LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) — While working for the Rams in his first years in an NFL front office, Kevin Warren learned a valuable lesson from Hall of Fame coach Dick Vermeil.
Every Super Bowl championship ring the Rams won would look exactly the same, Vermeil said, regardless of whether it was for eventual Hall of Fame players like Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce or a young executive like Warren who was looking up the corporate ladder.
That message stuck with Warren as he was introduced Tuesday at Halas Hall as the Bears’ new president and CEO. A key part of Warren’s role in leading the Bears will be overseeing second-year general manager Ryan Poles and the entire football operations department.
While retiring Bears president/CEO Ted Phillips had a very limited background in football, Warren takes pride in his foundation in the game. It’s why team chairman George McCaskey changed the Bears’ reporting structure. Poles will now report directly to Warren rather than McCaskey, as he had done in his first year in Chicago.
Warren emphasized that he'll defer to Poles, but he also expects to be a key part of the Bears’ football operations.
“He’s the expert,” Warren said of Poles. “I mean, he’s a general manager, he’s a scout, he’s been around successful organizations. You understand that. But I’ll be involved. I'll put it this way, our offices are right next door to each other. So, I guarantee you we’re going to be communicating every single day on it. But I'm not a micromanager. That’s not my style. But we’ll be there, and we’ll work through it. I’m looking forward to building that great relationship.
“I feel confident that I've been around it enough to understand. I've been around some teams that have done very well. I've been around some teams that haven’t done well. I've been around a Super Bowl team.
“We’re going to do it the right way. We're going to be meticulous. And we’re going to be real.”
Last January, the Bears hired Poles as general manager and Matt Eberflus as head coach off the advice of Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian. In relying on Polian as a consultant, McCaskey and Phillips essentially admitted their shortcomings in football knowledge. McCaskey himself reiterated Tuesday that he's "not a football evaluator," but he hired a new president who has a strong background in the game.
Warren spent 23 years in front offices across the NFL before becoming Big Ten commissioner in 2020. That included working for the Vikings from 2005-'19, the last five of those years as their chief operating officer. Prior to joining the Rams in 1997, Warren had opened his own agency and represented former Bears defensive lineman Chris Zorich and Hall of Fame guard Will Shields.
For Poles, Warren is an important resource as he continues the Bears' rebuild.
“The collaboration piece,” Poles said. “The challenging part. To sit down and have an idea. One thing you can probably tell where we are alike is just the creative thing. There’s nothing better than sitting down with and feeling completely free to dump your thoughts on the table. Really cool things can happen from that, and it can circulate and come out and become a really cool decision that can help our franchise.
“His background, his presence, his value of people, how he’s just really humble guy too. That’s big for me because I think we’ve got a really good thing where, like he said, no one’s running around shouting their titles out. We’re just working to achieve our common goals.”
The Bears are set to enter this offseason with around $118 million in projected salary cap space, the most of any team in the NFL, and eight selections in the 2023 NFL Draft, including the No. 1 overall pick.
During Poles’ first year in Chicago, the Bears went 3-14 and finished the season on a franchise-worst 10-game losing streak. It was a challenging rebuilding season, though one that was also marked by hope thanks to second-year quarterback Justin Fields' emergence.
As Warren manages other projects for the Bears such as their stadium development at Arlington Park and also focuses on enhancing the business operation, the goal of on-field success remains just as strong.
“I’m here to win championships,” Warren said. “I didn’t come here for a job. I came here for the challenge. My goal here is to make this a championship-caliber team that’s sustainable. I’m not interested for us to have a good year, down year, bad year. We got to do what we have to do, and we have the resources.
“I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. I want to get the stadium built. I want the value of this franchise to increase. I want us to be the best business operations not only in the NFL but all of sports. And I want us to win championships.”
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.