Bears coach Matt Eberflus is back ‘where everything started’

Eberflus didn’t need directions to the Bears’ joint practices this week.

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Bears head coach Matt Eberflus was the Colts’ defensive coordinator for four years.

AP Photos

INDIANAPOLIS — Matt Eberflus didn’t need directions to the Bears’ joint practices this week. The Colts’ training-camp complex is only five miles and one highway exit from the house where he lived as the team’s defensive coordinator from 2018 to 2021. Eberflus and his family just sold the Cape Cod-style home on a Carmel, Indiana, golf course about two weeks ago.

“My home,” he said, “is in Chicago.”

His journey, though, took its biggest step here.

“I think about ‘foundation,’ ” said Colts cornerback Kenny Moore, the 2017 waiver claim who became a Pro Bowl player under Eberflus. “That’s where everything started.”

Eberflus joined the Colts in the most bizarre of circumstances. After being hired in January 2018 to run Josh McDaniels’ defense, he watched the Patriots assistant walk away from the head-coaching job before the introductory news conference. Eberflus was already under contract, though, and stayed when the Colts named Frank Reich their coach.

He inherited the third-worst defense in terms of points allowed. In three of the next four years, the Colts finished in the top 11. Eberflus preached his H.I.T.S. system, a hustle-based grading approach he adapted from former Bears coordinator Rod Marinelli.

That passion — “Just trying to bring a lot of energy to the defense,” said defensive end Kwity Paye, who spent his rookie season with Eberflus — and approach to detail helped him land the Bears’ head-coaching job last year.

“I think it was only a matter of time,” Moore said. “We all knew how much he meant to this defense. But to be over a team, we knew he could get the job done.”

The next step is just that: getting the job done. Eberflus went 3-14 in his first season and holds the franchise’s worst career winning percentage for a coach. He has won more preseason games than regular-season games. The Bears were rebuilding, though. By the end of last season, they were using

$15 million more of their salary cap on players who were on other teams than they were on their own active roster.

Eberflus has better players this year. Now he needs to produce. He made what could prove to be a defining decision when he decided to sit quarterback Justin Fields and “select starters” for the game Saturday to protect them from injury. They certainly need the work, even after two intense joint practices.

During those sessions, Eberflus counted about 25 Colts still on the roster that he knew well. On Thursday, he spent time with star linebacker Shaquille Leonard and his wife.

“[The] significance of just seeing old friends,” Eberflus said. “There’s a lot of people here that I love and that I really support, from the players to the GM to really everybody. . . .

“It hasn’t been that far removed. I know a lot of them. I know a lot of the families.”

He’s not the only Bears staffer rooted in Indianapolis:

† Defensive coordinator Alan Williams was the Colts’ secondary coach from 2002 to 2011 and again from 2018 to 2021.

† Linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi did the same job in Indianapolis from 2018 to 2021.

† Assistant defensive backs coach David Overstreet served in the same role with the Colts in 2021 after being their defensive quality-control coach from 2018 to 2020.

“I spent 14 years here — raised a family,” Williams said. “So it’s always good to come back. But you know what? The Bears are my family now. It’s good to come back with guys that are supporting me. Supporting us.”

And vice versa, even if Eberflus had to chide Moore on Thursday for touching Fields on a pass rush.

“Just to see him in the flesh again, it meant a lot,” Moore said. “To go out and compete and show him, ‘This is where it started.’ ”

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