Early on in his tenure as Bears head coach, Matt Eberflus hammered home the importance of HITS. It’s an acronym that stands for “hustle,” “intensity,” “takeaways and taking care of the football,” and “smart, situational football,” and those four tenets are the pillars of his philosophy. Everything in Eberflus’ program is rooted in HITS. But over the course of the owners’ meetings in Florida this week, we learned Eberflus has at least one more mnemonic to drive home how he wants the Bears to play.
"It's the M&M principle,” Eberflus told reporters on Tuesday. “It's about having a great motor and about being mean, and that's what you need on your lines. The defensive line needs that and the offensive line needs that. You've got to finish, and when you finish the right way at the line level and you play with that demeanor, that meanness, that's the kind of guys we want to acquire. That's what we're going to expect of our guys up front. We can't do that this time of year until we get the pads on, but that's what we're going to expect. We're going to demand that."
It’s a tonal shift from last season, when the Bears noticeably lacked nastiness. Outside of Teven Jenkins, there were times when no offensive linemen even offered to help Justin Fields get back up after a sack, let alone standing up to the defense after a big hit. In one instance where Jenkins did try to stick up for Fields, drawing a penalty in the process, he was reprimanded on the field by Germain Ifedi. While the Bears can’t draw 15-yarders regularly for scrapping after the play, there’s a time and place to let an opponent know that they can’t mess with the QB and get away scot-free.
It sounds as if phrases like “playing through the echo of the whistle” will be back at Halas Hall, and some of the team’s free agent acquisitions reflect that. Ryan Poles described Lucas Patrick as a “prick,” and said that’s what the Bears need on the line. But Eberflus has noticed a little M&M in players at the skill positions too, namely David Montgomery.
"You talk about motor and mean, yeah, he is that guy," Eberflus told reporters. "Serious. A pro. Worker. He's going to be exciting to work with, and he's going to fit right in.”
Last year, Montgomery made it clear he was tired of being slept on as a premier back in the league. He worked on his speed and was ready for a breakout season. The results were noticeable right away, as Montgomery showed extra burst on the field, and never went down easily. A knee injury prevented him from crossing the 1,000-yard threshold for a second-straight season, but Montgomery made a bigger impact on the offense than his stat line would suggest.
“He's the kind of guy that just says, 'Hey, watch me go. I'm not going to say a whole bunch of things, but just watch me do my job,’” Eberflus said.
As the Bears continue to add players of this nature it will be worth watching if that tenacity spreads to some of the team’s more mild-mannered players. The Bears’ voluntary offseason program begins next Monday, with more OTAs coming in May.