PHOENIX – Kevin Warren may be new to the Bears, but the franchise's incoming president and CEO is already well known and highly respected in NFL circles.
That was certainly evident to Bears chairman George H. McCaskey as soon as the two arrived at this week's NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore.
"One thing I learned very early on is Kevin needs no introduction," McCaskey said. "He knows everybody and everybody knows him. A couple of times I was walking along with him and we were chatting and all of a sudden he's saying hello to someone over here, someone over there, and renewing acquaintances."
Many of those acquaintances said "welcome back home" to Warren, who spent 22 years as an NFL executive with the Rams (1997-2000), Lions (2001-03) and Vikings (2005-19) before becoming Big Ten Commissioner in 2020.
Warren initially entered the league as Rams vice president of player programs/football legal counsel before being promoted to vice president of football administration. He then joined the Lions as senior vice president of business operations and general counsel. Warren later served as Vikings executive vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer (2005-14) and chief operating officer (2015-19).
"The connections are important, but I think more important is the experience," McCaskey said. "He's done all that is asked of a president and CEO in the day-to-day management of a team. There's no learning curve there. His connections will be helpful, but there has to be substance behind those connections. There has to be trust. Communication. And he brings all that to the table."
Once Warren officially begins his tenure as Bears president/CEO April 17, he'll begin working more intensively on the Arlington Park project. The organization closed on the 326-acre property Feb. 15 but cautioned in an open letter that didn't necessarily mean a new stadium would be built on the site.
"It's an important step, but it's just one of many steps along the way," McCaskey said at the owners meetings. "We're now the owner of the property. I've been using the analogy of people who buy a lot and decide to build a house. There are things that have to be accomplished in the closing process for a residential lot. It's a much shorter timeframe. There aren't as many things to look into, but then once you buy the lot, you've got to look at, 'OK, if we're going to put a building on here, where are we going to situate it, what's the style going to be, what features is it going to have, how are we going to pay for it?'"
McCaskey, who is a member of the NFL's stadium committee, reiterated that message to his counterparts this week in Phoenix.
"A lot of people were asking about it," he said. "We had told people that we closed on the land. But there is still a lot of work and analysis that needs to be done before we make a decision about whether we're going to develop the property—and if we develop the property, whether the development is going to include a stadium."
Warren will spearhead that work and analysis, drawing on his experience in Minnesota. As Vikings COO, he played an integral role in all business, financial, legal and operational aspects related to the building of U.S. Bank Stadium. He was involved in the design, construction, business, legal and operational components of the new stadium, which opened in 2016 and hosted Super Bowl XXLI on Feb. 4, 2018.
"It needs to be thorough," McCaskey said. "It needs to be thoughtful. I don't have a timeline. And this is where Kevin's experience is going to be helpful because he knows there are ebbs and flows, ups and downs.
"It's much like a football game. The pace, the momentum can go back and forth many times. So, you just have to keep a long view, and just like in a football game not get too rattled by the setbacks and not get too over your skis about any victories that may come."