New Bears coach Matt Eberflus already off to better start than predecessor Matt Nagy
There’s no guarantee Eberflus will succeed, but the way he assembled his staff gives him a tremendous advantage going into his first season
INDIANAPOLIS — Matt Eberflus has been the Bears’ coach for barely more than a month, and he’s already off to a better start than former coach Matt Nagy.
We’re a long way from seeing whether this works out, but the foundation is sturdy and sensible, thanks to Eberflus raiding his former team as he put together his coaching staff with the Bears.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich didn’t give him any trouble about poaching defensive coordinator Alan Williams, linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi, defensive backs coach James Rowe and assistant defensive backs coach David Overstreet, which will be incredibly helpful as Eberflus implements his system.
‘‘That was not a surprise,’’ said Eberflus, who served as the Colts’ defensive coordinator for four seasons. ‘‘Chris and Frank were upfront and honest the whole time and very good about us being able to do that. I really appreciate those guys for letting me be able to do that.’’
It’s an invaluable head start.
Consider how sound this operation is compared to the way Nagy began his Bears tenure in 2018, when the Chiefs barred him from taking anyone with him. With coach Andy Reid overseeing the offense, he wasn’t about to let Nagy strip away his best assistants.
So Nagy hired Mark Helfrich as his right-hand man. You already might have forgotten that name.
Helfrich was Nagy’s first offensive coordinator, and it was a curious hire from the jump. The two never had worked together. Helfrich hadn’t held an NFL job and most recently had been fired as the coach at Oregon. Nagy fired him after two seasons, doing so surreptitiously after saying in a news conference he still was working through potential staff changes. Helfrich hasn’t coached since.
He and Nagy shared an agent. That’s pretty much it.
It’s a lot different for Eberflus, who was allowed to transfer much of his crew from the Colts, presumably because Reich is an offensive-minded coach who planned to delegate the defense to a veteran coordinator — he hired Gus Bradley — who would restock the staff with his own guys.
Whereas Nagy had to impart his scheme and approach to Helfrich and a staff made up entirely of position coaches he hadn’t worked with, Eberflus opens with pillars in place. There’s no philosophical merger necessary.
‘‘It’s going to get the coaches coaching together faster, and you’ll see the players get together faster because there won’t be four or five days talking about terminology,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘There’s synergy there already because they’re all from the same systems, and you’ll see that [effect] on the field, too, with the players.’’
Williams was Eberflus’ defensive backs coach with the Colts, whose defense was third in the NFL with 64 interceptions during their four seasons there.
Similarly, Borgonzi and Overstreet were among Eberflus’ initial hires in 2018 and are fully entrenched in his system. They probably wake up thinking about his H.I.T.S. principles. Overstreet was coaching in junior college before joining Eberflus and Borgonzi was a quality-control coach, so Eberflus has made an indelible imprint on their careers.
Rowe, meanwhile, had stints with the Commanders and Appalachian State before Eberflus picked him up last season.
None of that continuity guarantees success for Eberflus, but it’s unquestionably prudent to have four other coaches on staff who will teach this defense exactly the way he does.