They've only worked together for a few months, but incoming Bears president and CEO Kevin Warren feels like he's known general manager Ryan Poles for a long time.
"There are certain people that the first day you meet them, and you have an opportunity to have a long conversation with them, it's like the way you feel about your college roommate," Warren said last week at the NFL owners meetings. "You can go a long time without talking with them, but when you see them, you pick right up where you were before. And, so, in a very interesting way, I feel that he and I have known each other for it seems like 25 years."
Hired in January, Warren will officially replace the retiring Ted Phillips April 17, the same day the Bears begin their offseason program. Having served as the Big Ten Conference Commissioner since 2020, Warren has spent the last few months transitioning into his new role.
Part of that process has involved formal meetings with Poles, who is entering his second year as Bears GM.
"I wanted to make sure that we discussed—just generally speaking from my standpoint—his philosophy: how he approaches the draft, how he approaches free agency, how he approaches building a roster, his priorities," Warren said. "Just to really walk through. One of the things I pride myself on is trying to be a really attentive listener. So, it's been good."
Warren has enjoyed watching Poles bolster the Bears roster this offseason with the acquisition of receiver DJ Moore via a blockbuster trade and the signings of 10 free agents.
"He is not only smart," Warren said. "He's intelligent. He has a high IQ, has a high EQ. He's thorough. He's diligent. He's methodical. And he's unflappable."
Warren was particularly impressed with how Poles obtained Moore and four draft picks from the Panthers in exchange for the No. 1 choice in the draft.
"Anytime when you handle these trades, especially when you have the No. 1 pick and make these determinations, it's an emotional roller coaster," Warren said. "He's passionate, but he's not emotional. He stayed really steady. He's a great communicator, and it was just incredible to really watch him …
"One of the most creative things he did was the timing of it. And that's critically important. It's one thing to do a good deal; it's another thing to do a good deal when the time is right."
Warren boasts 22 years of experience as an NFL executive with the St. Louis Rams (1997-2000), Detroit Lions (2001-03) and Minnesota Vikings (2005-19). He 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). As COO, he played a key role in all business, financial, legal and operational aspects related to the building of U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016 and hosted Super Bowl XXLI on Feb. 4, 2018.
Poles, meanwhile, was hired by the Bears last year after spending the previous 13 seasons working with the Kansas City Chiefs as a player personnel assistant (2009), college scouting administrator (2010-12), college scouting coordinator (2013-16), director of college scouting (2017), assistant director of player personnel (2018-20) and executive director of player personnel (2021).
Both Warren and Poles are committed to building the Bears into a perennial championship contender through patience and perseverance.
"We come from a very similar environment," Warren said. "We're not trying to create a quick fix environment. We want to do things the right way, so it has sustainability and long-term values.
"The thing of it is we can do it here. All the elements are in place. I've enjoyed working with him up until this point. Working with someone is like a marriage. You have to make sure that you can communicate with each other, have transparency. We all win together, and it's been a pleasure so far."
Poles feels the same way about their working relationship.
"It's been awesome," Poles said. "Communication's outstanding. I love feedback. I like having conversations. I like keeping him up to date and [Bears chairman George H. McCaskey] up to date on what's going on and them asking, and specifically Kevin asking, really good questions back. Them challenging me to make sure, 'Have you thought about this? Have you thought about that?' I love it. It's a really good relationship."