Ex-NFL star Gerald McCoy explains why Bears hit home run with DC Eric Washington

Ex-NFL star Gerald McCoy explains why Bears hit home run with DC Eric Washington originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAS VEGAS -- Gerald McCoy only spent one season around Eric Washington during his time with the Carolina Panthers, but the Bears' new defensive coordinator left a lasting impression on the six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle.

"Listen, what are you going to get is a teacher?" McCoy, now an analyst for NFL Network, told NBC Sports Chicago at Radio Row for Super Bowl 58. "A lot of people -- you'd be surprised how many people in the NFL don't know how to play football the right way. They just don't. They don't know how to break down film. They don't know how to watch film. They don't know how to prepare for games. They are just talented. They're just better and better athletes. It’s just: I can remember the play. OK, go do this.

"He's going to teach you the game. Like, OK, why am I looking at this? Why am I looking at that? Why are we running this? I was always taught this. If you know how to do something, you make a lot of money. If you know why you're doing it, you sign the checks for anybody."

The Bears hired Washington as their defensive coordinator in January, filling the role that was vacated by the in-season resignation of Alan Williams.

While head coach Matt Eberflus will retain the defensive play-calling duties, Washington will play a critical role in the weekly game planning and be a key cog in the development of young Bears defensive linemen Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens.

During his time with the Panthers, McCoy saw how Washington's ability to teach and break down information into easily digestible nuggets helped spur the growth of Panthers star defensive end Brian Burns.

"They're getting a teacher," McCoy said. "They're getting a guy who every day you might question who's really giving the most effort, him or the players, and it’s going to be him most of the time. He doesn't take days off. You never going to have to worry about is coach going to show up in a different mood. I don't know what coach I'm getting today. He's high-level at all times, and he's on 10 at all times.

"When I say 10, not like over the top. He's always trying to win. He might catch you in the lunchroom, ‘Hey, on this play. What is this person supposed to do?’ He ain't even asking you about your job. It’s about somebody else's. Because if – the term you only strong as you weakest link. Well, if there are no weak links, how strong can you be? He'd make sure that the weak links don't exist. That's just who he is. And I'm so excited that he got there because he's one of those guys and they're going to love him.”

Washington joins the Bears with an impressive resume that includes time working under Lovie Smith in Chicago, Ron Rivera in Carolina, and Sean McDermott in Buffalo.

The Bears' defense made great strides under Eberflus' watch in 2023. Chicago led the NFL in run defense and tied for the league lead with 22 interceptions. The mid-season addition of Montez Sweat completely altered the Bears' once lifeless pass rush.

The Bears hired an elite teacher in Washington. A guy whose reputation around the NFL speaks for itself and will be a clear value add to a staff and team that will face elevated expectations in 2024.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.