Bears coach Matt Eberflus took the recommendation of a mentor into consideration — and presumably had the blessing of star linebacker Khalil Mack — when picking the team’s new defensive line coach.
Travis Smith, who was named the Bears’ latest position coach Tuesday, spent the last 10 seasons working with the Raiders in various defensive roles. He worked the last two years under Raiders defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, the ex-Bears coordinator whom Eberflus considers a mentor.
Smith was a defensive assistant from 2012 to 2014, defensive quality control coach in 2015-16 and again in 2018, and an outside linebackers coach in 2017. He became the assistant defensive line coach in 2019.
He worked alongside Mack as a defensive assistant, quality control coach and outside linebackers coach. He also trained Mario Edwards Jr., now a Bears defensive end, and veteran Bruce Irvin, who finished the season on the Bears’ roster.
Smith’s association with Mack likely bodes well for the Bears veteran, who underwent season-ending foot surgery in November. Mack has a $30.1 million salary-cap hit in 2022 but would cost $24 million in dead cap space if the Bears decided to move on.
Smith played football at Cal Poly and coached there as an undergraduate assistant. He made stops at Santa Monica Junior College and the University of Colorado before joining the Raiders.
Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams, his former Colts assistant, are close to finalizing the defensive coaching staff. They brought linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi, defensive backs coach James Rowe and assistant defensive backs coach David Overstreet II with them from the Colts.