The Chicago Bears have made their decision on their head coach.
After meetings this week on Monday and Tuesday, ownership, president/CEO Kevin Warren, and GM Ryan Poles have decided to retain Matt Eberflus after a 10-24 record in his first two seasons, going 2-10 in the division. A decision to the dismay of most fans, who hoped the hot streak by the Bears against a bottom-tier schedule while still losing big leads in the fourth quarter three times and getting embarrassed by their biggest rivals would be enough to push him out the door. Alas, Eberflus stays.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was not so lucky. He was let go, along with the Bears QBs coach Andrew Janocko, RBs coach Omar Young, WRs coac Tyke Tolbert, and assistant TEs coach Tim Zetts. They kept their defensive and special teams staff intact, as well as TEs coach Jim Dray, OL coach Chris Morgan, passing game coordinator Jon Hoke, assistant OL coach Luke Steckel, and offensive quality control coach Zach Cable.
In an ideal world, to most fans including me, the Bears would have seen the blown leads, the 7-10 record with the 5th easiest schedule in the NFL, and the general baffling game management on both sides of the ball and have restarted with the coaching staff, and then having Ryan Poles work with the new staff to determine whether to keep QB Justin Fields or trade him and draft a QB at number 1 overall. Especially in a year where many highly-esteemed coaches seem to be available, including guys with experience in Jim Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, Mike Vrabel, and Bill Belichick, and rising coordinator names like Ben Johnson, Bobby Slowik, and Mike Macdonald, younger guys who are more familiar with the modern NFL.
Quickly now, the Bears will have to rebuild their staff and hire both an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator (remember, former DC Alan Williams resigned under mysterious circumstances back in week 3). Eberflus failed to build a quality staff his first go-around, but he will get at least one more chance to fix it, and he better do so, because the Bears will either be pushing for him to make the playoffs in year 3 with Justin Fields coming back, or to show he can help develop a rookie QB after he botched Fields development with the hiring of Luke Getsy.
So who could the Bears hire? I’ll give my top 5 coordinator options at both spots.
1. Shane Waldron, Seattle Seahawks OC
Waldron is probably by far the best candidate for the Bears, and they may be lucky he’s a candidate at all, due to the Seahawks parting ways with Pete Carroll. He has overseen an offense that, between an aging Russel Wilson and Geno Smith, has finished 7th, 13th, and 12th in offensive DVOA in his three seasons as their OC calling plays, as well as 10th in EPA/play (explosiveness) and 13th in success rate (consistency) over that stretch. The counting and volume numbers are more average, but the efficiency numbers show a very good offensive mind and scheme. Before that, he was with the Rams under Sean McVay for four years, where he was their passing game coordinator for three of those seasons. This is the exact modern NFL mind you would want, young, has experience developing QBs (not necessarily a “young” QB in Smith, but he revived his career; of QBs with 700 snaps or more the last 3 seasons, Smith is 11th in EPA+CPOE composite), and has called plays for a well above average offense. After the Bears didn’t do the slam dunk of firing Eberflus and hiring Harbaugh, they can at least do this slam dunk.
2. Ken Dorsey, former Buffalo Bills OC
Many might hate this because the Bills were 5-5 with Dorsey but 6-1 without him after he was fired midseason. But the Bills issue early this season was their defense playing terribly due to injuries; they’ve gotten healthier and better since early November. They were 2nd in offensive DVOA last season with Dorsey, and sure much of that may be attributed to Josh Allen, but Dorsey was their QBs coach from 2019-2021, when Allen made his leap; he helped him develop along with Brian Daboll. In fact, their EPA/play and success rate fell substantially after the change from Ken Dorsey to Joe Brady at OC (from 0.117 EPA/play and 51.5% success to 0.071 EPA/play and 44.4% success). Dorsey has two years with experience calling plays and developing a young QB. The Bills job developing Josh Allen is exactly how Eberflus and Getsy should have been developing Fields, letting him make mistakes while still learning to play from the pocket and throw downfield. Instead, they preached taking care of the ball far too much. Dorsey could either help fix Fields or develop Caleb Williams (or a different rookie) the same way Allen was developed.
3. Kliff Kingsbury, USC QBs Coach
Kingsbury flamed out as the Cardinals head coach, but he was at least able to field a middle of the pack offense (14th in offensive DVOA, 13th in EPA/play, 13th in success rate) in his three seasons there before the season where Kyler Murray got injured. He also helped develop Murray at least into a solid QB, though between his height disadvantage and play in 2022, people question if he’s a franchise QB. If the Bears want to make the transition to the NFL easy for Caleb Williams (if they choose that direction), they can hire the guy who helped him develop into the near-definite number 1 pick at USC.
