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Waldron came to Bears highly recommended

Waldron-quickhits

INDIANAPOLIS – A discussion with former Seahawks coach Pete Carroll helped convince Bears coach Matt Eberflus to hire Shane Waldron as offensive coordinator.

Waldron spent the past three seasons in the same role on Carroll's staff in Seattle, working with quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Geno Smith. Wilson threw for 25 touchdowns with six interceptions and a 103.1 passer rating in 2021, while Smith earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors and his first Pro Bowl invitation in 2022 after leading the league in completion percentage (69.8) and ranking fourth in TD passes (30), fifth in passer rating (100.9) and eighth in passing yards (4,282).

"I had a real long conversation with Pete when … we were in the interview process," Eberflus said at the NFL Combine. "He just gleamed about Shane and talked about him at length about his ability to adapt and adjust, and what he did with the quarterbacks that were in Seattle. I was very comfortable moving forward with Shane in that.

"It's really about his track record. You have his head coach that was with him say those words about him and talk to me at length about it, and then me watch the tape and what he actually did with all those quarterbacks, to me, that's proof."

Bears in good hands

General manager Ryan Poles lauded the additions that Eberflus has made to his coaching staff this offseason. In addition to Waldron, the Bears have hired Eric Washington as defensive coordinator and a bevy of assistants, including position coaches Kerry Joseph (quarterbacks), Chad Morton (running backs) and Chris Beatty (receivers). Joseph and Morton both worked with Waldron in Seattle.

"Excited about our coaching staff we put together moving forward," Poles said. "Shane and Eric and the rest of the crew, we're in good hands. They're going to do a really good job … Teachers, communicators. Shane's got a really good feel for both the run and the pass game, ability to adapt and adjust and the things that we're looking for. So we're really pumped about that."

Washington boasts 16 years of NFL coaching experience, beginning with the Bears as a defensive assistant (2008-09) and defensive line coach (2010). He spent the past four seasons with the Bills as defensive line coach, also serving as a senior defensive assistant (2022) and assistant head coach (2023).

Between his stints with the Bears and Bills, Washington worked with the Panthers as defensive line coach (2011-17) and defensive coordinator (2018-19).

Eberflus felt that Washington was a perfect fit for the Bears because "of the person that he is."

"You look at that first," Eberflus said. "He's got a great personality, great way about him, great character and just his track record. He's been a part of some great defenses. He's been here with the Bears and what he did over in Buffalo with Sean [McDermott] was pretty exciting too. I'm excited about partnering up with him, for sure."

Evaluating prospects

The importance of getting to know the players as people is a major focus of the Bears Combine interviews.

Asked about important factors in the wiring of a quarterback, Eberflus said: "Obviously No. 1 is leadership. You have to be a great leader. You've got to be resilient. You've got to be able to handle criticism. And then obviously the physical traits. That's a big part of it. The accuracy, the timing, the platform, all the things you talk about with that. And then being a winner. That's what it comes down to. All these teams that do things at the end of the season, they have winners at the quarterback spot."

In assessing quarterbacks, Eberflus pays special attention to how they fare in certain situations.

"I look at the guys that can operate third down, two-minute and the end-of-the-game situations," he said. "To me, that's a separator. And then you look at toughness. Toughness for a quarterback really is about the mental toughness to be able to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball, and also to have the discernment to be able to move out of the pocket and create when it's necessary."

Before being hired by the Bears in 2022, Eberflus worked exclusively on the defensive side of the ball since beginning his coaching career at the University of Toledo in the early 1990s. But he still feels he's eminently qualified to evaluate quarterbacks.

"I've been looking at quarterbacks all my life," he said. "I know what a good quarterback looks like and what's hard on a defense in a guy who has the ability to create, a guy who has the ability to throw with timing and accuracy and the guy who can move the ball down the field when it's the critical moments."

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