With the extended weekend behind them, it sounds like the Bears are getting close to adding some help to their defensive coaching staff. On Monday, head coach Matt Eberflus shed light on the situation and said if the team makes a hire, it would be for a senior defensive analyst– or someone to help the team with their advanced preparation and someone who might have some different perspectives on how the team can attack opposing offenses.
“I don’t have names, I don’t have a timetable for that right now at this time,” Eberflus said. “But that will be coming shortly. And we’re looking forward to adding that — if we choose to do that.”
The Bears have operated without a defensive coordinator for most of the season, since former defensive coordinator Alan Williams stepped away from the team in the lead up to Week 2 and eventually resigned to focus on his health and his family. In his absence Eberflus has taken over defensive playcalling duties. During the week, the Bears rely on their position coaches to each pitch in on the gameplan. Eberflus said he plans on continuing to call defensive plays, even if the Bears add someone to the staff.
Of course, the Bears can only add coaches who are available and interested. They also have to be a good fit in Eberflus’ scheme and program. Rod Marinelli seemed like he would’ve been a good fit, since Eberlus cites him as a mentor and Eberflus worked on Marinelli’s staff in Dallas for several years. However, Eberflus said on Monday that Marinelli is “very comfortable in retirement.” With Marinelli off the table, four options who come to mind immediately are Lovie Smith, Gary Pinkel, Leslie Frazier and Charles Tillman. Here’s why and why not each man could be a good fit for the job.
Smith did the Bears a solid by winning his last game as the Houston Texans head coach– and handing the Bears the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft. Would he want to help them some more? The defense Smith ran while he was the head coach of the Bears from 2004-2012 is similar to Eberflus’ defense, and Eberflus’ H.I.T.S. principles include the same loafs Smith handed out when he was in Chicago. The two coaches seem to see the game the same way, so there shouldn’t be any question about fit. The offensive struggles under Smith’s watch kept them from their ultimate goal, but he led some of the best defenses in franchise history. He’s got undeniable success in the scheme. George McCaskey might have fond memories of some of that success, but Eberflus might not want a familiar face back at Halas Hall when questions about his future started popping up so recently.
Eberflus cites Pinkel as one of his biggest mentors, often. Pinkel was Eberflus’ coach for one season when Flus played linebacker at Toledo. It was Pinkel who also gave Eberflus his first job as a coach, and when Pinkel moved from Toledo to Missouri, he brought Eberflus with him and made Flus his defensive coordinator. Pinkel is a Hall of Fame coach, but he retired in 2015 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. At the time, Pinkel said he wanted to focus on his health and his family as he went through treatment. He might not want to return to football. Further, Flus said he’d prefer if his senior defensive analyst had experience in the NFL, and Pinkel has none.
Frazier stepped away from coaching ahead of the 2023 season with the stated intention of returning to coaching in 2024. If he still wants to return the Bears should look into bringing him on board. Frazier has an incredible amount of experience in Eberflus’ system and helped build up the Bills into one of the most formidable defenses in the league. Further, he worked with Tremaine Edmunds and helped Edmunds become a premiere pass defending linebacker. Of course, Frazier has ties to Chicago as a member of the beloved ‘85 Bears. Frazier suffered a career-ending injury in Super Bowl XX so he didn’t finish the game, but he led the team with six interceptions that season. But Frazier might want a second crack at being a head coach, and he might not see the Bears as a good stepping stone for that opportunity.
Tillman is one of the best cornerbacks to play in the style that Eberflus wants, and his Peanut Punch changed the way defenders play the ball. We also know that Eberflus loves Tillman, and has had Tillman speak in front of the team twice. Who better to come in with fresh ideas to help? The problem is the last we heard Tillman was still working for the FBI. In addition, Tillman has no coaching experience. It’s unclear whether Tillman’s lengthy playing career suffices for the type of experience Eberflus is looking for in a “senior defensive analyst” role, but he may want someone who’s got some level of familiarity working as a coach.
Eberflus said the team is considering a few guys to be their senior defensive analyst, and that he’s received lots of positive feedback from potential hires.
Christine Lake is a sports fanatic who lives and breathes athletics. With an extensive background in sports journalism, he covers everything from major league championships to grassroots sports events. When she’s not on the field or at the stadium, you’ll find Christine coaching youth sports teams.