Eric Washington

Brian Burns praise, stellar resume show why Bears hired Eric Washington as DC

Eric Washington's reputation speaks for itself

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Bears general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus made it clear what they were looking for in an offensive coordinator after they fired Luke Getsy.

The Bears' power brokers were looking for someone with play-calling experience who was a good teacher, adaptable, and could create explosives.

Shane Waldron checked all those boxes.

However, the criteria for a new defensive coordinator was a little more nebulous, with Eberflus expected to retain play-calling duties in 2024.

But when the Bears officially hired Eric Washington on Saturday, it was immediately apparent why the now-former Buffalo Bills assistant head coach and defensive line coach was the pick.

Eberflus has always said he prioritizes the teaching and communication aspects of coaching. He wants the Bears to have the best teachers in the NFL.

Teaching and communication are vital parts of coaching. You have to be able to connect and develop trust with every member of your unit, starting with the players at the top.

Washington's ability to get the best out of his players was on full display during his time as defensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers. Washington took over as the defensive coordinator under Ron Rivera in 2018 when Steve Wilks was named head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

The Panthers' defense struggled in 2018 but improved in 2019 as Washington got the best out of a defensive line that included a rising star in Brian Burns.

“He gets to know you before he coaches you, because he wants to know how hard he can push you,” Burns told Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic in 2019. “He got to know me, and I think that’s why our bond is so tight and that’s why I’m able to learn.

“(People think) that coaching is just ‘coaching’. They don’t understand that bond you have to have with the player to get that response. They don’t really understand that.”

Veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was also on that Panthers' team and echoed Burns' praise for Washington.

“Him as a teacher, he breaks everything down step by step. He says that we are ‘professional rushers.’ But being a professional rusher, you have to teach it every year,” McCoy told Rodrigue. “You start from the ground and build it up — every single year, it doesn’t matter how many sacks you had, how much success you’ve had, you have to start it over. That’s how he teaches, and it works. That’s how he has built and created so many great players.”

Not only is Washington an elite teacher, but he has a wealth of experience running the 4-3 Tampa 2 defense that Eberflus employs.

Washington worked as a defensive assistant and defensive line coach under Lovie Smith in Chicago from 2008-2010. He then joined Rivera's staff in Carolina in 2011 as the defensive line coach. He occupied that position until 2018 when he was promoted to defensive coordinator. In 2020, Washington joined Sean McDermott's staff in Buffalo as a defensive line coach and assistant head coach.

Washington is well-versed in the scheme that Eberflus runs and wants his players to perfect. He is credited with aiding not only the development of Burns in Carolina, but also Ed Oliver, Greg Rousseau, and A.J. Epenesa in Buffalo.

Washington's track record speaks for itself. While Eberflus will continue to call plays, Washington will play a key role in crafting the week's game plan, making it digestible for each group, and helping Eberflus make in-game adjustments on Sundays. Washington will also be relied on to accelerate the growth of Gervon Dexter, Zacch Pickens, and a rookie edge rusher should the Bears select one come April.

Washington and defensive line coach Travis Smith must also unlock the next level of star edge rusher Montez Sweat's game. Sweat was dominant after coming over from Washington mid-season, but he and Smith were adamant that the 12.5-sack season in 2023 was just the tip of the iceberg.

Eberflus and Poles interviewed several candidates for the open defensive coordinator position. But they were quick to hire Washington once they got to speak with him, and it's clear why he was their choice.

His resume and reputation speak for themselves.

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