It’s rare in the NFL for two teams to face each other with little to no crossover in terms of former coaches and players, but Sunday’s upcoming wildcard matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears is bound to be personal for a large number of people on the sidelines.
From players to front office personnel, a lot of former Bears will be returning to Chicago on Sunday, but will instead head to the visitors locker room.
For the Eagles
The Eagles big-play receiver was drafted by Chicago and spent the first five years of his NFL career playing for the Bears. In those five years, Jeffery racked up 304 receptions for 4,549 yards, averaging a whopping 15 yards per catch, and 26 touchdowns. He was eager to sign with the Eagles during free agency in early 2017, and seemingly hasn’t looked back ever since.
Now that he’s getting ready to face his former squad, who are on the rise, he’s opening up a bit about hit time in Chicago and how it compares to Philly, telling reporters:
“I love the city of Philadelphia. Chicago was just when I was there for work.”
And while he’s since said he wasn’t trying to throw any shade, it’s hard to think he’s anything but happy about making the move to the Eagles.
The cornerback was drafted by the Bears in 2016 in the fourth round and spent two seasons in Chicago. He saw playing time in eight games his rookie season and snagged his first career interception in October of that year. He finished his first NFL season with seven total tackles, three pass breakups and one QB hit.
Things didn’t go so well for the CB in Year 2, and was placed on IR to start the 2017 and wasn’t activated until early December. Then, as the 2018 preseason was coming to a close, Hall was suspended by the league for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and two weeks later, was traded to the Eagles.
The 12-year veteran is another player who started their career in Chicago, with the defensive back playing with the team that drafted him for the first five years of his NFL career. He played for the Bears from 2007-2011, and earned a Pro Bowl invite in his final season with the team.
During his five years in Chicago, Graham recorded 180 total tackles and four interceptions, but only started 10 of his 77 games as a Bear. He went on to play for the Ravens and Bills before joining the Eagles squad in 2017.
After starting his career with the New England Patriots, he didn’t make their final 53-man roster and was instead picked up by the Bears just ahead of the 2016 season. He ended up starting in nine games his rookie season and tallied 44 total tackles and 2 interceptions, including one Pick-6. He only had one start the following season and was cut by the team in early-September 2018.
The linebacker only spent part of a season in Chicago and didn’t see a ton of playing time during his 13 games with the team. He earned just one start and made 12 total tackles before finishing out the 2015 season with Jacksonville.
Mike Groh (Offensive Coordinator)
Before joining the Eagles staff, Groh was the wide receivers coach for the Bears from 2013-2015, and excelled with Pro Bowl players like Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, who both recorded 1,000-yard seasons during Groh’s tenure — Jeffery had two.
According to his profile, Groh was instrumental in ushering in a new era of offense for Chicago:
“In 2013, the team set franchise marks in gross passing yards (4,450), net passing yards (4,281), passer rating (96.9), first downs (344) and passing first downs (215), while the team’s 445 points were the second-most in club history. The team’s 4,035 gross passing yards in 2014 and 3,843 gross passing yards in 2015 were the third and fourth highest passing marks in team history, respectively.”
This from the guy who said that Golden Tate was a challenge to incorporate into the Eagles offense.
Joe Douglas (VP of Player Personnel)
The Eagles hired Douglas after he spent just one year with the Chicago Bears as their Director of College Scouting — following 16 years in the Ravens’ personnel department.
The Bears 2015 draft class — for which Douglas had a hand — included Kevin White (WR), Eddie Goldman (DT), Hroniss Grasu (C), Jeremy Langford (RB), Adrian Amos (S), and Tayo Fabuluji (OT). Only White, Goldman and Amos are still with the team.
Dwanye Joseph (Director of Pro Scouting)
Joseph has one the longest histories with the Eagles opponent on Sunday, and started his NFL career as a player with Chicago in 1994 as an undrafted free agent.
The team then gave him his first job after walking away as a player in 1998 as their Coordinator of Player Programs. He held that role through 2001, and then was promoted to Director of Player Development until he left for Miami to focus on a career in scouting in 2004. He returned to the Bears in 2012 as the Bears Assistant Director of Pro Scouting, and then was promoted to Associate Director for the team from 2013-2014.
For the Bears
Burton will forever live on in Eagles lore thanks to his pass to Nick Foles during their Super Bowl victory — and adding considerably more diamonds to their shiny Super Bowl rings after changing his number to 88.
He was hidden in the depth chart behind Brent Celek and Zach Ertz his first two seasons in the NFL, but came on in 2016 with Carson Wentz at the helm and was instrumental in what the team did during their championship run.
The tight end is coming off a career-year with the Bears, having recorded 569 yards on 54 receptions and six touchdowns. Burton was asked to participate in a trick play similar to the Philly Special, but told the coaches it brought back too many memories and he didn’t feel comfortable running it, telling the Chicago Tribune:
“Honestly when they put it up on the board (in practice), I got crazy anxiety,” Burton said. “I was kind of freaking out a little bit, just because a ton of unbelievable memories come back to mind from the Super Bowl. … I remember not really saying much and going out in practice and trying to do it, and I just couldn’t. Physically there was some type of block that wasn’t letting me do it.”
His coaches didn’t have a problem with his honesty, and he still had a minor role in the play they were calling “Oompa Loompa” — seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.
The career backup quarterback wasn’t in Philly long, but he joined Doug Pederson with the Eagles to help develop a young Carson Wentz. Daniel ended up playing in only one game, for just one pass in 2016 before bouncing to the Saints in 2017 and then landing with the Bears in 2018. The seasoned QB is a great mentor for young players and that’s what he’s done in Chicago with Mitch Trubisky.
Trubisky was sidelined earlier this season and Daniel stepped in as the starter in two games, and saw playing time in five. He went 53-of-76 for 515 yards and three touchdowns. The reunion between the two teams on Sunday will be nice for the quarterback, but he’ll probably be happier to see Pederson, who he played for four of his nine years in the NFL.
The kicker was voted into the Pro Bowl his rookie season with the Eagles, but only spent two seasons in Philadelphia before injuries and a good backup took his starting role in 2015. He then bounced around for a couple of seasons before landing in Chicago in 2018.
Parkey came in clutch a few times for the Bears but had his second-least efficient seasons of his career, nailing just 23-of-30 field goal attempts, and 42-of-45 point afters. He did sign a four-year deal with Chicago during the offseason, so barring them grabbing someone else in free agency or in the draft, Parkey is their guy for the foreseeable future.
Matt Nagy (Head Coach)
Nagy is a close friend of Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, with both of them hailing from the Andy Reid coaching tree. That alone tells you everything you need to know.
The Bears’ head coach spent five years total with the Eagles, joining the staff as a coaching intern in 2008 and 2009, and then as a coaching assistant in 2010. Nagy was then promoted to Offensive Quality Control Coach from 2012-2013.
When he followed Reid to Kansas City, he got promoted again to QB Coach and then served as the Chief’s Offensive Coordinator in 2016 and 2017. He may have only one year as a head coach under his belt, but he’s done a great job turning the Chicago franchise around, and could very-well be their longterm solution.
Brad Obee (Pro Scout)
After five years with the Eagles as a Pro Scout, Obee was fired along with several other scouts during the front office shakeup by Chip Kelly. Obee survived Kelly’s first couple of seasons, but was let go in 2015, and has been with the Bears ever since.