(670 The Score) In the NFL’s age of offense, the Bears are set to hire a head coach whose background is in defense.
The Bears have tabbed Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as their next coach, a source confirmed Thursday. Eberflus, 51, has proved himself as a bright defensive mind over four seasons in Indianapolis, but how he fares in Chicago will ultimately be decided by 22-year-old quarterback Justin Fields' development.
That’s the inherent risk in hiring a defensive coach -- and especially so for a team like the Bears invested in the young Fields, who's going to need to learn his second playbook in as many NFL seasons.
That's in no way to say the Bears made a mistake in Eberflus, whose defensive principles inspire hope for what’s to come on that side of the football. It simply makes his offensive coordinator choice that much more important, as that individual will be tasked with guiding Fields.
There are plenty of examples across the NFL to learn and draw insight from.
Considered the greatest coach in NFL history, the Patriots' Bill Belichick hails from a defensive background, but a key part of his success has been continuity on offense. He has had just three offensive coordinators over 20 seasons with the Patriots, and their objective was to cater to the strengths of star quarterback Tom Brady.
In Tennessee, Titans coach and former NFL linebacker Mike Vrabel is 41-24 over four seasons while employing three different offensive coordinators. Two of them -- Matt LaFleur (Packers) and Arthur Smith (Falcons) -- were hired as head coaches after bringing the Titans success. If an offensive coordinator gets poached away from a defensive-minded head coach, it’s likely because he produced good results. But that can then create a challenge to identify the replacement.
Former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was recently fired after three seasons as the Broncos’ head coach. He brought Denver a strong defensive identity, but the offense struggled. Fangio fired offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello after his first season in 2019, but the Broncos still finished in the bottom one-third of the scoring rankings each season during Fangio's tenure.
A shining example of success for the Bears to see comes from the Chargers, whose second-year quarterback Justin Herbert produced a Pro Bowl campaign in 2021. He did so under the watch of rookie coach Brandon Staley, who hails from a defensive background. Staley hit on the hiring of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, the architect of a top-five offense.
The Bills also offer inspiration for the Bears given how offensive coordinator Brian Daboll developed quarterback Josh Allen and constructed a top-five offense. He has been alongside defensive-minded coach Sean McDermott since 2018 and is expected to be hired as a head coach in the coming week.
Across the NFL, there will be appeal in working with Fields. Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka, a Northwestern product, will be a top candidate for the Bears' offensive coordinator job if he doesn't get a promotion in Kansas City, where offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is a head coaching candidate across the league.
Current offensive coordinators Kevin O'Connell (Rams), Mike McDaniels (49ers) and Shane Steichen (Eagles) could be in play for the Bears given they each don't call plays in their respective positions. There are intriguing names in the college ranks too like Graham Harrell (West Virginia) and Tommy Rees (Notre Dame) who could make sense in Chicago.
For Eberflus, the greatest task at hand upon his arrival to Halas Hall will be identifying and hiring an offensive innovator who can bring the best out of Fields and build an identity that complements his defense.
How Eberflus fares with that challenge may determine whether he's the right answer for the Bears.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.