Ryan Poles is the new general manager of the Chicago Bears, and chairman George McCaskey has passed his first big test.
With his first move of the next new era of Bears football, McCaskey has hired a general manager who can now be the top football person in the organization with unfettered control reporting only to him.
Is that how it will work?
Make no mistake, Poles is an outstanding candidate. He is bright, young, experienced and successful in talent evaluation, and well respected and recommended by a number of sources with the Kansas City Chiefs.
He is also very well thought of around the league as evidenced by his being a finalist for both of the first two general managers jobs to fill, after finishing second to Joe Schoen with the Giants.
There is no negative in losing out to Schoen, who is just a slightly more experienced candidate with a more varied resume. Schoen also interviewed with the Bears.
It is, however, a real positive that Poles was a finalist in New York. The Giants hired Hall of Famer George Young, Ernie Accorsi, Jerry Reese and Dave Gettleman. The first three were key to building Super Bowl winners in New York. Gettleman, meanwhile, was a pro personnel scout for the Giants from 1998 to 2012 and then got the Panthers to the Super Bowl during his tenure as general manager in Carolina from 2013 to 2017 before an unsuccessful stint in the same position with the Giants that ended with his retirement earlier this month.
Poles does, however, bring one big question mark that will hang over him throughout his first couple years on the job.
Is this, “Meet the new Ryan, same as the old Ryan?”
Poles’ resume is so similar to Pace’s on the day the Bears hired him that it is almost eerie.
An offensive lineman at Boston College, Poles failed in his only NFL shot, a 2008 training camp as an undrafted free agent right here with the Bears.
After spending that season as a graduate assistant at Boston College, Poles joined the Chiefs as a scouting assistant, spent six years as their college scouting coordinator, three as director of college scouting, two as assistant director of player personnel and 2021 was his first year as executive director of player personnel. In total, he has 13 years of NFL front office experience, all with the Chiefs.
Pace, who was a defensive lineman at Eastern Illinois, never got a shot at the NFL and started as a coaching intern and then operations assistant, scouting assistant, pro scout, director of pro scouting and finally two years as director of player personnel. In total, Pace had 14 seasons of NFL front office experience, all with the Saints.
In the end, the job was just too big for Pace.
Does that mean it will be for Poles? Absolutely not. He’s earned his shot, and we now owe him a clean slate, a chance and the time to succeed.
The similarities are just hard to ignore as we continue to evaluate McCaskey.
High on Poles’ list of accomplishments is the fact he was running the Chiefs college scouting when they identified Tyreek Hill in the fifth round. They also took Chris Jones in the second round and Kareem Hunt in the third. And the Chiefs were one of only three teams I can confirm that had Patrick Mahomes rated ahead of both Deshaun Watson and Mitch Trubisky in 2017.
As either the No. 1 or No. 2 guy in personnel the past three years he also found Mecole Hardman, Nick Bolton and Creed Humphrey with second-round picks and used their only first-round pick during the past four seasons on Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Other than Travis Kelce and Tyrann Mathieu, that’s pretty much the nucleus of the current AFC title contenders.
We also should note, however, in Pace-esque fashion the Chiefs have had only two first-round picks in the past six drafts.
It’s clear why he has the job, but Poles will have no time to celebrate with his first and biggest test of his first three or four years on the job coming in the next 48-to-72 hours.
Will he choose from Jim Caldwell, Matt Eberflus or Dan Quinn, whom McCaskey already has set for second interviews, for the Bears’ next head coach? And will he insist on adding any names of his own to the search, and will he get this important hire right?
Remember Pace swung and missed on John Fox, in large part because McCaskey strongly encouraged him to select Fox.
And will McCaskey stay out of his way and leave him completely alone to make his choice as he’s indicated that is the way his organization should run moving forward?
Tuesday was one huge question answered with two equally big ones coming very soon.