Bears president Kevin Warren ready for ‘next wave of goals’

Sunday marks the start of the next tier of Warren’s responsibilities: his first football season with the Bears.

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Bears president/CEO Kevin Warren hugs Bills receiver Stefon Diggs before a preseason game last month.

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Kevin Warren breaks his job into chunks.

The first 100 days after he took over as the Bears’ president/CEO on April 17 were important for making sense of the culture he inherited. Holding one-on-one meetings helped him pin down what everyone in the office did and why — he has talked to 190 employees, with only a few football-operations staffers left.

Sunday, though, will be the start of the next tier: Warren’s first football season with the Bears.

“I feel like we accomplished this first wave of goals,” he told the Sun-Times this week. “I feel like we’re poised and positioned. The next wave of goals is to have a positive and successful season.”

Asked what constitutes a successful season, Warren told the story of his first NFL team. In 1997, Warren’s first year in the Rams’ front office, they went 5-11. The next year, they were 4-12. In the ’99 preseason, starting quarterback Trent Green tore his knee and was replaced by an unknown Kurt Warner. The Rams went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl.

“So I never enter a year saying, ‘It would be nice for us to do the best we can,’ ” he said. “I enter the year with the expectation and the goal to do everything we can to be playing for a world championship in Las Vegas.”

The Bears have a long way to go, even as Warren touts their number of close finishes last season. He called Justin Fields, whom he has known since he was the Big Ten commissioner and Fields the quarterback at Ohio State, a leader and a diligent worker.

“He truly is a captain,” he said. “I’m so grateful that he’s our quarterback. I’m grateful that he’s a member of the Bears. And I’m looking forward to seeing him play this year and have it all come together.”

It’s a big year for Fields — and for Warren. The massive undertaking Warren faces has little to do with the Bears’ performance on the field — but, rather, what field they’ll be playing on. The Bears want to build an indoor stadium to host the Final Four, college football playoff games, a bowl game and perhaps the Super Bowl.

Warren inherited the 326 acres the Bears agreed to buy at the former Arlington International Racecourse site. In June, though, the team took issue with a property-tax assessment they said was five times the 2021 value and began meeting with other suburbs and re-engaging with the city of Chicago. Warren categorized meetings with Mayor Brandon Johnson as “incredibly productive.”

Asked if Arlington Heights was a favorite to land the stadium, Warren said he wanted to focus on gathering momentum for whatever site the Bears pick. The Bears are “starting to get clarity” on the situation from a political and business sense, he said, adding that they’re happy to have the 326 acres, whether they build on it or not.

“I think these next couple of months will be critically important,” he said. “But I feel so much better than I did when I started here from a stadium standpoint because I feel like we’ve started to gain some momentum. We made it OK to be able to talk about it, not only internally but also externally, with potential partners.”

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