The Matt Eberflus experiment has been nothing short of a disaster. An abysmal 6-21 record, a defense that, up until the last two games, had given up 27 or more points in 13 of its previous 14 games, and a failure to hire the right coaches have led to another year where the Bears will likely have the No. 1 overall pick. It's time for him and the rest of this coaching staff (except for new defensive analyst Phil Snow and special teams coordinator Richard Hightower) to be shown the door out of Halas Hall.
Eberflus bought himself a chance to stay with a win over the Commanders, but the final nail in the coffin has been closed on his tenure in Chicago with an embarrassing 19-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Eberflus has yet to win a game against the NFC North in his one-and-half seasons, and that should be all I need to say about why Eberflus needs to go. I wrote a piece that Eberflus and company needed to be fired. After Sunday, I firmly stand with what I said back then.
With that already set in stone, let's look to the future at who should be the next coach for the Bears. There are a lot of different names swirling around at who could be next in line for the job, but I wanted to pin down five of the best options for Chicago.
1. Ben Johnson
This is the hottest head coaching candidate for multiple teams around the league. The former UNC walk-on quarterback has been coaching at various offensive roles for the past 11 seasons, including tight ends coach, quarterbacks coach, and wide receiver coach for the Dolphins starting in 2012 before becoming the passing game coordinator and offensive coordinator for the Lions in 2021.
Johnson has seemingly revitalized Jared Goff's career after a couple of disappointing seasons in 2019 and 2020 following the Rams Super Bowl appearance. After a mediocre year in 2021 with Johnson as the passing game coordinator, Goff broke out once again in 2022 as the OC. For the first time since 2018, Goff was named to the Pro Bowl after throwing for 4,438 yards. Twenty-nine touchdowns and just seven interceptions while leading the Lions to their first winning season since 2017. While Detroit didn't make the playoffs, it was one of the best seasons for the Lions in a long time, and Johnson had some genuinely great play designs like this one against the Bears.
The success for Goff and the Lions has continued into this year, as Detriot is leading the NFC North at 5-2 as the former No. 1 overall pick is fifth in the league in passing yards at 1,902 and is tied for 6th in touchdown passes.
The Bears need an offensive coach who can be creative and scheme guys to open beyond the Luke Guesty special screen pass that goes for -4 yards. Whether the quarterback is Justin Fields, Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or somebody else, Chicago needs a guy like Johnson, who has recent success in elevating a quarterback by making life easy for them. That's something I don't think Bears players have had since 2018, Matt Nagy propelling Mitch Trubisky to a Pro Bowl quarterback. Johnson has proven to be a good offensive play-caller and, I think, knows how to lead a unit. It all just comes down to whether he can lead an entire team.
2. Dan Quinn
There is a reason that the only defensive-minded coach on this list is a former head coach. Not to say that other defensive coordinators couldn't do a good job, but I would prefer them to be a former head coach with a history of hiring good offensive coaches. Matt Eberflus has not, but the current DC for the Cowboys has in the past. During his time in Atlanta, Quinn hired Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator in 2015 and provided one of the most explosive offenses in 2016. Shanahan helped Matt Ryan win NFL MVP that year by tossing a career-high 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns, 69.9% completion percentage, and a 9.3 yards per attempt.
While that season did end in the worst choke job in Super Bowl history, a 28-3 meltdown against the New England Patriots, Quinn still proved he is a good head coach. The main concern comes in the consistency of his time in Atlanta beyond just 2016. The Falcons never recovered after that season, with the team making the playoffs just once (2017) before being fired in 2020 after an 0-5 start for Atlanta. Blown leads were a common occurrence with Quinn, which will be a concern with the next team he interviews. However, if Poles wants to go after another defensive head coach, he should go with Quinn.
3. Shane Waldron
For the last head coaching candidate, I'm going to the Pacific Northwest to pluck Shane Waldron away from Pete Carroll and the Seahawks. I love what Seattle has done, not only with the players they have drafted but also with what Waldron has done with Geno Smith and the offense. While it hasn't been perfect every week, it has been a major success for Waldron and Smith. As I wrote in my quarterback rankings article back in September, Smith threw for over 4,000 yards for the first time in his career with 4,282, and he could reach that mark again in 2023.
What I like most is that he comes from the Sean McVay coaching tree, as he followed the Rams head coach to LA to become the tight ends coach in 2017. In the three seasons he was there, Waldron moved up the food chain to the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach before moving to Seattle. The reason is the amount of dynamic pre-snap motion that McVay calls for, and Waldron has carried that to Seattle, as the Seahawks ranked in the top half of the league in pre-snap motion in 2022.
It's also how Waldron uses the motion, like this play against the Bengals this year.
I think Waldron could have the same type of effect on D.J. Moore that Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell has had on Justin Jefferson. Jefferson is easily a top-3 receiver in the league, and while wouldn't put Moore in that same company, I think the amount of pre-snap motion the Vikings put Jefferson in has made him a better player and also opens the offense up for tight end T.J. Hockenson and rookie receiver Jordan Addison. If Waldron could expand Chicago's offense by drawing up more plays for Moore, that could open the door for a potential rookie Marvin Harrison Jr and Cole Kmet to really feast on offense. Despite Waldron never being a head coach at any level, he's been around the NFL since 2008 as an offensive quality coach in New England. Since then, he has coached under Bill Belichick, Chris Palmer (UFL), Mark Whipple, Pete Carroll, and McVay. That's quite the cast of coaches that Waldron has been able to learn from in his 15-year coaching career. I think Waldron could be an underrated hire if Ben Johnson goes elsewhere or stays in Detroit.
I think the creativity of Waldron's offense would benefit Justin Fields or whatever rookie quarterback the Bears would have on their roster. It would certainly make life easier for that quarterback compared to Luke Guetsy's run, run, screen pass offense he's been running for two seasons. It can't get much worse than that, and I think Waldron would be a substantial upgrade beyond just Guetsy being bad.
I can't wait until the end of this season so I and the rest of Bears fans can be free of the curse of Matt Eberflus and Luke Guetsy heading into the 2024 off-season.