LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles has a new boss after the team named Kevin Warren its president and CEO, the first one hired from outside the organization in its 103-year history.
Poles will no longer report to chairman George McCaskey, who oversaw the GM in his first season in 2022. Warren’s strengths as an executive gave the Bears confidence in reverting to their original structure where the general manager reports to the team president. That happened under out-going president and CEO Ted Phillips prior to last season. Phillips is retiring.
Despite the change in organizational structure, Poles will still have the final say on football matters.
“Ryan Poles remains in charge of our football operation with complete authority to do what he thinks is best for the Bears,” McCaskey said Tuesday when the team announced Warren’s hiring.
This structure isn’t uncommon, but it wasn’t in place at Warren’s last NFL stop with the Minnesota Vikings. Warren, who was the chief operating officer of the Vikings from 2015-19, was in charge of business operations while former Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman was in charge of football operations. Warren and Spielman reported separately to Vikings owner Mark Wilf.
“...There were certain items just from an (football) operational standpoint that I didn’t get involved with (in Minnesota). Here, this 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, you don’t 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? Having a person like me be able to work on both sides of the aisle with that, I think it’s important. It gives a little more synergy.”
Warren started his career in the NFL in football operations for the St. Louis Rams and was a part of the team that won Super Bowl XXXIV during the 1999 season. What he learned from former Rams coach Dick Vermeil about an organization’s common goal of winning championships relies on facts over emotions.
He’ll use that approach during his involvement in football matters, relying on collaboration with Poles and falling back on the advice he received from Vermeil if they disagree.
“I’m confident because where we both have come from," Warren said. “He was with the Chiefs Super Bowl (in 2020), I come from the Rams Super Bowl, I think we both know what it takes to win a Super Bowl.
“When people say collaboration, they think somebody folds. 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.”
Warren isn’t set to begin his Bears presidency until April, after the rush of NFL free agency and ahead of the April 27-29 draft. Chicago currently holds the No. 1 pick.
Poles said he “one hundred percent” supports the idea that Warren will challenge him on football decisions. The idea of collaboration is something the general manager said was already a part of his structure in meeting with McCaskey and Phillips, and it’s something he’s ready to begin with Warren.
“There’s a ton of knowledge there that’s going to help us,” Poles said. “Everyone’s got blind spots, and when you have someone from a different background that’s been through a couple different organizations they can give you a little bit of information if maybe there’s a blind spot that you didn’t see.
“So he’s been through a bunch of those tough decisions, and just bouncing those off will help both of us.”