December 05, 2022


Hub Arkush: What exactly does ‘take the North and never give it back’ mean?

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

There was a moment Monday when new Bears general manager Ryan Poles and new coach Matt Eberflus met the media that I couldn’t help but feel perhaps Poles was channeling his inner Lovie Smith just a bit.

In introducing himself in his opening statement, he posed the question, “What am I about and what’s my philosophy?”

Then he answered his own question.

“We’re going to build through the draft,” Poles said. “We’re going to acquire young, fast and physical football players. We’re going to be selective through free agency. And we’re going 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. We’re going to solve problems with open communication and candor, and we’re going to consistently put players in positions to succeed.

“And the last thing, the most important piece, is we’re gonna take the North and never give it back.”

The less subtle part, of course, is his hiring Eberflus.

Smith made his bones, so to speak, as the linebackers coach learning the Tampa 2 defense under Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin with Tampa Bay before moving on to St. Louis to build his own version of it, which led to Smith landing the Bears’ head coaching job.

Eberflus took the same course under Kiffin and Rod Marinelli, with whom Smith coached in Tampa, as the linebackers coach in Dallas before moving on to Indianapolis to build his own 4-3 scheme, which again led to the Bears’ head coaching job.

But it was that last thing, “the most important piece, take the NFC North and never give it back,” that immediately took me back to Smith’s introductory first turn at the mic at Halas Hall.

Seventeen years ago Lovie told us, “The No. 1 goal is to beat Green Bay.”

Granted, Poles didn’t mentioned that team up north by name, but let’s be honest here. The NFC North currently has an owner, and whether the Bears or their fans like hearing it from the Packers’ quarterback or not, the title and deed are held by Green Bay.

Could Poles be thinking there may be a window opening sooner than we think?

Remember, when I asked Poles if he intended to rebuild or try to compete immediately, he was fairly emphatic he expects to compete right now and all the time.

The Bears already are more than competitive with the Vikings and Lions, but against the Packers it’s a different story.

Poles might just be thinking change is imminent in Green Bay.

Only Aaron Rodgers knows what he is going to do, but he has said he has no interest in being part of a rebuild there.

The Packers will enter the offseason $35 million to $40 million over the projected 2022 cap, and that’s with All-Pros Davante Adams and De’Vondre Campbell along with Robert Tonyan, Kevin King, Lucas Patrick, Rasul Douglas, Chandon Sullivan and Marquez Valdes-Scantling – to name a few – all free agents.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has left to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos, because when you work all your life for one of 32 jobs, and you get offered one in a pretty good situation, you take it.

But his heir apparent, Luke Getsy, left for the Bears OC job, instead.

Getsy may have left because another top assistant, Adam Stenavich, who got the job, likely was going to be the choice to be the Packers’ OC. Or Getsy may have left because he wasn’t going to get to call plays with head coach Matt LaFleur. In Chicago, Getsy gets a chance to do just that, and he also gets a chance to develop a great quarterback prospect in Justin Fields.

Jordan Love is an intriguing prospect, but he isn’t Fields.

Or are folks jumping ship because the sense around Green Bay is Rodgers is likely to leave?

Even if Rodgers stays, the Packers’ free-agent and cap problems will make it difficult for them to continue to dominate the division. If Rodgers goes, you know some of those free agents will follow him out of town. All bets are off at that point.

Who knows, maybe Poles was just dreaming down the road.

But when you start to peel the onion, it isn’t hard to get to where the NFC North is up for grabs very, very soon.

Hub Arkush is a Shaw Media correspondent.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

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