Cautious optimism greets GM Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus
After a decade of high hopes dashed by disappointment, Chicago is welcoming the arrivals Monday of Poles and Eberflus with anticipation but not celebration.
New Bears general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus are sure to be basking in clean-slate popularity as the new faces of hope at Halas Hall when they are introduced at a news conference Monday. They haven’t lost a game yet.
This time, however, the feel-good moment might come with a little bit of a more sober tone, given another first-day-on-the-job reality. They haven’t won a game yet, either.
After a decade of high hopes dashed by disappointment, Chicago is welcoming the arrival of Poles and Eberflus with anticipation but not celebration. Color ever-faithful Bears fans hopeful but cautious, if not wary and dubious.
Poles is the third new GM in the last 10 years. Eberflus is the fourth new head coach in the last nine years. More Bears fans than ever have been here before. They know now that winning the news conference is like beating the Chiefs in a preseason game.
Poles and Eberflus arrive as unknowns, a 36-year-old first-time GM hiring a 51-year-old first-time head coach. Their popularity today is rooted in the change they represent: Poles isn’t Ryan Pace, and Eberflus isn’t Matt Nagy. The rest is up to them.
Neither is coming in with a significant buzz, but Poles and Eberflus aren’t without credentials. Poles comes highly regarded after helping build the Chiefs’ Super Bowl teams as director of college scouting and player personnel — and not just because former bosses Scott Pioli, Brett Veach and Andy Reid say he’s awesome, but because other teams wanted him.
Poles had interviews with the Giants and Vikings and was a finalist for the Vikings’ GM job that went to Browns vice president of football operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah — but only after Poles canceled a second interview to take the Bears’ job.
Eberflus, the former Colts defensive coordinator, was a finalist for the Jaguars’ head-coaching job but took the Bears’ job before seeing what was going to happen there.
Still, he’s not coming in as an anointed savior. Eberflus is a defensive-minded coach on a Bears team with a desperate need for offense and a highly drafted quarterback in Justin Fields. It’s not like Nagy, who came in with a glow as a Reid disciple who could develop Mitch Trubisky. Or John Fox, who had Super Bowl credentials. Or Marc Trestman, a quarterback whisperer who could turn Jay Cutler into a star. Eberflus is a guy whose biggest job will be to hire an offensive coordinator.
Be that as it may, Poles and Eberflus will be feted appropriately when they introduce themselves and answer questions from the media during the news conference — hopefully the first of many for both. It’ll be mostly clichés, generalities and indefinite answers to questions about players, coaches and scheme. But, assuming chairman George McCaskey also is available, here’s a look at key issues likely to be addressed:
With Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian presumably in charge, the Bears cast a wide net in their search for a GM, but it concluded suddenly. Poles was hired Tuesday, with finalists Eliot Wolf and Monti Ossenfort still up for second interviews. Did the Bears rush to hire Poles to keep him from the Vikings? Why didn’t Wolf and Ossenfort get second interviews?
Poles’ own search for a head coach was brief. He interviewed three candidates — former Lions and Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and Eberflus — and hired Eberflus (a client of agent Trace Armstrong, like Poles) less than 24 hours after taking the GM job.
Even if Poles tipped the Bears off to preferred candidates, it seems quite the coincidence that the only candidates he considered were coaches the Bears had interviewed already. What’s the deal with that?
Fields and the offense
With a first-year GM hiring a first-year head coach, the Bears are putting Fields and their offense in the hands of yet another rookie with the hiring of Packers quarterbacks coach/passing-game coordinator Luke Getsy as offensive coordinator.
It was one thing for Nagy to hand the reins of the defense to Vic Fangio in 2018 and leave it alone. It’s quite another for Eberflus to hand the keys to the offense to Getsy. How much trust will Eberflus put in Getsy to do that job? And what is Eberflus’ vision of the Bears’ offense and Fields after the development of both was a disaster under Nagy?
Eberflus ran a 4-3 defense with the Colts, but he inherits a 3-4 defense with the Bears. Even though most NFL defenses are in base less and less and key Bears defenders transcend scheme — linebackers Roquan Smith, Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, in particular — it still would be a significant transition for others, particularly nose tackles Eddie Goldman and Khyiris Tonga and defensive end Bilal Nichols. It likely will be minicamp before we get any real answers on that front.
If the Bears truly hired Eberflus to be a head coach more than a defensive coordinator, he could hire Fangio, keep the 3-4 and concentrate on doing the bigger job. But that’s probably expecting a little too much. It’s presumed Eberflus will be calling plays, but that’s not a sure thing.
And hopefully McCaskey will shed some light on what is different at Halas Hall that offers hope that these changes will produce better results than the previous ones. How was this process any different from the one that brought Pace here? Did he rely on Polian’s intuition or his own in hiring Poles? Did the Bears have any interest in Jim Harbaugh? Does Poles have any more authority over the ‘‘entire operation’’ than Pace had? How significant is the hiring of assistant GM Ian Cunningham, a first-time position at Halas Hall?
There will be many questions. And probably not a lot of answers. The news conference is mostly for show. Bears fans won’t be fooled again.