Ryan Poles, Matt Eberflus prioritizing 'culture' as they prepare to rebuild Bears


INDIANAPOLIS (670 The Score) -- New Bears coach Matt Eberflus still has his house in Indiana’s capital city, which he called home for the last four years. He walked back through those doors this week and savored the calm.

“What’s that saying, your heart is where your home is? Or something like that,” Eberflus said with a smile Tuesday.

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Eberflus left his Indianapolis home on Jan. 26 and traveled to Halas Hall, where he was named the Bears’ new coach one day later. What has occurred since has been one of the most demanding stretches of his 30-year coaching career, as he assembled a coaching staff, reviewed Chicago’s roster and began working with new general manager Ryan Poles on their blueprint for the future.

This week, Eberflus returned to Indianapolis with Poles and many other members of the Bears organization to begin implementing their plan at the NFL Combine. It’s a week that features countless evaluations of prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft and which forms the foundation for free agency in two weeks.

For the Bears' new regime, the moves that lie ahead will set course for the future of the franchise. Poles and Eberflus are seeking to rebuild the Bears with players who fit a certain mold.

"It's guys that are passionate about football,” Poles said. “They're about the team. They want to win. They're motivated. They have a purpose. They're tough. They're physical. All of those things that we're looking for."

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Poles saw those traits firsthand during his 13 years rising through the Chiefs’ scouting department. The success of Kansas City is about more than just future Hall of Fame coach Andy Reid and superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes. What Poles takes pride in from his Chiefs tenure is how the team ascended into a Super Bowl champion by creating a deep, talented roster around the quarterback position.

For Eberflus, establishing a strong culture is why he believes the Colts had one of the NFL’s top defenses during his four years as defensive coordinator in Indianapolis. The Colts identified overlooked players like linebacker Darius Leonard and cornerback Kenny Moore and formed a unit that ranked in the top 10 in takeaways for each of the last four seasons. Eberflus saw that as the result of players buying in.

Since his hiring by the Bears, Eberflus has sent text messages to each player under contract to introduce himself and offer a message.

“Hey, you’re walking on fresh grass here,” Eberflus said of what he told them. “This is a new staff, new systems. You have to learn it. You’ve got to dive into it, and you’ve got to put everything you have into it.

“Because the way we ask them to play in terms of the physical style, the effort, the mental intensity, those things right there are going to be different right there to those players."

The Bears seem likely to release linebacker Danny Trevathan and perhaps defensive lineman Eddie Goldman and running back Tarik Cohen in an effort to clear salary cap space. But whom they'll covet in free agency remains uncertain. Poles indicated the Bears’ priority will be to build around 22-year-old quarterback Justin Fields with hopes of seeing his “high ceiling.” That could mean veteran additions on the offensive line and at wide receiver.

The Bears brought one of the largest groups to the NFL Combine, with Poles’ scouting staff and Eberflus’ coaching staff working together in the evaluations. While head coaches like the Rams' Sean McVay and 49ers' Kyle Shanahan declined to attend, Poles and Eberflus see this as an opportunity to establish their goals as a staff.

Poles is implementing a scouting process similar to that in Kansas City under former Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, who relied heavily on a group dynamic. Each scout and coach have a voice in the evaluation, and then the group weighs in.

After the conclusion of a recent meeting, Poles told the group – comprised of his hand-picked hires along with some holdovers from the previous regime – how "proud" he was of their work in this first month together.

“It was a culture of candor,” Poles said. “It’s open. We watch tape. We have an order in the way we watch the tape. But after that, everyone can speak their mind. If I see something different than (a scout or coach), then I bring it up to the room and we work through it. You can tell me where you saw it different, and we’ll go find it. That group effort, I think, was refreshing to everyone.”

When the Bears hired Poles on Jan. 25, they turned their coaching search over to him. Rather than prioritizing an offensive guru or proven coaching record, he focused on the leadership trait. He found it in Eberflus, who was chosen over Jim Caldwell and Dan Quinn, two men who have coached in a Super Bowl.

Since being hired, Poles and Eberflus have worked to form a common vision. They believe winning goes beyond making the right free-agent signings and draft picks.

For the Bears’ new leadership, winning is also based in culture.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.