LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles has a new boss after the team named Kevin Warren as its president and CEO, the first hired from outside the organization in its 103-year history.
The Poles will no longer report to Chairman George McCaskey, who oversaw the GM in its first season in 2022. Warren’s leadership strengths gave the Bears the confidence to return to their original structure, where the general manager reports to the team president. That was before last season under outgoing President and CEO Ted Phillips. Philips is retiring.
Despite the organizational structure change, the Poles still have the last word in football matters.
“Ryan Poles remains responsible for our football operations and has full authority to do what he believes is best for the Bears,” McCaskey said Tuesday when the team announced Warren’s hiring.
That structure isn’t uncommon, but it wasn’t present in Warren’s last NFL stop with the Minnesota Vikings. Warren, who was the Vikings’ chief operating officer from 2015 to 2019, was responsible for business operations, while Rick Spielman, former Minnesota general manager, was responsible for football operations. Warren and Spielman reported separately to Vikings owner Mark Wilf.
“…There were certain things, just from a (football) operational standpoint, that I didn’t bother with (in Minnesota). This is where it becomes my job,” Warren said. “Because I want us to grow to the point where there is no football and business side. It’s an organization.
“If you’re an owner, don’t you wake up in the morning and say, how’s my business side of the Chicago Bears doing and how’s the football side? You say how’s my franchise doing? I think it’s important that someone like me can work with it on both sides of the aisle. There’s a bit more synergy.”
Warren began his NFL career in football for the St. Louis Rams and was part of the team that won Super Bowl XXXIV in the 1999 season. What he learned from former Rams coach Dick Vermeil about an organization’s shared goal of winning championships is based on fact, not emotion.
He will use this approach during his involvement in football matters, relying on cooperation with Poland and falling back on the advice he received from Vermeil when they disagree.
“I’m confident because of where we’re both from,” Warren said. “He was at the Chiefs Super Bowl (2020), I’m from the Rams Super Bowl, I think we both know what it takes to win a Super Bowl.
“When people say cooperation, they think someone is folding. But that’s not it, it’s like we’re getting the facts together and figuring out what works best and if you look at the McCaskey family and the goal of winning a championship and say let’s find the fans and the best players use position, you’ll find that things become pretty clear.”
Warren won’t begin his presidency with the Bears until April, after the onslaught of the NFL free agency and ahead of the April 27-29 draft. Chicago currently holds the #1 spot.
The Pole said he “100 per cent” supports the idea of Warren challenging him in football decisions. The general manager said the idea of working together was part of his structure when he met McCaskey and Phillips, and he’s ready to start with Warren.
“There’s a lot of knowledge that will help us,” Poles said. “Everyone has blind spots, and if you have someone from a different background who’s gone through a few different organizations, they can give you some information if there might be a blind spot that you haven’t seen.
“So he went through a lot of these tough decisions and just bouncing them off is going to help both of us.”