new Bears head coach Matt Eberflus that brought me a level of comfort. None more so than the fact that Poles was with Kansas City under 3 general managers (Scott Pioli, John Dorsey and Brett Veech) and through two regime changes. Poles might be new to the job but he’s seen how change is instituted within NFL organizations. Similarly, Colleen Kane, also at the Chicago Tribune, pointed out that this is the third time that Eberflus has implemented a transition from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense. Both men have seen the good and the bad. Neither will be a stranger to the process that he’s facing.
  • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic addresses what Eberflus demands of his players:

    Colts players talked about the emphasis on hustle and avoiding being marked down for a “loaf.”

    “The biggest thing is effort,” Colts cornerback T.J. Carrie told The Athletic’s Zak Keefer. “Some people might not realize how important it is in the game. For example, most of the time when there is a run away (from you), the backside corner just kind of jogs, (saying), ‘Well, I can’t make a difference. I can’t make the play.’

    “But in this defensive scheme, you need to run. He forced you to run, and there are things done if you don’t run.”

    By all accounts, as well as what I saw with my own eyes, effort wasn’t a problem with the Bears under Matt Nagy. The problem was simply that the Bears didn’t execute, especially on offense. What the plan will be to fix that problem will be the key to Eberflus’s success.

    Eberflus supposedly lives by the acronym HITS: hustle, intensity, taking care of the ball and taking the ball away and staying smart situationally. I’d feel better is I saw something in there about “concentration” and “discipline”. Because if that isn’t an emphasis here we aren’t going to see the improvement in the Bears play that we need to see for them to become a sustained winner.

  • On a similar note, Fishbain
    talks to Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee about the new Bears head coach. Eberflus had he called a “breakfast club” on Wednesday mornings when he was the Cowboys linebackers coach.
  • When Lee entered the room, Eberflus had the entire game plan laid out on the board.

    “What this team does really well in the run game, what they do really well in the pass game, what’s going to be different in the scheme this week, the little changes we made,” he said. “And then we talked about practice. Which fundamentals are we going to work on today at practice and how are they going to play out in the game? He was hitting it on all levels with such detail.

    “That resonated with me. It made me a better football player.”

    This all sounds wonderful and explains why Eberflus was such a good defensive coordinator. But being a head coach is a different beast. Eberflus’s success will not be determined so much by how he does such things now as by his ability to find assistant coaches that do such things well. It’s a completely different challenge and one that we can only wait and see if he can overcome.

  • Similarly, Kane continued to quote Eberflus as he addressed how he plans to handle his assistants.
  • Eberflus has had a host of coaching mentors over the years — he thanked Gary Pinkel, Rod Marinelli, Nick Saban and his high school coach, Pat Gucciardo, in his opening monologue — to help him understand the best way to manage his staff.

    “You give them space,” he said. “You give them working room. You’re not hovering over top of them. You hire good people and then you let them do their job.”

    To an extent.

    Speaking as someone who has a similar managerial style I can tell you that the results are not always what you’d want. If you actually do a perfect job of hiring people who are as driven as you are, it can work. But most of the time, this simply isn’t the case.

    The truth of the matter is that Eberflus’s assistants are going to have to be pushed as much or more than his players are. Similar to the players, he’s going to need to find a way to get them to accomplish things that they never knew that they could do.

    Taking a completely hands off approach is almost never the way to do that.

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune quotes Bears Chairman George McCaskey as he answers the key question regarding the Bears coaching search.
  • So why would anyone in the outside world latch on to McCaskey’s confidence this time around as he begins working with his fourth GM and fifth head coach?

    “Every experience has its benefits,” McCaskey said. “Hopefully you’re learning from the experiences, both the positive and negative.”


    When looking at this search from the outside in it certainly doesn’t look like much changed. Get a veteran NFL man to advise – check. Form a committee including team President and CEO Ted Phillips – check. Start interviewing general managers and head coaches at the same time – check.

    What McCaskey is counting on is doing the same thing but doing it better this time around. Only time will tell whether their approach is the right one. But Bears fans have already seen it fail once.

  • Speaking of the hiring process let me once again express my disappointment that former Bears and current Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub was once again passed over for an interview not just with the Bears but with any team.

    Pundits like to talk about how coaching special teams prepares you in a unique way to become a head coach. The position forces you to know every player on the roster and to constantly adapt to changing personnel as players come and go from the offensive and defensive side of the ball. But when it comes to action its all just hot air as NFL executives opt for the more flashy offensive and defensive coordinators and leave good coaches like Toub behind.

  • Finally, if there’s a bottom line conclusion from the Bears recent hires, its this.Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times expresses my fears about the new Bears regime:

    It’s fair to have the same concerns about [new offensive coordinator Luke] Getsy as one does with Eberflus and new general manager Ryan Poles. Getsy has never called plays in the NFL. Eberflus has no head-coaching experience at any level, and Poles had never been a general manager.

    The Bears have a habit of doing this, particularly at general manager. From Jerry Angelo to Phil Emery to Ryan Pace they have hired nothing but first time general managers for over 20 years. It’s a strange run for a team that expects its general manger to run all aspects of the football operation.

    Is Ryan Poles up to it? He won’t be helped much as every person from him on down will be new to their jobs. There are going to be a lot of people who are going to have to do a lot of things right the first time.

    I’ll be honest. It’s hard to generate much optimism where that is the case.

One Final Thought

Kane makes another interesting point in her article as she writes about Eberflus’s method of hiring assistant coaches.

[Eberflus] figures that recruiting experience from college will help him in the days ahead as he fills out his coaching staff after making his first hire — offensive coordinator Luke Getsy — over the weekend.

“Oh, it’s an easy sell,” he said. “Chicago Bears? Easy. And then you sell working relationships, how you give guys their room and you support them as the head football coach.”

The Bears are an easy sell. And here we come to something that McCaskey has evidently done exactly right.

Apparently once former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn found out that the Bears job wasn’t his, he immediately said that he was returning to the Cowboys as defensive coordinator. Although he was a less popular interview, you got the distinct impression that Jim Caldwell felt the same way.

NFL coaches, especially veteran coaches, are being more picky nowadays about the jobs that they jump at. Go to the Jaguars with Shad Khan? No thank you. Want to go to the Dolphins and deal with a politics-driven front office with owner Stephen Ross? No way.

The Bears like to sell their franchise with things like tradition. But NFL coaches and general managers don’t care about that. What makes the Bears job so attractive is that McCaskey hires you and gets out of the way. There is as close to zero interference from ownership with the Bears as it gets in the NFL.

People around the NFL want one thing more than anything else. Succeed or fail, they want the result to be based on their own merits. You are guaranteed to get that with the Bears.