‘Bears fans are going to see what leadership looks like’

Colts head coach Frank Reich awkwardly inherited defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus when he was hired in 2018 but quickly saw a driven leader — and future head coach. “I felt that from Day 1.”

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The Colts’ defense ranked in the top 10 in takeaways in each of Matt Eberflus’ four seasons as defensive coordinator (10th, T-10th, T-5th, 2nd).

The Colts’ defense ranked in the top 10 in takeaways in each of Matt Eberflus’ four seasons as defensive coordinator (10th, T-10th, T-5th, 2nd).

Zach Bolinger/AP

When Frank Reich was hired as the Colts’ coach in 2018, Matt Eberflus was somebody else’s guy.

Eberflus actually had been hired as defensive coordinator by Josh McDaniels, who backed out of an agreement to become the Colts’ coach just before his introductory news conference.

But, as was the case with new Bears general manager Ryan Poles in the interview process for the Bears’ coaching job — “From the moment he walked [into] the room, I knew he was the guy” — it didn’t take long for Reich to know he inherited the right guy. Not only a defensive coordinator but a future head coach.

“I felt that from Day 1,” Reich said Tuesday on a Zoom call with Bears reporters. “One of the things I appreciate about ‘Flus’ . . . he’s very thoughtful and deliberate in his communication. 

“There’s not going to be any fluff. He’s not going to play games. He’s going to be direct. He’s going to stick with what he believes in. You’re not going to be able to find ways to manipulate him. You’re not going to be able to fool him.” 

Reich’s endorsement for Eberflus getting the Bears job was particularly enthusiastic. He emphasized Eberflus’ readiness to be a head coach — and not just a coach who earned the shot by being a successful coordinator.

“It’s a big job; it’s too much for one person,” Reich said. “You have to hire the right people that you believe in and trust. You have to have patience. You have to have deep conviction because you’re going to make some mistakes along the way. You have to stay the course. You have to lead in a way that is very clear and people understand where this is going. It has to be us doing it together.

“ ‘Flus’ is going to do a great job of that. I could not be more excited for him and his family. It’s such an incredible opportunity, well-deserved for him. Bears fans are going to see what leadership looks like, and [he’ll] demonstrate [that for] years to come.” 

Reich extolled Eberflus strengths that figure to go beyond building a strong defense: player evaluation for the draft, having conviction in his system yet being able to adapt to his personnel and, most of all, eliciting maximum effort from his players. 

Eberflus’ “H-I-T-S” principle (Hustle, Intensity, Taking the ball/taking care of the ball and Smarts/situational excellence) already has been mocked as a collegiate approach. But the effectiveness of his dedication to it is similar to Lovie Smith’s fixation with takeaways or Vic Fangio’s emphasis on details. 

It worked for Eberflus with the Colts, who were 10th, 18th, 10th and ninth in his four seasons after being 30th the year before he arrived. And they were in the top 10 in takeaways each of his four seasons. 

“Let me tell you — he eats, sleeps, drinks, bleeds that in every aspect,” Reich said. “Those are the standards. It’s going to be very clear to the players what this H-I-T-S principle is all about.” 

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’] coaching style is very intentional about every move,” 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.

“He’s not a big yeller and screamer, but he has an intensity. He’s not afraid to get after guys, but he does it in the right manner. It was a style that I thought fit what we were trying to do here, and, in his own unique way, I think Matt is a great leader and has great style in that regard.” 

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