How Warren-Poles relationship will shape Bears' football plans


LAKE FOREST, Ill. – After a 3-14 season that ended with them landing the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Bears opened what could be a transformational offseason Tuesday when they introduced new president and CEO Kevin Warren.

Warren, who will officially transition from the Big Ten to the Bears in April, enters the franchise at what he deemed an “inflection point” for the franchise. Along with the No. 1 pick, the Bears also have over $100 million in salary cap for general manager Ryan Poles to use to start building the roster around quarterback Justin Fields.

While Bears chairman George McCaskey said Poles would maintain “complete authority” as it pertains to football operations, the general manager will report to Warren, who has experience working in NFL front offices on the business side and as an agent.

The football operations relationship between Poles and Warren will be critical as the Bears look to build a sustained winner in Chicago.

“I think the biggest thing that I enjoy about Ryan is that he’s real. He is smart. He’s intelligent. He’s detailed. He’s methodical,” Warren said Tuesday at his introductory press conference at Halas Hall. "And all you have to look [at] is the people that trained him. He grew up in an environment to do things the right way. There’s no short-cuts to it. And the one thing I always love about working with offensive linemen, is the fact they’re unique individuals. They don’t get a lot of credit on a football field standpoint. But they’re so critically important to the overall operation and success. And so he has that mindset, that DNA. With that, we trust each other. And he knows anything that I tell him or share with him or ask of him, it’s only to benefit this organization.”

Poles is excited for Warren to challenge him and bring in new ideas to a franchise that has stagnated over the last few decades.

Warren started his time in the NFL in the late 1990s with the then-St. Louis Rams. He spent time with Hall of Fame head coach Dick Vermeil and hopes to use some of the championship lessons that shaped "The Greatest Show On Turf" to help his collaboration with Poles run as smoothly as possible.

“One of the things I’ve learned is when you build a championship culture, the questions and the ideal and the thought process of who has the final say in all that really becomes irrelevant, because at the end of the day when we come out of whatever room we’re in, we have the common goal and the common goal is to bring championships here,” Warren said when asked whether he or Poles will have the ultimate say in football decisions.

“My goal I know every day, whether it’s football, whether it’s business, whether it’s stadium, whether it’s league matters, whether it’s dealing with ownership, is to make sure that we’re prepared, we’re organized, we’re detailed, we’re methodical and I’m there as a resource.”

Warren believes his time in the NFL and as Big Ten commissioner can be an asset to Poles, head coach Matt Eberflus, and the football operations department as they work to build a team that can contend for division, conference, and Super Bowl titles.

His role in football operations will be as a sounding board, someone to bounce ideas off, not as the sole decision-maker to rule over Poles.

“This is a unique situation, so because of that, I’m able to come here with no ego to be able to say, ‘Who do I know? Who do I know about someone? What can I bring to help the football operations to help bring us a championship?’” Warren said. “Coach Dick Vermeil said something to me during our quest in St. Louis for a Super Bowl. Our first year, we’re 5-11. Second year, we’re 4-12. Last year 16-3, our Super Bowl year. Two things he saidー he said a lot of things that really resonated with meー the second year, he said to me, ‘Once people in the building realize that not if, but when we win the Super Bowl, that all of our rings are going to be the same, they’ll put their egos to the side.’

"The other thing that he said is you’ve got to recognize when you build a house, you build the basement first. So, when you drive by a house and you don’t see any progress above land that doesn’t mean that building is not going on. I think with that, and with that common goal that Matt and Ryan and George and everyone in this organization will have, it will be a very healthy environment. We won’t agree on everything, but we’ll work together because we have a common goal of making sure that we bring championships to this franchise.”

The Bears’ season ended just nine days ago, but Poles is already constructing a plan for how the Bears want to attack free agency in this pivotal offseason. Now that Warren is officially onboard, Poles is looking forward to probing the Bears’ new president for information, ideas, and opinions regarding the draft and free agency.

“The collaboration piece, being a sounding board that’s been through things before,” Poles said Tuesday when asked how Warren can help him. “There is the collaboration between business and football. That’s a really special place where if you can hit it the right way, there’s a lot of cool things that can happen. I know some teams have gotten in trouble crossing the line where it’s too much on either side, like, ‘No, stay out of my space,’ and that’s not going to work.

“His knowledge and things that he’s been through is going to be helpful.”

Warren expertly evaded when asked how he would deal with potential confrontation with Poles over a player or plan, harping on the idea of a shared vision.

To Warren, if everyone is on the same page, then everything will fall in line. There will be disagreements, but as long as the main goal remains the same for everyone, those disagreements will dissipate, and only the sound of one heartbeat will remain.

“When people say collaboration, they think somebody folds,” Warren told NBC Sports Chicago in a small conversation after the press conference. “But it’s not that, it’s like let’s go get the facts and figure stuff out as far as what works best, and if you put the McCaskey family and the goal of winning a championship and say let’s find the fans and put the players in the best position, you’ll find that things become pretty clear.

“That’s why I think you see the teams who do, other teams that have had that sustained ability, and some of them they pop up a year and then they’re down, but we’re not going to do that.”

RELATED: How Bears landing No. 1 pick impacts Fields, rebuild plan

Warren has a clear vision for where he wants this Bears franchise to go on and off the field. Poles has already started enacting his plan to take the Bears from NFC North doormat to perennial Super Bowl contender.

The two impressive men have already shared their visions and started to map out how they can merge to become a cohesive blueprint. One that sees the Bears become the gold standard across the NFL.

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