Bears look to Chris Ballard’s Colts for help

Assistant general manager Ed Dodds — Ballard’s right-hand man — interviewed for the GM position Monday. Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus interviewed for the head coaching position.

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Running back Jonathan Taylor (28) was one of three Colts position players to receive All-Pro recognition who were drafted by GM Chris Ballard and assistant GM Ed Dodds. Guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard are the others.

AJ Mast/AP Photos

As a former Bears director of scouting, Chris Ballard seemed like a natural McCaskey family choice for the general-manager job in 2015.

In fact, the knock on Ballard was that he — like Phil Emery, a former scout who just had been fired as GM — was too familiar with how they do business at Halas Hall.

As it turned out, Ballard’s desire to alter business-as-usual at Halas Hall reportedly was a key reason he didn’t get the job. The Bears instead hired Saints director of player personnel Ryan Pace, a nice guy who went 48-65 in seven seasons and 0-2 in the playoffs.

Ballard, then the Chiefs’ director of player personnel, eventually got his GM job with the Colts in 2017. Despite getting blindsided by Josh McDaniels reneging on an agreement to become head coach and quarterback Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement, the Colts have prospered under Ballard. They’re 37-28 with two playoff berths in the last four seasons.

Despite a monumental collapse against the Jaguars in Week 18 that cost the Colts (9-8) a playoff spot this season, Ballard has them in good shape. They were among the top 10 in scoring and scoring defense in 2021.

Bypassing Ballard seems like a mistake at this point, so it was a bit amusing that the Bears are looking toward Ballard’s Colts as they try to pick up the pieces from the Pace/Matt Nagy era. The Bears confirmed they interviewed Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds for their GM position and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus for their coaching job Monday.

Dodds might be the more intriguing candidate because he’s considered to have the hard-edged personality Pace did not. A disciple of late Raiders owner Al Davis, he got his start with the Raiders (2003-06). Dodds then spent 10 seasons in personnel with the Seahawks (2007-16), where he had a hand in building the roster that went to back-to-back Super Bowls in 2013-14. He joined the Colts in 2017 when Ballard, a longtime friend since their days at Texas A&M-Kingsville, was hired.

A top-notch evaluator who is Ballard’s right-hand man, Dodds is given a large share of the credit for the influx of talent that has boosted the Colts since Ballard arrived, an impressive group headed by three 2021 All-Pro selections: guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker Darius Leonard and running back Jonathan Taylor.

The Colts had five players receiver All-Pro votes. Luke Rhodes was the leading vote-getter at long snapper, and Matt Adams received All-Pro votes as a special-teams player.

Dodds’ interest in the Bears’ GM job is notable not just because of his connection to Ballard but because — knowing that being a GM in the NFL often is a one-shot deal — he is being deliberate about where he gets his chance. He pulled himself out of the running for the GM job with the Browns in 2020 and with the Panthers last year.

Eberflus, 51, a former defensive coordinator at Missouri, has been the Colts’ defensive coordinator for the last four seasons after spending seven seasons as the Cowboys’ linebackers coach. Eberflus inherited a defense that was 30th in the NFL in points allowed. Since then, the Colts have finished 10th, 18th, 10th and ninth in scoring defense.

Building a defense to fit his personnel is considered one of his strengths. He had Pro Bowl players at all three levels of the Colts’ defense this season: Leonard at linebacker, tackle DeForest Buckner on the line and cornerback Kenny Moore in the secondary. He also has interviewed with the Jaguars.

Eberflus has the lowest Q score of the six head-coaching candidates the Bears have interviewed. But if they need to delve deeper, all they have to do is call Ballard.

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