First practice is one small step in right direction for Bears coach Matt Eberflus
It’ll take a lot more than that to fix the Bears, but the opening day of voluntary minicamp was a good start for Eberlflus.
It’s pointless to make any judgment on what kind of coach Matt Eberflus will be for the Bears when he just got here and the season is still five months away.
The only meaningful assessment at this stage is whether he’s getting this project off to a good start. The core concerns are if his plan makes sense, if his staff is cohesive, if he’s resonating with players and if there are preliminary signs of it coming together.
It was a green light on all fronts Tuesday after his first practice at Halas Hall.
He hopes it’s the first of many steps in the right direction for the wayward Bears as he tries to lift them out of irrelevance and into the sustained success that has eluded them for decades.
“It’s been a short time, but I feel that it’s been real [well-received] by the whole team,” he said of his blueprint, which centers on his H.I.T.S. principle. “It’s the rudiments of the game . . . It’s about doing the simple things better than anybody else does. They’ve been good.
“There was great execution out there for the first day . . . That’s a tribute to them paying attention to what we’re trying to do.”
H.I.T.S. starts with hustle, and that element was evident Tuesday as the Bears kept their tempo up throughout.
And consistent with his promise to be a true head coach rather than sticking to his specialty, Eberflus spent most of his time with the offense.
There’s something refreshingly dry about Eberflus’ style, and his businesslike approach is ideal coming off an era that was heavy on rah-rah and light on results under Matt Nagy.
Pretty much any new coach would be warmly welcomed after the Bears flubbed to 22-27 the last three seasons, but Eberflus’ credibility seems to extend beyond simply not being Nagy.
The key, as Eberflus sees it, is being authentic and straightforward: adult-to-adult communication with clear expectations. It’s not much different than how it works at any company, and Eberflus is conveying that he’s equal parts coach and boss.
“Just be myself,” he said of his approach to getting players on board. “When you’re honest and upfront with guys and you tell them exactly [what you want] and you put it on the table so it’s plain to see, and then you challenge them to get that done, they appreciate that and they respect that.”
There’s a good chance most of these players hadn’t heard of him before he emerged as a candidate in January. If they’ve done minimal research, however, they know Eberflus started coaching before all but a few of them were born and he’s coming off an excellent run as Colts defensive coordinator.
The Colts were second in the NFL in takeaways and 10th in fewest points allowed over his four seasons. And unlike Nagy’s situation working under Andy Reid in Kansas City, there’s no skepticism over how much credit Eberflus can take.
So if H.I.T.S. was integral to building that defense and an All-Pro like Darius Leonard endorses it — “Made me who I am,” he said — the Bears should be eager to adopt it.
“I’m hearing it even walking down the halls,” defensive end Trevis Gipson said. “It’s getting [imprinted on] our defense and our offense, and I think we’re going to have a fantastic year.
“When I first met the coaches, all they said was, ‘H.I.T.S. principle.’ We heard it yesterday. We’re hearing it today. It’s just, ‘This is what we’re about, this is how we do things, this is how we want you guys to do things and this is how you guys will do things.’ That’s sort of the culture right now, and I’m really appreciative of it.”
Spurring that reaction and willingness from the team at large is the biggest win Eberflus can get between now and training camp. He’ll need much more, but he’s on the right track.