Ryan Poles’ timing might be just right

The Bears’ new general manager comes to Chicago as an unknown. But if Aaron Rodgers bolts the Packers, Poles could have a clearer path to success than his predecessors. Timing is everything.

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George McCaskey hired Chiefs executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles as the Bears’ general manager.

George McCaskey hired Chiefs executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles as the Bears’ general manager.

Elijah Harris/Chicago Bears

Ryan Poles. Ryan Pace. What’s the difference?

The Bears have been through these hiring processes so many times in recent years that even the new general managers are starting to blend together. Right now, Ryan Poles is just another guy named Ryan from a Super Bowl-winning franchise who’s too young to have written a book we can pore through for clues about what makes him tick. To loyal Bears fans, Poles is the Bears’ new general manager. To Bears fans weary of trusting the process, he’s just the next one. 

Bears critics have every right to be dubious about the hiring of the 36-year-old Poles, who has been with the Chiefs personnel department for 13 seasons, including executive director of player personnel in 2021. 

Nothing against Poles, but the Bears’ recent hiring searches have done more to build a Super Bowl winner for other teams more than their own. In 2012, they hired Phil Emery over Jason Licht for the GM job. In 2013, Emery hired Marc Trestman over Bruce Arians as head coach. In 2015, Pace almost literally walked right into an interview with head coach candidate Todd Bowles the day Pace was hired as GM. He hired John Fox. 

Licht eventually became the Buccaneers’ general manager. He hired Arians as head coach and Arians hired Bowles as defensive coordinator. Together — with a little help from Tom Brady — they parlayed their Bears rejections into Super Bowl title. 

Poles comes to Chicago with enough similarities to Pace that, on the face of it, he probably wouldn’t be the people’s choice. Poles has Patrick Mahomes on his resume just as Pace had Drew Brees. He has a Super Bowl ring on his finger just like Pace has one on his. He’s had a front-row seat to a wildly successful quarterback/coach pairing. After Pace tried to emulate that by hiring Matt Nagy to coach Mitch Trubisky, it’s fair to wonder what those connections — or anything on his resume — mean. 

Poles is in charge now, something he has little experience with. Until last year, Poles’ highest position with the Chiefs was assistant director of player personnel. 

There’s so much we don’t know — about Poles and his authority: Can he hire the right coach who will hire the right coordinators? Can he run his own show? Will he have the chance? And will he be sufficiently insulated from McCaskey dysfunction at Halas Halas? If it’s erroneously reported that he already has fired his head coach but will allow him to coach the next game, will Poles be able to immediately put out the fire, like a real guy in charge? Or will George McCaskey allow it to fester into another embarrassing episode at Halas Hall?

Bears fans can only hope that 79-year-old Bill Polian was on his game. He hired Marv Levy and Tony Dungy. He picked Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf. But he’s less accustomed to hiring a guy in charge because he was the guy in charge. 

Hiring a first-time, unproven general manager is a dicey proposition. But Poles might have one other thing going for him — timing. If Aaron Rodgers doesn’t return to the Packers, the NFC North will be up for grabs. The Vikings are still talented but going through their own regime change, with Kirk Cousins a shaky franchise quarterback. The Lions were 3-13-1 last season. Even if Rodgers’ returns, the Packers are $40 million over the salary cap and might be headed for rougher waters. 

Timing is everything. When the Bears dominated the NFC Central in the Ditka era, the Packers still were in their post-Lombardi era slump — two playoff appearances in 25 seasons from 1968-92. The Bears’ next big success — under Lovie Smith in 2005 and 2006 — coincided with Brett Favre’s demise that dragged the Packers to 4-12 and 8-8. 

The Packers haven’t hit the wall yet. But they’re getting closer. And that fuels the hopes of Bears fans. We don’t know if Ryan Poles is the right guy. But he might be arriving at the right time. 

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