Former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli confident Ryan Poles is the right man to turn Bears around
When a young Ryan Poles found his way into a first NFL scouting job in 2009 with the Chiefs, general manager Scott Pioli could sense some unique traits in the scouting assistant he had hired.
One year out of Boston College and eager for the potential ahead of him, Poles proved himself as a detail-oriented young scout whose obsession for perfection clicked well with Pioli. Poles was promoted to four advanced titles under the watch of three difference regimes in the Chiefs organization before landing his present place as Bears general manager in January of 2022.
“There was no job that was too big for him and there’s no job that’s too small for him,” Pioli told Marquee Sports Network. “No matter what he was asked to do, he did it. But he would also do things and he found ways to improve certain processes and came back with thoughtful ideas to make processes better.
“The dude was always steady. I couldn’t rattle him.”
A longtime NFL scout and executive, Pioli served as the Chiefs’ general manager from 2009-’12 and currently works as an analyst with NFL Network. Pioli has maintained a close relationship with Poles and watched with pride as he has risen through the ranks into his current position.
The Bears hired Poles with the belief that he could conduct a careful rebuilding process and produce sustained success. Chicago finished 3-14 in 2022, a year fill with difficult decisions and the future at the forefront.
The Bears own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and $98.7 million in salary cap space, the most of any team in the league for this offseason. It marks a pivotal period for the franchise as Poles seeks to lead the next steps towards contention.
“I think it was a great hire by the Bears,” Pioli said. “I can’t be very objective but I think he’s going to be fantastic in this role. He knows the job and he’s an incredible person. I know that’s important to that franchise and that city. I think Poles is the total package.
“He’s trying to build a program and build something that sustains. He’s not just going to throw money and throw things around. He’s got a plan and it’s going to take some time.”
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That became clear last March when Poles elected to trade star pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chargers while parting ways with the Bears’ previous defensive core and players like Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Danny Trevathan.
Prior to the NFL’s Nov. 1 trade deadline, the Bears dealt respected veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn to the Eagles and then sent star linebacker Roquan Smith to the Ravens after a breakdown in contract negotiations wouldn’t allow for the record deal Smith coveted.
The Bears were at 3-4 in late October but Poles recognized his team wasn’t ready to make a legitimate run at the postseason. It led him to the deals of Quinn and Smith, and the Bears fell off on a 10-game skid to conclude this transitional season.
But Poles understood that the Bears were setting a foundation for what’s to come, this despite their record in 2022. He took concepts from each of the three Chiefs general manager under whom he served – Pioli, John Dorsey and Brett Veach – and perhaps no philosophy served him better in Year 1 with the Bears than the diligence instilled by Pioli.
“It’s roles and responsibilities, discipline, value,” Poles said last year as he reflected on working for Pioli.
Poles has built out his front office at Halas Hall with a resemblance to those he found in Kansas City. He has valued the input of scouts and coaches and created a dynamic through which each individual is challenged.
But tearing this team down was the easy part for Poles, who now faces the true challenge ahead in building this back up. Poles must remain cautious with free-agent spending and prudent in planning for this draft. His work is just beginning.
In leading the Bears forward, Poles has taken from his upbringing with the Chiefs and leaned on that with the future in mind.
“He’s being methodical,” Pioli said. “He has plan. He has an idea.
“He’s going to work his butt off.”