4. Kevin Patullo, Eagles Passing Game Coordinator
Now we get a couple of up-and coming names who are connected to Matt Eberflus. Patullo was a candidate in 2022 before the hiring of Getsy, He was the passing game coordinator and WRs coach under Frank Reich in 2018-2020, when Eberflus also worked there. He has been the Eagles associate head coach under Nick Sirriani. Seeing as how well Shane Steichen has done with the Colts, maybe take a shot at Patullo? He may be promoted to the Eagles OC spot if they move on from Brian Johnson.
5. Jerrod Johnson, Houston Texans QBs Coach
A lot of head coach talk has been on the Texans’ OC, Bobby Slowik, but Johnson deserves some credit for how good CJ Stroud has looked this season too. Johnson was an offensive assistant from 2019-2021 also under Reich in Indianapolis, so Eberflus should be familiar with him. It may be a bit soon to have him rise all the way up to offensive coordinator already though.
Note: As of now it appears Matt Eberflus will retain playcalling on defense, but that is subject to change. That means it’s unlikely the Bears get a top-tier DC like Ejero Evero, Wink Martindale, or Patrick Graham, but there remains good options, whereas in theory (if Eberflus weren’t a potential lame duck head coach) any potential OC candidate would be interested in the OC job as they can have near full autonomy.
1. Phil Snow, Chicago Bears Defensive Analyst
The numbers for Snow in his three seasons with Carolina don’t look that special (slightly below average in DVOA, average in EPA/play and success rate allowed, slightly below average in yards and points allowed except for being 2nd in yards allowed in 2021), but his biggest advocate to be promoted to DC is in how the Bears defense performed before he was brought in versus after. In weeks 1-6, the Bears defense was 31st in EPA/play allowed and bottom 10 in success rate allowed, failing to create big plays or not let offenses walk all over them. From week 7 to the end of the season, they jumped to 5th in EPA/play allowed and 8th in success rate allowed, as well as easily led the NFL in takeaways and have more than double the sacks down the stretch than early. Obviously Montez Sweat was the biggest reason for these shifts, but Snow definitely had a positive impact as well.
2. Jon Hoke, Chicago Bears CBs coach
The Bears best defensive position this season was probably the cornerback position, thus giving Hoke (who assists on both sides of the ball) a case for the job. Jaylon Johnson had his best career season, allowing a passer rating of 25.6 in single coverage and ranking as PFF’s highest graded CB. Tyrique Stevenson may have ended up as the second best rookie cornerback of the season after Devon Witherspoon. Kyler Gordon emerged as a very stout slot CB against the pass and run down the stretch. And Terrell Smith put in some good work when there were injuries. With the development at his position, Hoke deserves an interview.
3. Chris Harris, Tennessee Titans DBs coach
Harris was under consideration for a job with the Bears before taking the Titans job, where he did well given a group that didn’t have a lot of investment. Before his time in Tennessee, Harris led Washington over three seasons as their DBs coach to the 8th best passing offense in the league and 13th in dropback EPA/play allowed. His connection as a former Bear would make him a welcome addition to the team.
4. Lovie Smith, former Houston Texans (and Chicago Bears) HC/Leslie Frazier, former Buffalo Bills DC
A homecoming for Lovie Smitj? His scheme, even if outdated, is similar to that of Matt Eberflus, and his defenses in Houston were respectable at least (the numbers are ugly, but Houston had 0 offense in 2021-22). He would give the Bears stability at the DC position, and would also have the former Bear connection. Copy and paste what was said about Lovie and do it for Leslie Frazier. Buffalo was third in EPA/play allowed in his time as DC from 2017-22, and 13th in success rate allowed. The cloud over him remains his and Sean McDermott’s brutal mistakes against the Chiefs that allowed them to score in 13 seconds. Ultimately, you could do worse than a guy with the amount of experience he has.
5. Eric Washington, Buffalo Bills DL Coach
Washington has connections to Eberflus as well as previous experience as DC for two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Now his defenses were bad there, but the team didn’t have much talent. He has played an instrumental role in developing the defensive linemen for the Bills, including Ed Oliver, Gregory Rousseau, AJ Epenesa, Leonard Floyd, and Daquan Jones. The Bears have a lot of young DL who need development.