Sure in his steps, Bears coach Matt Eberflus is thinking about the long term from the start
Eberflus talks like someone who expects to be coaching the Bears for a decade or more, so he won’t be shaken by the threat of coaches getting fired if they don’t get instant results.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Matt Eberflus looks and sounds like a man who expects to be coaching the Bears for a decade. And with that view of his situation, it’s easier to accept short-term hits in exchange for long-term gains.
Eberflus certainly isn’t complacent or lackadaisical, but he’s very much at ease. In the center courtyard at The Breakers, dressed comfortably in a white dress shirt and khakis that could pivot easily from a staff meeting to a walk on the nearby beach, Eberflus leans back in a white folding chair and talks about his big plans for the Bears with all the confidence in the world that he’ll be around long enough to see them materialize.
He wants to change everything, and he wants it to last. That requires incremental work. And Eberflus won’t allow his lofty vision to be distracted, even though he knows head coaches typically have a brief window in which to prove themselves. He’s unshakably patient.
‘‘It comes from, No. 1, your faith,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘There are going to be storms and there are going to be things that hit our facility that are unforeseen. You can’t predict it. And I think you’ve got to stand on solid ground.
‘‘No. 2 is you feel confident in your experiences. I’ve been doing this 30 years. . . . I’ve seen a lot of ways to do it and a lot of ways not to do it, and I feel very confident in the way we’re going to do it.’’
It helps, of course, that the pressure isn’t truly on him at this point. Eberflus hasn’t lost a game yet, and even if he incurs a mountain of losses this coming season, no one is demanding that he fix the Bears in his first year. If he can make something of the team this season, it’s a bonus.
Eberflus walked into the job with some inherent credibility simply by not being Matt Nagy. That aside, however, he seems genuinely certain about where this is headed.
As Eberflus eyed the opportunity to coach the Bears, star pass rusher Khalil Mack must’ve been the first thing he noticed about their defense. But when general manager Ryan Poles presented the case for clearing Mack’s salary and picking up a second-round draft pick by trading him to the Chargers, Eberflus saw the big picture and agreed with the move, even while believing Mack is primed for a big season.
‘‘You’ve gotta look at the whole roster,’’ he said. ‘‘Where are you going to add pieces? What can you do with the shifting and the allocation of funds? And where’s it going to go in the future? And I think that’s what the club looked at and that’s what we’re excited about going forward.’’
A year ago, Bears GM Ryan Pace and Nagy landed in the unmanageable scenario of needing to make decisions in the team’s long-term interest while knowing they needed immediate results to keep their jobs. Those contradictory missions led to rampant dysfunction their successors are trying to clean up.
Eberflus, however, doesn’t want to get into that.
‘‘That’s the past,’’ he said. ‘‘Our eyes are always forward. We’re looking at seeing how we can do the best moves now for the franchise. I don’t think, for us, it’s healthy to look back like that. We just want to look forward.’’
Like Poles and virtually everyone else in Chicago, when Eberflus looks forward, he imagines a future led by quarterback Justin Fields. The mess last season hindered him more than anyone.
Eberflus is practical when it comes to Fields. He’s not expecting him to be the MVP this season, but he will insist upon improvement, given that the situation around him is more favorable than it was during his rookie season. No team can wait forever. Eberflus expects a substantial step forward.
‘‘It should be,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re looking for better technique, better fundamentals, better decision-making, better timing — everything. He’s all on board [with] that. He’s excited about where he is, and he’s been working his tail off. That’s what we want, just that big jump from Year 1 to Year 2.’’
If that happens, it will accelerate everything. But Eberflus intends to stay steady regardless. He trusts his and Poles’ plan and is willing to wait as it comes together.
He waited three decades for this opportunity. No sense in rushing it now.