Ryan Poles takeaways: Bears GM on Matt Eberflus impressions, rebuilding plan

LAKE FOREST – Bears general manager Ryan Poles and assistant general manager Ian Cunningham spoke to the media Thursday at Halas Hall, giving an overview of where they see the franchise with Week 1 on the horizon.

Poles spoke for more than 20 minutes, touching on everything from Justin Fields’ development to impressions of head coach Matt Eberflus and the organizational philosophy for their rebuilding project.

Barring something unforeseen, Thursday likely is the last time Poles will speak until after the season.

Here’s what we learned from 25 minutes with the Bears’ general manager:

Love for Eberflus, gauging success in Year 1

When asked for his impressions of Eberflus during his first offseason as head coach, a big smile flashed across Poles’ face.

“I love that dude,” Poles said. “Like, you go to meetings … first of all, with the schedule and everything, he is detailed, he is organized, he has people around him to help him be organized. He is consistent. His message is clear. There is no gray area.

“When he approaches the team meeting and gets in front of the guys, he’s got juice. But it’s not fluff. It’s not fake. It’s real. And you can feel that energy that he has. The guys love it. I love it. I’m so pumped about his leadership and how he’s going to lead this team.”

Praise of Eberflus aside, Poles understands the Bears, who are on the ground floor of a rebuild, might have to judge success differently than true contenders this fall.

But how do you gauge success for a team that might be destined to top out at seven wins? Attitude.

“It’s interesting. I got asked the question, I forget when it was, but it was like if you take wins and losses out of it, how do you measure success?” Poles said. “What would be success? And it was, my answer was resilience. It’s a team … Again, I’ve been on teams, a Super Bowl team, and teams that, ya know, anywhere in between and the teams that can just stay level and look at ‘What are the solutions?’ instead of just pointing at the problem and being negative with like, ‘Look at that! It’s not good.’ No. How are we going to fix it?

“So as an organization, as a team, as a locker room, as a staff, just being resilient through the ups and downs and just continuing to fight and have that arrow pointing up. That was my response. That’s kind of how I feel .”

Resilience will be necessary for the 2022 Bears. But if they leave their Week 18 game against the Minnesota Vikings having found a head coach in Eberflus and quarterback in Fields, the season will have been a success regardless of the record.

Lessons from first offseason as GM

Poles’ first six months at the helm of the Bears haven’t been without its challenges.

From Roquan Smith’s contract drama to Teven Jenkins’ trade speculation, Poles has learned a lot in his first offseason as general manager. Poles feels he did a decent job of communicating with Smith and Jenkins but admits there’s always room to improve for the next time turbulent waters arise.

“I feel like paying attention to the emotions of the guys, it’s a real thing,” Poles said. “I also – I think I do a decent enough job to put myself in their shoes and understand why the emotions are there. So, I think my reaction to that of not getting upset or all over the place, I think has been fairly good but also, I just think I can always communicate better. I think we all can just communicate better and be more clear. I think that’s been pretty good but there’s always room to improve, I guess.”

On Tuesday, Jenkins discussed how unhappy he has been over the past month amid rampant trade speculation. The 24-year-old offensive lineman admitted he still wasn’t confident he would be a Bear come Week 1 despite appearing to earn the starting right guard job.

Poles cleared that up.

“No, I had a good conversation with him, and I told him how proud I was of him,” Poles said when asked if Jenkins should be worried about a trade. “Again, I think it’s about building the best five. I think we have a good five with him at guard. So, I think it’s good for us to have Teven at guard right now.”

Running back philosophy

Smith’s contract drama took up most of the oxygen in the room during training camp. But running back David Montgomery is also entering the final year of his deal.

Montgomery’s running style should perfectly fit offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s wide-zone attack. But in today’s NFL, giving a running back a big-money extension is looked down on.

Poles comes from Kansas City, where the Chiefs have relied on various running backs to carry the load.

“I love David,” Poles said when asked about the Bears’ philosophy toward running backs. “There’s a different scheme and just seeing him approach that. He had a nice start with the preseason game. But really just him fitting into that new scheme, that zone scheme, and just attacking it and being productive and consistent and dependable. I think that’s what we look for in every player.”
Montgomery has taken a business-first approach to his upcoming contract talks, believing things will take care of themselves in Chicago or elsewhere.

Rebuilding plans

With the spotlight on Fields’ development this season, Poles has heard the criticism that he hasn’t done enough to surround the second-year quarterback with the talent required to make the necessary leap.

Poles is a disciplined GM with a clear plan to get the Bears right. He won’t overextend himself just to make a splash for a name.

“Listen, when we’re building this thing, that was the goal coming in is try and surround him with the best talent that we can,” Poles said. “But at the same time, I’ve never gotten in the way from we have to try and build the entire roster. I’m not going to overreach and do things crazy to get a name or anything. Our approach has been consistent from the draft all the way through. We’re going to continue to add talent all around, the best that we can, it might not be the name or a name that everyone wants to hear, but we’re going to develop the players that we have here.

“We’re going to continue to fight to make that (the receiving corps) the best unit that we can. Mooney is balling right now. I’m excited about him. That’s going to help Justin. I’m excited about Cole ( Kmet). I think our protections and our O-line’s gotten before. Some of the guys have been a little dinged up so it’s hard to see everything. But when they get back, I’m excited about that. I’m excited about Velus (Jones Jr.) coming in and making plays and being a factor that can do different things and bring speed.

“So over time, we’re going to continue to do that. That’s always in our head is to put our quarterback in the best situation.”

As far as Fields’ offseason development goes, Poles has liked what he has seen from the quarterback’s improved footwork, mechanics, and mindset.

“I think there’s progress being made,” Poles said. “He looked comfortable. I think before, again, I kind of talked about all of this, his technique and his fundamentals and his feet, and then the new offense, the new coaches, the new system, there’s a lot going on both physically and mentally. So, I thought as the preseason has played out and even practice you could see things start to slow down and him read defenses quicker and pull the trigger and it was really cool to see him finish up that way.”

Keeping Quinn

In an offseason where the Bears traded Khalil Mack and let other veterans go, Poles elected to keep Robert Quinn even though he would have had significant value on the trade market coming off an 18.5-sack season.

The reason? Poles believes Quinn is the type of player the young Bears need in the locker room. A veteran who does things the right way and can lead by example.

“I’m a huge fan of Robert Quinn,” Poles said. “He’s been productive. The one thing, and it’s not saying that Khalil wasn’t, but for Robert, he brings one of those examples of what Matt wants to see out of his defense in being relentless, high motor. That’s that guy. Another leader in the room that can show the young guys the way.

“That’s that balance of — There’s this, I think, a misconception: Tear this down and rebuild it all. It’s not that. There’s also a feel for the room. How can you make the room better? How can you stay productive and win ballgames? And I think he helps us with that.”

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