With the extended offseason over, it appears the Bears are close to adding some help to their defensive coaching staff. On Monday, head coach Matt Eberflus highlighted the situation and said if the team were to hire a hire, it would be for a senior defensive analyst — or someone to help the team with its 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 timeline for it right now at this time,” Eberflus said. “But that will come soon. We look forward to adding that – if we choose to do so.”
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 family. In his absence, Eberflus took over the defensive play duties. During the week, the Bears rely on their position coaches on each field for their game plan. Eberflus said he plans to continue calling 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 must also be a good fit for the Eberflus scheme and programme. Rod Marinelli seemed like he would be a perfect fit, as Eberflus cited him as a mentor and Eberflus worked on Marinelli’s staff in Dallas for several years. However, Eberflus said Monday that Marinelli is “very comfortable in retirement.” With Marinelli off the table, four options that immediately come to mind are Lovie Smith, Gary Pinkel, Leslie Frazier, and Charles Tillman. Here’s why and why not every man can be right for the job.
Smith had a solid performance for the Bears by winning his final game as head coach of the Houston Texans — and giving the Bears the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft. Does he want to help them more? The defense Smith ran when he was the Bears’ head coach from 2004-12 is similar to Eberflus’ defense, and Eberflus’ HITS principles include the same loaves Smith distributed when he was in Chicago. The two coaches seem to look at the game the same way, so there shouldn’t be any doubt about fitness. The offensive struggles under Smith’s watch kept them away from their ultimate goal, but he led some of the best defenses in franchise history. He has had undeniable chart success. George McCaskey may have fond memories of some of that success, but Eberflus may not want a familiar face back in the Hall of Fame when questions about his future have begun to arise recently.
Eberflus often cites Pinkel as one of his biggest mentors. Pinkel was Eberfluss’ coach for one season when Fluss played linebacker at Toledo. It was Pinkel who also gave Eberfluss his first coaching job, and when Pinkel moved from Toledo to Missouri, he brought Eberfluss with him and made Fluss his defensive coordinator. Pinkel is a Hall of Fame coach, but retired in 2015 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the time, Pinkel said he wanted to focus on his health and family while undergoing treatment. Maybe he doesn’t want to return to football. Furthermore, Fluss said he would prefer his chief defensive analyst to have NFL experience, while Pinkel has none.
Frazier stepped away from coaching prior to the 2023 season with the stated goal of returning to coaching in 2024. If he still wants to return, the Bears should consider bringing him onto the team. Frazier has an incredible amount of experience in Eberflus’ system and has helped build the Bills into one of the strongest defenses in the league. Furthermore, he worked with Tremaine Edmonds and helped Edmonds become a key player in the defensive linebacker. Of course, Frazier has Chicago ties as a member of the beloved ’85 Bears. Frazier suffered a career-ending injury in Super Bowl XX so he did not finish the game, but he led the team with six interceptions that season. But Frazier may want a second chance at a head coaching job, and he may not see the Bears as a good starting point for that opportunity.
Tillman is one of the best corner kickers to play the style Eberflus wants, and his Peanut Punch has changed the way defenders play the ball. We also know that Eberflus likes Tillman, and has had Tillman speak in front of the team twice. Who better to come up with new ideas to help? The problem is, last we heard, Tillman was still working for the FBI. Additionally, Tillman has no coaching experience. It’s not clear if Tillman’s long career as a player is enough for the kind of experience Eberflus is looking for in a “senior defensive analyst” role, but he might want someone with a certain level of knowledge to serve as a coach.
Eberflus said the team is considering a few people to be senior defensive analysts, and that he has received a lot of positive feedback from potential hires.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”