CHICAGO -- Bears general manager Ryan Poles has probably known he won the blockbuster trade with the Carolina Panthers for quite some time. He didn't need to watch Thursday's ugly 16-13 win at Soldier Field to know that.
But getting a live look at the Panthers and the uphill climb they face with rookie quarterback Bryce Young should remove all doubt.
When Poles was architecting the deal to send the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft to the Panthers, he had three players in mind that he wanted in return. He chose wide receiver DJ Moore to give quarterback Justin Fields a game-changing pass-catcher and ensure that the quarterback the Panthers took atop the draft wouldn't have an easy button. Without an elite wide receiver to rely on, the Panthers' rookie quarterback would have a greater chance of struggling in 2023, increasing the odds that the Panthers' 2024 first-round pick, which now resides in Poles' war chest, would have maximum value.
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I have now seen the 2023 Panthers in person, and they are dreadful.
After 60 minutes of watching the Panthers flail around on the Soldier Field turf, it's evident that Poles' plan, at least in this isolated move, paid off.
The Panthers were so desperate to solve their quarterback problem that they didn't see the value of what they were giving up. Maybe they did, and they thought the reward outweighed the heavy risk. Either way, trading Moore and a 2024 first-round pick to take Young and put him behind a leaky offensive line with no skill talent is a decision that could wind up being an essential stroke of rebuilding genius.
Young could very well wind up becoming a good NFL quarterback. But the Panthers have put him in a tough position. His receivers don't separate, and he's under constant pressure. The Panthers haven't put him in a position to develop this season, and they won't be able to add elite talent in Round 1 to help him next April.
They'll have to watch as Poles select Marvin Harrison Jr., Olu Fashanu, or answers his own quarterback question with Drake Maye or Caleb Williams.
As the Panthers attempted to slog their way up and down the field Thursday night, Poles' masterpiece -- arguably the only surefire win he has in almost two seasons -- got its primetime moment.
With the win, the Bears now have a 38.3 percent chance to land the No. 1 pick via the Panthers' pick, per ESPN analytics. That the number is that high with the New York Giants trotting out Tommy Devito at quarterback and the Cardinals not-so-subtly tanking tells you how horrific the Panthers are in 2023.
Carolina has the eighth-easiest remaining schedule, per Tankathon. Perhaps they can beat Will Levis and the Tennessee Titans or knock off the Green Bay Packers.
Given the eyesore the Panthers ran out Thursday night, it's hard to see them finishing with more than three wins.
Thursday's win was one the 2023 Bears needed. They've struggled to get out of their own way all season and hadn't won a one-score game in 410 days. Losing to that Panthers team would have been unacceptable.
But it was, more importantly, a win for Poles and the future of this rebuild. The jury delivered a winning verdict on the trade the second Moore arrived at Halas Hall. The Bears got the best player in the deal and future draft capital to theoretically add rocket fuel to the rebuild.
But there was always a chance the Panthers would surprise in a bad division and send the Bears a less valuable first-round pick.
That Carolina fantasy went out the window long ago, and the football atrocity the Panthers rolled out Thursday night put Poles' fleecing of Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer on full display.
The Panthers are a football abomination, and they won't even reap the reward of being an NFL doormat -- the hope that comes with being an NFL bottom dweller doesn't reside in Carolina this season.
Poles got that in the deal as well.