Some advice for new Bears GM Ryan Poles: Ignore George McCaskey and Ted Phillips

If they tell him to zig, he needs to know that zagging is the only way to go.

SHARE Some advice for new Bears GM Ryan Poles: Ignore George McCaskey and Ted Phillips
Bears chairman George McCaskey (right) and president and CEO Ted Phillips listen during coach Matt Nagy’s introductory press conference in 2018.

Bears chairman George McCaskey (right) and president and CEO Ted Phillips listen during coach Matt Nagy’s introductory press conference in 2018.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It was so cold outside Wednesday morning that I wouldn’t have felt it if someone had hurt my feelings. Somehow in those frigid conditions, however, I did start to feel something as the day progressed: a very faint reduction in my long-running disgust toward the Brrrs. The Bears, I mean. I even noticed a certain charitableness toward the woebegone franchise creeping in. What was happening to me?!!!

Something, that’s for sure, because . . . because . . . I’m going to give new general manager Ryan Poles the benefit of the doubt.

Easy there, my fellow Bears cynics. I’m not abandoning you. Let me expand on this. I’m going to give Poles the benefit of the doubt without giving the McCaskeys the benefit of the doubt. That might seem like intellectual gymnastics with an impossible degree of difficulty, seeing as how team chairman George McCaskey had the final say in Poles’ hiring. I might pull a muscle doing it. But giving the 36-year-old former Chiefs personnel man a chance seems like the nice thing to do. And taking for granted that the Bears probably passed over a future Hall of Fame GM in the process seems like the right approach, given their sad history.

Imagine being Poles. Excited about the huge opportunity to run an NFL team. Full of ideas, energy and enthusiasm. How could he know the depths of the Bears’ historical issues? Research would have taken him only so far. He couldn’t understand the full measure of ownership’s lack of aptitude when it comes to all things football.

So here he is, coming from a successful organization, arriving with thoughts of turning around this organization. And maybe he will. If he does, however, it will be because of him, not because of any acuity on the part of ownership. That view might strike some as unfair and inconsistent, but I’ve seen some things through the years at Halas Hall.

So welcome, Mr. Poles. Knock ’em dead. A word of advice, though: Don’t go to McCaskey and president Ted Phillips for advice. Don’t use them as a sounding board. If they say zig, know that zagging is the only way to go.

Your success will depend on you, not them. Don’t do what your predecessor, Ryan Pace, did. He was all about collaboration, working the room, getting input from every inch of a very big tent. That made him lots of friends, but it didn’t get him nearly enough Bears victories. If you, Ryan Poles, think Justin Fields isn’t the greatest quarterback in the history of forever, let that be your guide. If your guides are named ‘‘George’’ and ‘‘Ted,’’ you’re going to find yourself in a dark alley and, eventually, unemployed.

If you’re sold on Fields, get him an offensive line. If you’re not sold on Fields, get him an offensive line. This might seem obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to Pace. Fields spent half his time last season getting up from being sacked.

Enough with the advice-giving. OK, maybe a little more: Be yourself, don’t be them and you might have a chance. Might.

The problem with the Bears is that the gap between reality and dream is massive. The reality is a franchise that has had very little success since the 1985 Super Bowl season. During that span, the Bears have been to the playoffs only 12 times — seven times in the 29 seasons since the McCaskeys fired Mike Ditka as coach. That’s not coincidence. It’s the result of a family that, because of the death of founder George Halas’ son in 1979, found itself several years later running a team it had no business running. Didn’t then and doesn’t now.

The dream — the one the McCaskeys are pushing and the one so many people around the league have bought into — is how grand it would be to win a Super Bowl for one of the NFL’s original franchises. And how wonderful it would be if 99-year-old Virginia McCaskey, Halas’ daughter, were around to see it. I’m guessing some of this drew Poles to the job.

That’s the way it was with the Cubs, too. The Ricketts family bought the team with the dream of ending the franchise’s century-long World Series title drought.

Maybe Poles will turn out to be Theo Epstein, but Epstein already had won two World Series with the Red Sox by the time the Cubs hired him as president. He already had been a baseball architect. We don’t know how much influence Poles had in building the Chiefs’ roster that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago. We don’t know yet what he saw in Patrick Mahomes and how much of a say he had in drafting him.

We do know that he didn’t draft Mitch Trubisky. That’s one warm thought.

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