New coach Matt Eberflus had a fluff act to follow on Day 1 with the Bears
What did we learn about Eberflus during his introductory news conference that really matters? Nothing. That’s just how all the great ones did it.
Bears general manager Ryan Poles had been in the Matt Eberflus business for something like five minutes before introducing the new coach to reporters Monday as his ‘‘brother.’’
More like, ‘‘Oh, brother,’’ right? Poles and Eberflus are brothers in much the same way you and the contractor remodeling your bathroom are brothers. It’s all love until you’ve lost a few games in a row or had to shower one too many times at your filthy neighbor’s house. Then all you can think about is getting back to life without each other.
But introductory news conferences are always like that, especially once the new coach begins speaking. From there, it’s all trite clichés, banal aphorisms and empty platitudes. And, by the way, did you notice that all those phrases mean pretty much the same thing? Kind of like ‘‘building a foundation,’’ ‘‘creating a culture’’ and ‘‘trusting the process’’ all mean pretty much the same thing.
Eberflus hit all those usual notes, which means there wasn’t much of substance to be gleaned beyond his intentions to switch the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and let his coordinators do all the play-calling. Other than that, he wants players who run fast, hit hard, make big plays and have a lot of passion because, let’s face it, who doesn’t?
‘‘We’ll be an effort-based team,’’ he said, undoubtedly correct in his determination that being so beats the heck out of not trying at all.
‘‘Chicago tough,’’ he threw in at one point, the sort of blatant attempt at currying favor with local fans that LSU’s suddenly Southern-twangy Brian Kelly would appreciate.
As Eberflus answered questions, Twitter came alive with cracks about his unoriginality. But poking fun at football coaches’ empty rhetoric has become almost a sport in itself. The college football media are relentless (and hilarious) at this. The NFL media are catching up. Eberflus’ predecessor, Matt Nagy, was a master of the word salad and was lampooned for it on a near-weekly basis.
Anyway, what does it all signify? What have we learned about Eberflus that really matters? What did he say that we should throw our arms around and carry forward into a new Bears era?
And that’s totally fine. One even might say it’s as it should be.
After all, Eberflus is following in the footsteps of one of his mentors, the great Nick Saban.
‘‘We want to be a physical, aggressive football team that is relentless in the competitive spirit that we go out and play with week in and week out,’’ Saban said when he was introduced at Alabama in 2007.
Six national championships later, it sounds great. But every other coach who has been handed a whistle has said essentially the same thing.
Take Bill Belichick, for example.
‘‘My basic philosophy in terms of winning football games is to have a strong, tough — both mentally and physically — and physical team and to try to be as well-prepared as we possibly can for all situations that will come up in the course of the game,’’ he said on Day 1 with the Patriots in 2000.
Six Super Bowls titles later, it’s still a mouthful of nothing.
Take a guess who spoke these utterly unrevealing words at his introductory news conference in 2019:
‘‘It’s about offense, defense and special teams, and that’s going to be a big emphasis for us going forward.’’
That was the Packers’ Matt LaFleur, Eberflus’ new No. 1 rival.
And what about the this season’s Super Bowl coaches? Much like LaFleur, the Rams’ Sean McVay and the Bengals’ Zac Taylor are supposed to be younger, hipper, cut from a newer, different kind of cloth, aren’t they?
Yet the substance of McVay’s first Rams news conference in 2017 can be summed up in two sleep-inducing quotes: ‘‘We can’t wait to roll our sleeves up and go to work’’ and ‘‘We’re going to create a culture of ‘we,’ not ‘me.’ ’’ The ghosts of a thousand coaches gone by surely nodded in approval.
And — OK, so I’m cherry-picking here — let’s end with this beauty of a nugget from Taylor’s unveiling in 2019:
‘‘I have a high opinion of Andy Dalton. We’re very fortunate he’s the quarterback here. He’s a great fit for this offense.’’
Of course, he was. They always are when the words don’t mean a thing.