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Matt Eberflus shares his plan for leading a winning Chicago Bears team — instilling high intensity and accountability and building a motivated coaching staff

After an hourlong introduction as the 17th head coach of the Chicago Bears, Matt Eberflus had just sat down Monday for a round of small-group interviews in the Halas Hall media room when he paused to check his phone.

A few moments of silence followed as he digested what was on the small screen.

“I’ve got a lot of balls up in the air,” Eberflus said, explaining he has crucial hires ahead for defensive and special teams coordinators and offensive and defensive line coaches.

Eberflus spent 17 years in the college coaching ranks before his 13-year NFL defensive coaching career in Cleveland, Dallas and Indianapolis. So he figures that recruiting experience from college will help him in the days ahead as he fills out his coaching staff after making his first hire — offensive coordinator Luke Getsy — over the weekend.

“Oh, it’s an easy sell,” he said. “Chicago Bears? Easy. And then you sell working relationships, how you give guys their room and you support them as the head football coach.”

Introductory news conferences in the NFL are usually about selling — to the media and to fans — a vision of what’s ahead for a team. And Eberflus’ pitch Monday, as he was introduced with new general manager Ryan Poles, was that he will bring high intensity and accountability to help turn around a Bears team that had only one winning season in four under his predecessor, Matt Nagy.

He gave a few key bits of news.

  • His defensive coordinator will call defensive plays so Eberflus can focus on leading the team as a whole.
  • The defense will transition from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 — the third time he has been a part of making such a switch — though he noted the Bears will “adjust and move and be flexible” based on the players they have.
  • And he was short on specific evaluations of current Bears players, including quarterback Justin Fields, simply saying he’s excited to dive into a development plan for Fields.

More time was spent explaining wider philosophies. Eberflus is the type of coach who can recite detailed principles of what he will expect from his players and staff.

When giving his opening monologue, he brought up his HITS principle, which he previously detailed during his four seasons as the Colts defensive coordinator. The tenets are hustle, intensity, taking care of the ball and taking the ball away and staying smart situationally.

In answering a question about the challenges for a first-time head coach, he talked about finding assistants who model, inspire, challenge and encourage.

Later, in a small-group interview, he listed three traits he thinks good coaches need: positivity, attention to detail and an edge.

“That’s the winning edge,” he said. “That’s the way you carry yourself, your focus, your intensity.

For Eberflus, who played linebacker in college at Toledo, the intensity part is innate and key to how he operates.

“Super intense, just from this high,” Eberflus said, putting his hand just above the floor. “But over the years, I’ve learned how to harness that for good. Intensity can be not a good thing, so I’ve learned how to move that in with kindness.

“So I’m very intense, but I’m also very kind and compassionate in terms of others. So I want to be able to work with others and work with coaches to get them to a spot where they couldn’t take themselves in partnership with the coach.”

Until such principles result in wins, there’s bound to be outside skepticism, and Eberflus already faced questions Monday about how he plans to get players to buy in and whether some of his methods might wear thin.

But Eberflus already has sold himself to one key person: Poles.

Poles said he was drawn to the Colts defense under Eberflus, which played with fast, violent effort while finishing in the top 10 in several categories over the years, including 33 takeaways and 21.5 points allowed per game in 2021.

Poles first spoke with Eberflus years ago to better understand who he was as a coach and a person and had him on his list of potential head coaches to present to teams with which he interviewed.

Eberflus initially interviewed with the Bears search committee over Zoom before Poles was on board. When Eberflus was selected for an in-person interview, he spent a few minutes with Chairman George McCaskey before sitting in a room for five or more hours with Poles, who had been hired a day earlier.

Poles said he immediately knew Eberflus was his guy.

“It was his standard,” Poles said. “He had a high standard for what he wanted out of a team and he had a plan to raise the bar in terms of what we were going to become. His passion for the game, his discipline, those are some of the key ingredients to get a team off the ground and headed in the right direction. And then connections to a really good staff as well. That was important. And a plan that wasn’t just short term, but there was long-term thought into it as well.

“When you know you got one, you got one. And I’m a guy that when I have conviction about it, it’s time to go. That’s kind of how everything fell into place.”

Now Eberflus is focusing his attention on making his ideal coaching staff fall into place with Getsy, whom he called tough, innovative, smart and a team player.

Eberflus has had a host of coaching mentors over the years — he thanked Gary Pinkel, Rod Marinelli, Nick Saban and his high school coach, Pat Gucciardo, in his opening monologue — to help him understand the best way to manage his staff.

“You give them space,” he said. “You give them working room. You’re not hovering over top of them. You hire good people and then you let them do their job.”

There’s a lot of work to be done in the days ahead.