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Polian shares insights on Bears' search process

Bill Polian

During interviews with two Chicago sports radio stations, Hall of Fame NFL executive Bill Polian provided interesting insight about his role on the Bears' search team to find a new general manager and coach.

Polian was the only "outsider" on the five-member team, which also consisted of Bears chairman George H. McCaskey, president/CEO Ted Phillips, vice president of player engagement LaMar "Soup" Campbell and senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Tanesha Wade.

Here are the highlights of Polian's interview on the "Mully & Haugh Show" on WSCR 670 The Score:

• Polian revealed that it was McCaskey who wanted to cast a wide net for both positions and ensure that the search team and the search itself were as diverse as possible. The Bears ultimately interviewed 13 candidates for the general manager position—eight of whom were minorities—and 10 individuals for the head-coaching job—including five minorities.

"At the outset, George McCaskey mandated a couple of things, which, of course, every owner has the right to do," Polian said. "In George's case, he did it exceptionally well, and that is to have as wide and as deep a search as we could."

• Polian is convinced that the Bears filled both positions with the best candidates in general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus.

Poles, 36, spent the last 13 seasons rising through the ranks with the Chiefs as a player personnel assistant (2009), college scouting administrator (2010-12), college scouting coordinator (2013-16), director of college scouting (2017), assistant director of player personnel (2018-20) and executive director of player personnel (2021). Poles worked for three general managers in Kansas City: Scott Pioli (2009-12), John Dorsey (2013-17) and Brett Veach (2017-21).

Eberflus, 51, boasts 30 years of coaching experience, including 13 in the NFL. He joins the Bears after spending the last four seasons as Colts defensive coordinator.

"The two guys we got we felt like were the best fit for the Bears," Polian said, "Ryan because of his wide-ranging experience with three different regimes in Kansas City and three different ways of looking at personnel acquisition and management.

"And 'Flus' because of his wide-ranging experience with defenses around the league, and as I said to George at the time that Ryan had decided to hire Flus, it's back to the future; it's the same defense that took the Bears to the Super Bowl against us in Indianapolis in '06, so there's a history of success there."

• While pleased with the hiring process, Polian conceded that it will only be deemed a success if Poles and Eberflus transform the Bears into a winning team.

"The proof is in the pudding," Polian said. "What I or anyone else can say now is that George conceived of and led and nurtured a very open and wide and diverse search. And I think it's safe to say, and I think he said the other day, we feel good about the candidates that we interviewed and we feel really good about the people that we hired. But now it's their job to do, and only time will tell.

"There's a lot of work to be done. I'm certain they're hard at work doing it now, but in the end, we'll know three or four years from now whether or not this was a good decision. I'm certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, because of George's diligence and insistence on diversity and insistence on a wide search, that we got really good results. But in the end, the W's and L's tell the story."

• Polian, who constructed championship teams with the Bills, Panthers and Colts during 25 years as a general manager and team president, raved about how much he enjoyed his role on the Bears' search team.

"I couldn't be more satisfied, gratified, excited, happy," Polian said. "I maybe never had a better working experience than working with George and with the people on the committee. It was a collegial atmosphere. Everyone contributed. I learned a lot from others. I hope they learned a little bit from me. It was the most fun I've had in a long, long, long time, and that's largely due to George."

Here are the highlights of Polian's interview on the "Waddle and Silvy Show" on Chicago's ESPN 1000:

• Polian revealed that he and the rest of the Bears' search team were very impressed with Poles, saying: "I wouldn't say it was love at first sight because there was a lot of ground to cover. But by the end of the interview, I was convinced."

Polian noted that Poles not only worked for three different general managers with the Chiefs, but he was continually promoted throughout his 13 seasons in Kansas City.

"That tells you the quality of his work, the quality of person that he is," Polian said. "He did a remarkable job with the Chiefs and took from each of the general managers and systems that he worked with, things that were good and things that were bad, and he was able to articulate that. He was on top of everything from the get-go, and you learned from speaking with him that he's very forthright. He's going to tell you what's on his mind. There's not a lot of fluff there. There's nothing but substance, as befitting a [former] offensive lineman. The longer we went in the interview, the more convinced I was and I think everybody else was as well."

• Polian saw firsthand in Indianapolis how well Eberflus could command a room and coach defense. And while likening his defenses to the cover-two units that Tony Dungy ran with the Colts and Lovie Smith operated with the Bears a decade ago, Polian praised Eberflus for implementing his own elements to defend the spread formations and run/pass options that are prevalent in today's NFL.

"I know that he's created coverages that the defense was lacking prior to this new generation," Polian said. "You can't just play zone anymore the way Lovie did and the way Tony did. You have to have some changeups and some ability to blitz and some ability to take people away within the context of the passing game. [Eberflus] has done that."

Like Poles, Eberflus also impressed the search committee during his first interview. (Eberflus met solely with Poles for a second interview.)

"When he spoke to us, he resonated with everybody," Polian said, "with his approach to defense, with the approach to offense, running the ball, creating a good play-action passing game, which is going to be [quarterback Justin] Fields' best friend, emphasizing the idea that we do offensively what Fields feels comfortable with and can handle rather than a predetermined set of plays or predetermined system, and then finally Ryan's emphasis, along with Flus, on building the offensive line, which is the biggest job that they face going forward."

The search team also felt that Eberflus was the ideal candidate to instill accountability among players.

"He checked every box, and the bottom line was how he approached discipline," Polian said. "You're going to do it the right way or there will be consequences. You may not play, you might be fined, there will be no toleration of lateness or that kind of thing and absolutely no toleration of loafs, which is a euphemism for lack of hustle. The Bears team is going to run and hustle from the start of OTAs until the end of the season. That's the way he wants to play, and that's the way George wants the team to play, and I know that's the way the fans want the team to play."

• As expected, the plan to develop Fields was an integral part of the interview process for prospective coaches.

"[It was] very important," Polian said. "The quarterback's the most important guy on the field because he touches the ball every play."

Polian also shared his thoughts on Fields' performance as a rookie and the former Ohio State star's high ceiling.

"You look at what Justin has going for him, which is a remarkable arm, great mobility, good size, good ability to run the ball," Polian said. "What he needs to do is learn his craft, to learn what the pro game is all about. He didn't have a chance to do that last year. He was thrust into a complex offense that he had no experience with, under center where he had no experience at Ohio State. He wasn't ready to play, and it showed. But there's a lot to work with there, and both Ryan and Flus are committed to doing everything they can to make him successful, because if he's successful, the Bears will be successful."

• Polian was asked, based on his evaluation of the Bears roster, whether he felt they were ready to contend or a team that needs to be rebuilt.

"I think it's right in between," Polian said. "There's a lot of work to be done. The general consensus with everybody we talked to is that the Bears have somewhere between six and eight real blue-chippers on this team. That's not enough. You need 10 to 12 to really be in the hunt. So Ryan's got a task in front of him to add those kinds of players.

"The bottom line is that there's talent here, particularly at the quarterback position. Growth is needed, development is needed and additional personnel is needed, and that's not going to happen overnight."

Get an exclusive look inside the Bears practice facility at GM Ryan Poles & coach Matt Eberflus signing their contracts, meeting the Chicago media and making their way through their first days on the job.