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CHICAGO (CBS) — For more than a decade, the Bears have watched the Packers dominate the NFC North, but new general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus are confident they can quickly change that narrative as they take command at Halas Hall.
“We’re going to take the North and never give it back,” Poles declared at the pair’s introductory press conference on Monday.
Poles, hired last week to replace Ryan Pace as the team’s general manager, takes over after a 6-11 season for the Bears, their first losing season since 2017.
He said one of his first tasks in taking the helm is evaluating the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and being aggressive about fixing what’s broken.
“We’re going to have a relentless approach to fix our weakness. We’re going to maintain great self-awareness of who we are. We’re going to solve problems with open communication and candor. And we’re going to consistently put players in position to succeed. And the last thing, the most important piece, is we’re going to take the North and never give it back,” he said.
Poles’ first move as GM was hiring Eberflus, one of three finalists selected by the same search team that hired him. While Poles was given free reign to interview each finalist and bring in more candidates for the head coach position if he wanted, Poles said he knew right away when he met Eberflus that he was the man for the job.
“The moment he walked in the room, I knew that he was the guy, and especially when he started going through his plan,” Poles said.
Poles said he was particularly impressed with the “fast, violent” style of defense he saw the Colts play under Eberflus’ leadership the past four seasons.
Eberflus plans to bring that same style of play to both the offense and defense for the Bears, and expects to spend his first year as head coach building the foundation of what the team will look like long-term.
“We will play at a high tempo, a high effort, attacking physical style built upon speed, quickness, and explosive athletic ability. We will carry ourselves with an attitude of passion, energy, and intensity. We will play with maximum effort on every play,” he said. “My next piece of advice for the players, for sure, is, ‘Get your track shoes on, because we’re running.’”
Eberflus said he plans to implement detailed standards for performance for his players, describing what he dubbed his “HITS” principle – hustle, intensity, taking care of the ball and taking the ball away, and smart situational players.
“It’s a hitting, physical style. Offense, defense, kicking,” he said.
Poles said he’s confident the Bears can be competitive right away, pointing to the Bengals as an example of a quick turnaround. The newly crowned AFC champions were the one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2020 with a 4-11-1 record, but rebounded to go 10-7 in 2021 en route to winning the AFC North title, and a berth in Super Bowl LVI.
“The beautiful thing about football is what we just saw with the Bengals,” Poles said. “Everyone, once the Super Bowl is played, goes back to 0-0, and has the ability to improve their roster, make changes. We all know it’s fluid on a yearly basis. So we’re going to attack it, and our goal’s always going to be in contention and win games.”
Key to the goal of building a consistent contender will be for Poles and Eberflus to build an offense around Justin Fields, who had an inconsistent rookie season, and both head coach and GM said they look forward to finding out what Fields does best, and letting him do that as much as possible, while helping him fix any weaknesses in his game.
As for the rest of the roster, Poles
“We’re going to build through the draft. We’re going to acquire young, fast, and physical football players. We’re going to be selective in free agency, and we’re going to connect evaluation with valuation,” he said.
Also key to returning the Bears to Super Bowl contention will be whether their newly hired offensive coordinator Luke Getsy can craft a potent offense around Fields.
The Bears hired Getsy away from the Packers, where he spent the past two seasons as their quarterbacks coach, helping star Aaron Rodgers turn in arguably the best back-to-back seasons of his storied career.
Under Getsy, Rodgers threw for 4,299 yards in 2020, with 48 touchdowns and 70.7% completion rate – both career bests – on the way to his third career MVP award. He followed that up with another 4,000-yard season, with 37 touchdowns and a 68.9% completion rate, the second best completion percentage of his career. Rodgers is again considered among the favorites for the league MVP this season.
Bears fans are sick and tired of seeing the archrival Packers dominate the division since 2002, with 12 NFC North titles in the past 20 years, while the Bears have won the division only four times in that span. That’s thanks in large part to the Packers fielding a pair of Hall of Fame quarterbacks since 1992, with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers combining for 15 division titles, six MVP awards, and 20 Pro Bowl selections; while the Bears have struggled for decades to find a true franchise quarterback.
The Bears already might have taken an important step toward dethroning the Packers in hiring Getsy away from Green Bay.
Eberflus said Getsy has been on his radar for years, calling him an “innovative” strategist.
“I’m big into metrics, and where he comes from they’re big on that,” Eberflus said. “He’s tough, innovative, smart, and works well with team. He’s a big team guy.”
With Eberflus’ coaching career spent entirely on the defensive side of the ball, Getsy likely will have free reign to design the offense around Fields as he sees fit.
Source: CBS Chicago