Bears

Hub Arkush: 2022 draft gives us 1st glance at who Bears GM Ryan Poles hopes to be

Chicago Bears new general manager Ryan Poles speaks during a news conference, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

The 2022 NFL draft was an informative and intriguing lesson in just who Bears rookie general manager Ryan Poles is and our best hint yet as to what his chances of success will be.

On the final day of January, when Poles was introduced as the team’s new general manager, he told us who he planned to be.

“We’re going to build through the draft. We’re going to acquire young, fast and physical football players,” he said. “We’re going to be selective through free agency. And we’re going to connect evaluation with valuation.

“We’re going to have a relentless approach to fix our weaknesses. We’re going to make … great self-awareness of who we are.”

Everybody has a winning formula on the first day of the rest of their lives, but is it the right one? And can they execute it?

Clearly in his first stroll through the free agent market Poles has been selective, in fact too much so for many Bears fans.

Has he been relentless in his approach to fixing his broken football team? Poles certainly felt that way about his team’s draft preparation.

“We’ve run simulations of the draft over and over and over and over again to our picks,” Poles said Tuesday, three days before he had made his first selection. “We’d trade. We had guys call in fake trades just to test our communication, test our trade charts, test all of that, to make sure that everything’s smooth on game day, and we’re just applying that.”

His commitment to youth was challenged on a few draft choices, but that has to be qualified by the extra eligibility granted players due to the pandemic, naturally making this a draft with a number of older prospects.

There definitely was a spotlight on speed, toughness and attitude in every pick Poles made, and his commitment to building through the draft is beyond challenge with the number and caliber of quality veteran players he’s allowed to leave via free agency. Then add the trades he made to turn six picks into 11.

Most critical to me is his focus on evaluation through valuation that was on display through two different lenses.

Nobody saw defensive backs coming with the first two picks considering the team’s glaring needs at receiver and on the offensive line, but Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker are players I had ranked higher than the 39th and 48th best players available, respectively, and there were no wideouts or lineman left when the Bears picked that met that criteria.

Then there’s Poles explanation as to why he went speed dating at the trade market early on Saturday and then suddenly turned off the tap.

“It really was based off the number of players in certain ranges,” Poles explained. “And then when you felt like the number was getting low it was time to kind of cut it out and start picking players.

“And there were moments when we said ‘No, we’re going to start picking players,’ and then there was opportunities when we said ‘No, let’s move again and get more,’ because that’s what the board was telling us to do.”

Finally, is Poles displaying “great self awareness of who we are?”

About further improvements he said, “There’s still guys on the street, there’s going to be cutdown days. There’s trade opportunities, and it’s what I told our group and everyone in this organization. We’re just going to keep pounding and pounding, knowing that we can’t fix everything in one year, but we sure can just keep chipping away.”

Poles has been reluctant to simply say he’s rebuilding, and there is the silly cluster of fans out there who think because they’ve cleared a bunch of cap space next year it can get done in one year.

There are at least two full years of work to be done before this team can be expected to contend and by simply stating, “We’re just going to keep pounding and pounding, knowing that we can’t fix everything in one year, but we sure can just keep chipping away,” Poles is giving us self-awareness in spades.

Is he the right guy at the right time for a franchise in desperate need of a savior?

It’s early, ever so early, but so far he’s been exactly who he promised he would be. That’s an encouraging start.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.