Over the past decade, it felt like Chicago Bears regimes chose to distance themselves from players and coaches of the past. They didn’t want to distract themselves with alumni. They were more interested in charting a new course for the franchise, not focusing on the past. That seemed to change once Matt Eberflus took over. The new head coach made it his mission to reach out to as many legends of the organization as possible, introducing himself and inviting them to Halas Hall whenever they like.
Initial beliefs were he did this out of reverence. Eberflus admitted Dick Butkus was his idol growing up since he was a linebacker in high school and college. That would make sense. However, people may not be giving the man enough credit. Eberflus didn’t get to become a head coach in the NFL by being stupid. Smart coaches always have more than one angle on something. Yes, the man wants to embrace the history of the organization. That said, he has a purpose for doing so, as he explained to Albert Breer of the MMQB.
The coach spent time reaching out to more than 30 alumni after being hired to try to involve them, and that work is already bringing results. Legends of the ’85 Bears, Richard Dent and Gary Fencik, spoke with the team in the spring, 2000s icon Peanut Tillman addressed the rookies at their first meeting in the facility, and the idea here is that all of it will have more than just sentimental value. “Those guys, they laid the foundation for how to play, how the Bears should play,” Eberflus told me Friday. “And we’re embracing that.”
Now, this is something not enough people talk about.
All of these alumni had great success in their careers. It wasn’t just that they understood how to win. That, by itself, is valuable. It is more than they understood how to win in Chicago. That is the vital fact previous regimes overlooked. Winning in Chicago isn’t easy. It takes a certain kind of mental fortitude. Fans expect a physical and violent playing style overlapped by intelligence. This is how their teams have won for decades.
Guys like Dent, Fencik, and Tillman know this. Eberflus knows that by picking their brains, he can give his current roster of players a better understanding of how to navigate Chicago. If they want to succeed and have the fans love them, they must embrace what Bears Football is perceived to be. Somewhere over the past ten years, that identity was lost. This new head coach is keen on getting it back.
Matt Eberflus is a modern throwback.
He understands the NFL is a different animal these days. It is a game driven by quarterbacks and a game in need of constant innovation to stay on top. He’s embraced this reality. At the same time, he also knows teams with old school identities can still win. He wants his Bears to be like those teams of the 2000s and 1980s. They were fast and physical. Opponents didn’t want to play them because Sundays would be a crucible.
There is plenty of proof that his style of play has a place in today’s football. Look at teams like the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, or San Francisco 49ers. They’re known for excellent defense, violent offense, and never beating themselves with bad mistakes. That is where Matt Eberflus wants to get his team.
Bears alumni can help with that.
Tillman already spoke with the younger players on the roster last month. Former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli stopped in as well. Not everybody may take their advice to heart, but those that do will be much better equipped to handle Chicago’s expectations.
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