Bears’ Kevin Warren ready to get to work — with Justin Fields and others

Championship teams need a quarterback. and Incoming president/CEO Kevin Warren believes the Bears have theirs.

SHARE Bears’ Kevin Warren ready to get to work — with Justin Fields and others
Chicago Bears Introduce Kevin Warren as team president and CEO

Bears president/CEO Kevin Warren will start work April 17.

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PHOENIX — Championship teams need a quarterback. Incoming president/CEO Kevin Warren believes the Bears have theirs.

“If you just take the last 20 Super Bowl winners, all of them — when you think back about it — they have a leader at that quarterback position,” Warren told the Sun-Times this week at the NFL annual meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. “Some of them have larger statistics than others, but you have to have a leader at that position to be successful.

“I’m excited to have Justin Fields as a member of the Chicago Bears franchise — and as our quarterback.”

Super Bowl XXXVII was a matchup between the Raiders’ Rich Gannon — who threw five interceptions in the loss — and the Buccaneers’ Brad Johnson.

Quarterbacks have been named MVP in 13 of the 20 Super Bowls since.

The Bears have watched the position pass them by ever since Sid Luckman’s retirement in 1950. They’ve never had a 4,000-yard passer and can claim only two modern-era Pro Bowl quarterbacks.

The Bears believe Fields can change that narrative, even as they know his passing skills need to improve. Warren has known Fields since Fields played at Ohio State and he was the Big Ten commissioner. The two have talked since Warren was named the Bears’ incoming president/CEO in January; he’ll take over full-time duties April 17.

“He’s a talented young man — not only physically but intellectually,” Warren said of Fields. “He’s a leader. I’m glad he’s our quarterback.”

Bears QB Justin Fields.

“He’s a talented young man — not only physically but intellectually,” Bears incoming CEO Kevin Warren said of Justin Fields. “He’s a leader. I’m glad he’s our quarterback.”

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Warren, who was the first Black Power 5 conference commissioner with the Big Ten and first Black NFL COO with the Vikings, was asked whether he could appreciate what the success of a Black quarterback could mean for the city.

“I do believe sometime, fortunately or unfortunately, so much of life people do look at race,” he said. “I’ve been accustomed to it. I’ve been the first in many things — first black COO in the NFL, Power 5 commissioner. In this role, I understand it.

“The thing I love about Chicago is they love gritty hard-working people who are capable, who come to work every single day. And really look beyond color. I know for me and for Justin, for anyone, any person of color, Chicago is the greatest city in America.”

General manager Ryan Poles said all offseason that Fields would likely return as the Bears’ quarterback. That became official earlier this month, when Poles traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers for two first-round picks, two second-rounders and receiver DJ Moore.

Warren said he has been communicating with Poles every day — before, during and after trade talks.

“I think everyone appreciates Ryan being very pragmatic and disciplined and organized,” he said. “We got better as a football team this offseason. You want to get better every day. I think the individual players, but also the collective players that we’ve been able to add, have helped make us better. There’s more we’ll continue to work on.”

He believes Poles can do it.

“He’s smart, he’s intelligent, he’s very thorough, he’s detailed,” Warren said. “He has a high IQ and a high [emotional intelligence]. He has a really good sense. He knows how to build rosters. . . .

“He’s a winner. He and I are cut out of the same cloth. We want to win championships and we’re going to do everything we possibly can.”

Poles appreciates the feedback.

“I like having conversations,” Poles said. “I like keeping him up to date and [chairman] George [McCaskey] up to date on what’s going on and them asking — and specifically Kevin asking — really good questions back. Them challenging me to make sure, ‘Have you thought about this? Have you thought about that?’

‘I love it. It’s a really good relationship.”

Warren believes that both he and Poles are “very transparent communicators.” Bears fans might wince at that statement, given how often former GM Ryan Pace and former head coach Matt Nagy used to brag about the same thing, but it’s a good sign — particularly because Warren has yet to report to Halas Hall every day.

“The thing that’s exciting about it is, we’ll be like that as we go forward,” Warren said.

The two already feel close to each other.

“I’ve gotten to the point with him that it seems like I’ve known him for 20 years,” Warren said. “There’s no airs or pretentions or whatever. We’re able to talk like we’re college roommates, and we’re able to talk about issues. I felt that from the first day I met him.

“When you have a common goal of really being a champion, any personal issues or items, they don’t even raise to the point when we wake up with the common goal of, ‘What can we do to make the Chicago Bears the best franchise in all of pro football?’ ”

Coming off the league’s worst record, the Bears have a long way to go to get there. Outgoing president Ted Phillips won only three playoff games during his tenure, which began in 1999. Twenty-two teams won more regular-season games during the same span.

When McCaskey chose Warren in January, he became the first Bears president ever hired from outside Halas Hall — and just the second to not be related to founder George Halas.

“It’s been different,” McCaskey said. “It’s been unusual to not turn to Ted for advice and counsel. One thing I learned very early on is, Kevin needs no introduction. He knows everybody and everybody knows him.”

McCaskey touted Warren’s fresh ideas as impetus for the move. Warren has a sense of what needs to change, but first wants to meet with each Bears employee. Between April 17 and the start of training camp, Warren will speak to almost 300 Halas Hall employees — four or five per day — to find out what they’d do were they in charge.

“The sooner we can get to transparent and honest conversation, the better off we’ll be,” he said.

He did the same thing at his previous stops. Some employee suggestions were big-picture, others more minor. Warren remembers ordering a paper-folding machine for a Vikings ticket office worker — hers was broken — minutes after she left their meeting.

That was a small thing. Warren’s focus will be on a big one — trying to build a stadium on the 326 acres in Arlington Heights the Bears purchased last month.

Change takes all ideas, though — big and small.

“I’ve made my stance pretty clear — I’m here to be a champion, I’m here to lead and build the best stadium that has ever been thought about,” Warren said. “And to build an organization where people are energized to come to work every single day and for us to make [Virginia] McCaskey and the entire McCaskey family — and George Halas — proud.”

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