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INDIANAPOLIS — After receiving NFL head coaching interest for the last few years, Matt Eberflus is finally getting his big break with the Chicago Bears.
In a lengthy Q&A with CHGO, Eberflus discussed his coaching career and the challenges that await at Halas Hall. In Monday’s Part 1, the new head coach explained exactly how he’ll implement his H.I.T.S. principle when the players arrive in April. In today’s Part 2, Eberflus detailed his 30-year coaching career that led him to Chicago, including some important advice he once received from Nick Saban:
You mentioned in your NFL Combine press conference that you’ve been waiting for this for 30 years. You’re used to coming to the Combine, but you’re now here as a head coach. In what ways is it different?
Eberflus: Well, there’s obviously more time in the formal interviews and you’re looking at all positions now, rather than just looking at one side. That’s the major difference. Other than that, it’s really the same. You know, you’ve got more people coming up to you and congratulating you, which is cool. It’s always fun to see guys. I just met with the offensive line coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Frank Pollack, congratulating him on the great year they had. Him and I are old golfing buddies, so we got a chance to catch up over coffee this morning. So it’s been great.
Coaches always want to learn more, more, more. How much have you enjoyed the offensive meetings that you’ve been a part of, meeting with offensive prospects, and things like that?
Eberflus: That’s been great. Really just from the onset of meeting with Luke (Getsy) and the rest of the offensive staff and having individual conversations with the position coaches. Talking about either a run scheme or a pass concept. Really, imparting some, you know, other side perspective — defensive side perspective — in terms of technique, fundamentals and then what’s hard on that coverage. So I’ve done that a couple times. And I told them I have several ideas. I don’t want to be overbearing, so I just want to make sure that they’re running their respective sides. Like Alan (Williams) is running the defense, Luke’s running the offense and (Richard Hightower) is running the special teams. I meet with those guys a couple times a week in my office — ‘Hey, how’d it go the last day or so?’ And I might stop in (their meetings) for 15 minutes or so, but yeah, it’s been good.
So at what point did you realize you wanted to be a head coach?
Eberflus: Yeah that’s a great question. I think a lot of times you have your head down and you’re just so ingrained in your position. You know, I’ve looked back on that and I’ve reflected on that question because it’s been asked to me before.
When I became the linebacker coach at Toledo, I was really just focused on that. When you’re 22-23 years old, you’re focusing on that. And then you become a secondary coach. I remember when I took the job as the secondary coach when Phil Parker went to Iowa, I took over the secondary at Toledo and my dad said, ‘Hey, you sure you want to do that? If you get beat there, everybody notices.’ I said, yeah I want to do it. And the reason I did was because I remember having a conversation with Coach (Nick) Saban. He said if you want to coordinate, you want to do it from the back end so you can see the whole perspective from the back to the front. And that’s why I took that advice and did that.
I think a lot of times, you go along in your career and you become the defensive coordinator at Missouri, that’s when you start to notice, hey, the next step is the head football coach. And that’s when you start to realize it. I interviewed (for the head coaching job) at Southern Illinois back in the day. I interviewed back at my alma mater, University of Toledo. I interviewed there a couple times. It just wasn’t God’s time, that’s just the way it worked out, but yeah, so that’s when you start thinking about it.
Then I got a call from the Browns to get in the NFL way back 14 years ago and I took it. I got the job, I interviewed for the job and I got the linebackers job and it was always something I wanted to do. So at that point you’re saying — because Coach Pinkel said to me, “Hey are you sure you want to take that job? Because I know one of your goals was to be a head coach in college.” And I said to him, “Yeah, but one of my other goals was to be an NFL coach.” Because that to me was always the top of the top. The best coaches in the world and I wanted to be one of those guys. And I wasn’t there yet, but I wanted to make sure that I was working my way towards that. So I jumped at that chance to take it. He said, “It’s going to be harder for you to come back to be a head coach in college.” I said, “I understand that, this is what I want to do.” So I did it.
You spent the first 29-30 years of your life in Toledo. So what was that like when Coach Pinkel left to go to Missouri? Coaches are usually used to moving all the time, but for the first time in your life you had your first big move. What was that part of your life like?
Eberflus: Yeah, so I was pre-warning my wife, Kelly, and my mother, saying hey, “If we keep playing this well, we’re going to move.” And they were like, “Yeah right, yeah right.” I said, “No, that’s for real. Coach is going to get a job somewhere.” So Coach got some interviews. Arizona State and Missouri were his top two at the end and we didn’t know where we were going. And then he ends up taking the Mizzou job because of (former Missouri athletic director) Mike Alden, who he felt comfortable with as the AD there.
And it was weird. It was strange. Because all of your 29 years of your life are in Toledo and all the sudden now, this is what I told Kelly, I said, “Now we’re going to become a college football family.” Because, before, we were just there (in Toledo). We went to school there. It was kind of an extension of me growing up and her going to college there. And then we’re off to Missouri by ourselves. We had an eight-month-old at the time, which she’s 22 years old today.
Oh, well, happy birthday to her.
Eberflus: Yeah, so Grace is 22 today. She’s out in California time so she’s not up yet. I sent her a text already.
So she was eight months old when we went to Missouri. It was kind of surreal a little bit. You’re off on your own. We just started a new family. It was just me, Grace and Kelly. So it was pretty cool.
Last thing I have for you: What’s your favorite part of Chicago so far and being the head coach of the Chicago Bears head coach?
Eberflus: North Shore is really nice because there are a lot of good towns and little pockets there. I’m excited about that. But we still like going downtown to eat. We really like going downtown there. Every time my girls are in town we head down there to go to dinner and it’s been great.
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