The Bears have operated without a defensive coordinator for most of the season, but there’s a chance that may change now that the team has an extended break before their next game. On Friday, head coach Matt Eberflus said the option to add another voice to the coaching staff is still on the table.
“We’re just working through that right now. We’ll have some conversations this weekend on that, but we’re just working through that.”
In the lead up to Week 2’s game against the Buccaneers, former Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams needed to step away from the team to focus on his health and his family. Williams eventually resigned from the team, and 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.
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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. Four options who come to mind immediately are Rod Marinelli, Lovie Smith, Gary Pinkel and Leslie Frazier.
Marinelli retired after the 2022 season, but one would imagine Eberflus would at least give him a call to see if he’s interested in unretiring. Eberflus worked on Marinelli’s Cowboys staff as a linebackers coach and has named Marinelli as one of his biggest mentors and influences several times. Marinelli is as experienced as they come in the type of defense Eberflus runs and even worked with the Bears as Lovie Smith’s assistant coach from 2009-2012. But would Marinelli want to leave the comforts of retirement to help out his old pal from Dallas?
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 often cites Pinkel as one of his biggest mentors. 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 at Toledo, and when Pinkel moved 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.
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.
“If it’s right for us and it works for us, that’s great. If it doesn’t, it will be what it is,” said Eberflus. “But we’re still looking at it. We have an open mind certainly on all those things to make us better, and there’s nothing wrong with bringing someone in that can help, that has a different perspective. Again, we’re open minded to that.”