Ryan Poles could’ve easily taken the diplomatic route when he finally got his chance to meet with Chicago Bears ownership regarding their general manager position. He could’ve been upbeat and optimistic when asked about the state of the organization. Particularly the roster. After all, this was a team that made the playoffs two of the last four seasons. Yet that isn’t who Poles is, and it seems George McCaskey found that out right away.
Last month, there were rumors that the new GM was unflattering in his evaluation of the Bears roster and wasn’t afraid to say so to the team brass. In his opinion, things needed serious rebuilding before they could start thinking about a division title. Never mind the Super Bowl. When McCaskey spoke to the media down at the owners meetings in West Palm Beach, he confirmed the rumor, according to Courtney Cronin of ESPN.
When Poles interviewed for the Bears job in January, his assessment of Chicago’s roster was “blunt,” according to McCaskey. Even though he was in a job interview, Poles didn’t sugarcoat what needed to be fixed. For someone who has expressed his own lack of patience previously, McCaskey bought into the general manager’s vision.
“Ryan’s assessments, by my reckoning, were accurate, and I liked the plan that he had to address it,” McCaskey said.
Credit to Poles for his approach.
Many executives wouldn’t have the guts to say such things to the owner’s face. Chris Ballard was said to have done precisely that back in 2015 when he interviewed for the Bears job. McCaskey didn’t like what he heard, and the position ended up going to Ryan Pace. This time around, it seems the team chairman has matured. He understands the reality of where this franchise is at. If he wants to reach the mountaintop, he must let Poles build the roster the right way.
That means curbing the impulses to buy in free agency and focusing on the draft. It isn’t easy to do, especially with a fanbase short on patience these days. Yet the man remains unwavering in his approach. Khalil Mack was traded. Eddie Goldman and Tarik Cohen were cut. No free agents have signed deals longer than three years. It is about the future now.
George McCaskey at least knows enough to not intervene.
He has said time and again over the years that he is more of a fan than a football expert. That is why once he hires the GM and head coach of the organization, he strives to stay out of their way. Having a non-meddlesome owner is good if the right people were hired. Such was not the case with Phil Emery or Pace. Both left the franchise in depleted states when they left in 2015 and 2022, respectively.
Poles aims to be different. His approach is already in stark contrast to theirs. Emery and Pace had no qualms about spending free agency or making aggressive trades. The new GM is far more methodical. He’s collecting bargain veterans who remain on the younger side to help fill out the depth chart. At the same time, he’s maintaining cap flexibility and added two extra draft picks. George McCaskey is seeing how disciplined teams operate for the first time since the early years of Jerry Angelo.
Now the question becomes whether he can stay patient.
It isn’t easy for somebody in his position. The Bears have two winning seasons in the past decade. Virginia McCaskey is approaching her 100th birthday, and reports indicate her health might finally be deteriorating. He is desperate to get her another championship before it’s too late. He trusts Poles to build this the right way, but that will take time. The next year or so will be telling.