New Bears president Kevin Warren plans to be ‘involved’ in GM Ryan Poles’ rebuild

As Poles enters a pivotal offseason in which he has the No. 1 pick and by far the most salary-cap space in the NFL, he also has a new boss with high standards.

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GM Ryan Poles answered to chairman George McCaskey last year, but will have incoming president Kevin Warren as his immediate supervisor going forward.

GM Ryan Poles answered to chairman George McCaskey last year, but will have incoming president Kevin Warren as his immediate supervisor going forward.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The pressure just got turned up on Bears general manager Ryan Poles, and he’s fine with that.

As Poles enters a pivotal offseason in which he has the No. 1 draft pick and by far the most salary-cap space in the NFL, he also has a new boss with high standards. When the Bears hired Kevin Warren as their new president and CEO, they made clear that Poles would report to Warren, not chairman George McCaskey.

And Warren doesn’t sound as though he’ll be calling any consultants to help him judge whether Poles has the Bears on course to win a Super Bowl.

“I’ll be involved,” Warren said. “Our offices are right next door to each other. I guarantee you we’re gonna be communicating every single day on it, but I’m not a micro-manager. That’s not my style. But we’ll be there and work through it.

“The things I’ve seen where people have fallen short is because they’re not comfortable with each other and don’t trust that they can be real with each other. One thing about Ryan and I: We will be real with each other. That’s the best thing you can do.”

Warren referred to his time with the then-St. Louis Rams, who won Super Bowl XXXIV during his time as a vice president from 1997 to 2000. There was debate going into the 1999 season over whether Kurt Warner should take over at quarterback — a debate that coach Dick Vermeil settled by relying on facts over feelings. Warren said it’ll be the same between him and Poles.

When Poles was hired nearly a year ago, he anticipated that president/CEO Ted Phillips might be stepping down soon, and that once the Bears found a replacement, they’d revert to this more conventional structure.

The Bears went 3-14 in Poles’ first season — worse than expected, even during a rebuild. Warren said he joined the Bears with championships as his top goal, ahead of stadium construction or increasing the franchise value, and will be as eager as anyone to turn them around.

Poles was brought into the presidential search to sit down with finalists to see how well he could work with them. He’s confident he and Warren see things similarly.

“A lot of things that we’re saying, it’s the same,” Poles said. “It’s the same mentality. It’s the same process to get this organization to a place where we can sustain success over a period of time.”

Warren will acclimate for now and plans to begin official business in April. Poles has plenty to do before that. His most likely course with the top pick is to trade it for more picks, but he said he hasn’t heard much yet from around the NFL. He figures his phone will start buzzing next month when teams begin to zero in on specific prospects.

Poles and his staff were halfway evaluating the upcoming free-agent class Tuesday. Once the Bears line up their top targets, likely by mid-February, Poles will lay out the plan for McCaskey and Warren in order to get their input.

If there’s ever a disagreement, Warren said it’s Poles’ call.

“He’s the expert,” Warren said.

Poles also is waiting to see if he’ll need to rearrange his staff as assistant GM Ian Cunningham emerges as a GM candidate around the league. Cunningham was a finalist for the Titans’ vacancy before they hired Ran Carthon on Tuesday.

“It’d be a big loss, but at the same time, I was prepared for this,” Poles said. “Did I think it was gonna be less than 12 months? No. But I’m not shocked at all.

“I have a plan for it, and I feel good about it. I didn’t expect he would be here long. He’s a really, really good person, and then his ability to lead and really get an organization on track, I think it’s going to be excellent when he gets that opportunity.”

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