As the Chicago Bears narrowed down their search for a new president and CEO, general manager Ryan Poles sat down with the finalists to gauge how they would work and communicate with each other.
In Kevin Warren, the Poles found someone with an impressive background and presence who values people and shows humility in his all-contribution approach to working towards a championship. The Poles saw a leader who shared his mindset on how to build sustained success through the draft and selective free agent signings.
And the Poles saw someone whose extensive NFL experience with the St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings can help the second-year GM as he navigates a pivotal offseason.
“There’s a lot of knowledge that will help us,” Poles told reporters at Halas Hall last week after the Bears introduced Warren. “Everyone has blind spots, and when you have someone from a different background who’s been through a couple of different organizations, it can give you a little bit of insight if maybe there’s (something) you didn’t see. Challenge yourself on your decisions to make sure you are making the right decisions.
“He’s been through a lot of those tough decisions and just bouncing them off him (him) will help both of us.”
As the Poles celebrate one year as the Bears’ general manager on Wednesday, the big, tough decisions are just beginning.
One of his greatest accomplishments during a 3-14 season in 2022 was generating hope, also fueled, of course, by the advances of quarterback Justin Fields.
The Poles brought in some promising rookies like safety Jaquan Brisker, cornerback Kyler Gordon, offensive tackle Braxton Jones and linebacker Jack Sanborn. He cut ties with many of former general manager Ryan Pace’s prized acquisitions and spent frugally in free agency to help give the Bears the most cap space in the league heading into the offseason.
Poles now has the No. 1 pick in the draft along with one pick each in the second and third rounds, two in the fourth and fifth rounds, and one pick in the seventh round. He has a lot of cash to spend.
And he has a new championship-talking boss who was drawn to the job because of “the opportunity to create greatness” in the Bears’ quest for both a new stadium and success on the field.
“We’re at a point with the Chicago Bears where the things that we do in the next two years, just like the Big Ten, I want people in 20, 30, 40, 50 years to talk about,” Warren said. , Big Ten commissioner the past three years. “Look at the ’85 Bears. They’re still talking about it. You watch ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’. They still talk about it. Big Ten Conference, our expansion and media rights deal, they’re going to be talking about it.
“So what energizes me the most is what we’re going to do 50 years from now what they’re going to be talking about. To have that opportunity with this fan base and this city is incredible.”
So how exactly will Warren help the Poles achieve those great things on the field?
In 2022, the Poles reported to Bears president George McCaskey, saying McCaskey and outgoing president Ted Phillips defied him to some extent. They sat down before free agency and the draft to go over their plan, with Phillips and McCaskey asking questions about their potential moves.
Although McCaskey said Poles has “full authority to do what he thinks is best for the Bears” when it comes to football, Poles hopes that collaboration will continue when he reports to Warren. The new president hopes to officially start with the Bears in April, but he’s already starting to dive into the transition.
The Poles and their staff were in the midst of free agent evaluations last week, and he said draft evaluations, and talks with other teams about possibly trading the No. 1 pick, would likely pick up over the next month after from the Senior Bowl and East. -West Shrine bowl.
Warren rattled off the questions he’s likely to ask when Poles submits his assessments.
“What do you like about the player? What don’t you like?” Warren said. “What does he do better than any player in the NFL right now? What are the strengths, weaknesses, costs associated with this? What will he bring as an ancillary value to our team besides of what he does in the field?
“How can we help? Are there any people you know who have been around him who have trained him or played with him? And what do we need to do from a support standpoint to make sure we keep him healthy and ready to go?
And finally, Warren said, the central question: “When we look at a day or a decision, are we closer to a championship before we make that decision? And I don’t want negative plays.”
The Poles said that he and Warren equally value the creative process that comes from such sessions.
In fact, the Poles said that he first met Warren early in his career when Warren approached the Poles when he was on a job interview. Warren shared insights on the interview process from an executive perspective.
“There’s nothing better than sitting down with a group of people who are creative and feeling completely free to put their thoughts on the table,” Poles said. “Really cool things can happen out of that, and it can circulate and come out and become a really cool decision that can help our franchise.”
Warren said he already believes he will work well with the Poles, whom he has called genuine, intelligent, detailed, methodical and well-coached since his time with the Kansas City Chiefs.
“He grew up in an environment to do things the right way,” Warren said. “There are no shortcuts to it. And what I always love about working with offensive linemen is the fact that they are unique individuals. They don’t get much credit on a football field. But they are just as critically important to the overall operation and success.
“So he has that mentality, that DNA. With that, we trust each other. And he knows everything I tell him or share or ask him, it’s only to benefit this organization.”
Tribune reporter Dan Wiederer contributed.