Bears name Ryan Poles their next general manager

Tuesday wasn’t Poles’ first visit to Halas Hall. It won’t be his last, either.

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The Bears are naming former Kansas City Chiefs executive Ryan Poles their new general manager.

The Bears are naming former Kansas City Chiefs executive Ryan Poles their new general manager.

Photo courtesy Kansas City Chiefs

Two full weeks after starting his general manager search and less than 24 hours before he ended it, Bears chairman George McCaskey went to O’Hare International Airport on Monday night to pick up Chiefs executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles.

McCaskey wore a Bears letterman’s jacket with a matching mask and, as seen in a video that went viral on social media, carried a sign as if he was a limo driver. The name on the sign: “Canandaigua,” Poles’ 10,000-person hometown in western New York.

McCaskey then made sure he didn’t put the 36-year-old back on the plane, hiring Poles as the team’s next general manager Tuesday and ending the Bears’ GM search 15 days after firing Ryan Pace.

The Bears earned an offseason victory against the same divisional rival that beat them to end the season — Poles was supposed to fly to Minnesota to conduct his second interview with the Vikings on Wednesday.

Poles, who interviewed virtually Friday before flying to Chicago on Monday, is the first person of color to hold the Bears’ GM title. He’ll report directly to McCaskey.

“It’s an honor for me to join such a well-regarded organization,” Poles said in a statement. “Together with my family, I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running to help get this organization, its fan base and the city what they deserve: a winning team and a Super Bowl trophy.”

McCaskey said Poles’ “accomplishments with the Chiefs speak for themselves and amplified the team’s standing as one of the premier franchises in professional sports.”

The Bears chose him over at least 12 other candidates interviewed by the team’s five-person panel, made up of McCaskey, president/CEO Ted Phillips, adviser Bill Polian, vice president of player engagement LaMar “Soup” Campbell and senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Tanesha Wade.

He beat out Patriots executive Eliot Wolf — whose father, Ron, was the Packers’ architect — and Titans player personnel director Monti Ossenfort. The Bears also talked to, among others, former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland and Colts college scouting director Morocco Brown, a former Bears employee.

Poles enters an NFC North in flux, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers weighing whether to leave the Packers and the Vikings, like the Bears, hiring a new coach and GM.

His first order of business is to hire a coach. Former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell was at Halas Hall on Tuesday. Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is set to interview Wednesday, according to NFL Network, and a source confirmed Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will, too.

As the Falcons’ coach from 2015 to 2020, Quinn coached quarterback Matt Ryan, Poles’ Boston College teammate and friend. They reached the Super Bowl five years ago and famously blew a 28-3 lead to the Patriots. Former Dolphins coach Brian Flores is also a BC alum.

This wasn’t Poles’ first visit to Halas Hall. An offensive lineman who tore his Achilles tendon during his senior season at BC, Poles was signed by the Bears as an undrafted free agent in May 2008. The Bears cut him at the end of training camp.

About a month or so later, he was back at BC, working as a graduate assistant. Less than a year later, he joined the Chiefs, working his way up from player personnel assistant to college scouting administrator, college scouting coordinator and, by May 2018, assistant player personnel director. In June, the Chiefs upgraded his title to executive director of player personnel.

At first blush, his résumé looks a lot like Pace’s did when the Bears hired him seven years ago. Poles is 36; Pace was 37 when he was hired in 2015. Each spent their entire careers with one successful franchise. Poles spent almost 13 years with the Chiefs, who have been to seven consecutive postseasons, winning one Super Bowl. Pace spent 14 years with the Saints, who had reached the postseason four times in five years and won one Super Bowl when he departed.

Pace’s Saints career fell under one GM, Mickey Loomis, and coaches Jim Haslett and Sean Payton, who walked away from the team Tuesday. Poles, though, worked for three Chiefs GMs — Scott Pioli, John Dorsey and Brett Veach — and coaches Todd Haley, Romeo Crennel and Andy Reid.

Pace’s expertise was in pro scouting. Poles’ expertise is on the college scouting side. With Poles in Kansas City, the Chiefs drafted quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce, who are considered the league’s best players at their positions. Other stars the Chiefs picked include defensive lineman Chris Jones, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and cornerback Marcus Peters. Hill should not be held up as a scouting coup. Many teams were uncomfortable drafting him after he was thrown off Oklahoma State’s team and pleaded guilty to punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend.

Poles was in high demand for GM jobs — he conducted two interviews with the Giants before they chose Joe Schoen last week. He was a finalist for the Panthers’ GM job last year. In an interview with WHAM television in Rochester, New York, last year, Poles called the Panthers process “one of the bigger events in my life” because it made him consider how to build a team.

“Once you finally put your philosophy — how you want to run a front office, how you want to build a team, what type of coaching you like, the type of players you look for — on paper and spend weeks and weeks and weeks doing that, and you present it in a good way to ownership and another head coach, you gain confidence in yourself in how to do it,” he said.

Now he has his opportunity. The biggest decision of his career — picking the head coach — awaits.

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